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Fintech Powerlist is Important : But Where are the Girls?

Fintech Powerlist is Important : But Where are the Girls?

City A.M. has published the first Powerlist for Fintech and the results are in. Canary Wharf is full of the real movers and shakers in fintech. 

To paraphrase Nutmeg‘s Nick Hungerford: if you dropped Stanford University into London, it would be the fintech centre of the world. And when you look at the statistics, it becomes clear why dismissing the motherland of Silicon Valley and embracing London’s revolutionary heartland makes total senseYet even with 44,000 people working in the fintech capital, there remains a curious absence of a certain kind of entrepreneur: the women in fintech.

A worrying lack of women are part of the fintech revolution, especially in senior-level positions.
Statistics dissected by Anna Irrera, a pioneering writer on fintech, show that none of the top twenty European fintech companies that received the largest venture capital investments in 2014 had a female chief executive. Moreover, only 9 of 114 key executives at those firms were women. In the top fifty companies, there are only 11 women out of 222 key executives. And only one female CEO.

Fintech’s extraordinary growth is largely due to its perfectly balanced ecosystem. London has a dense population of innovators, a pipeline of technologically driven talent, as well as a core of highly collaborative entrepreneurs supported by a sympathetic government. Plus investors are interested enough to actually invest, meaning London alone has raised more money for fintech than the rest of Europe. The industry is now worth over £20billion. And London is the biggest global centre for financial technology based on the number of people employed in the industry.

The benefits of gender diversity in the development of any business are already evidenced and championed. Sarah Turner of Angel Academe, emphasised the need for ‘diversity throughout the entrepreneurial ecosystem’. Yet, put simply, this does not yet exist. The ‘disruptors’ seem to be just as traditional in their gender biases as any other part of finance.

What is reassuring is that, for a relatively young industry, it is also one of the most pioneering.

The inaugural Innovate Finance Global Summit, which took place on March 10th 2015, was the brainchild of a board of women CEOs. The Women in Fintech supplement was released to coincide with the summit. Containing twenty pages dedicated to senior-level women, it listed the women who are not just part of the fintech sector, but defining it.

Software engineer turned investor, Eileen Burbidge, has used mentorship, investments and co-working to become a powerhouse behind dozens of burgeoning fintech ideas. This includes both Transferwise and DueDil. Which is pretty impressive considering their CEOs are both listed on City A.M’s fintech Powerlist. Just below her of course.

Gemma Godfrey, who might well be the most popular #business influencer on social media and a quantum physicist, is also the Head of Investment Strategy at Brooks McDonald. Her emphasis on simplicity and open communication ensures her popularity, but it also means she’s right up-to-the-minute with the fintech scene which thrives on exactly those qualities.

A true innovator is Julia Groves, CEO of the crowd financing platform for renewable energy projects, Trillion Fund. Trillion Fund are not only innovating the sustainability landscape, but also the conversation around crowdfunds and alternative finance options. Others include Monitise’s Elizabeth Buse, and Seedr’s Karen Kerrigan, both of whom are making a tangible difference to the way we think about money in the digital world.

And then there’s Claire Cockerton. From start-ups to global enterprises, Cockerton’s brainchild has fully established the Silicon Roundabout and its voice. Innovate Finance, a cross-sector, member-driven organization, it is founded on the desire to see the UK boom as a global financial centre. It also Finance demonstrates just how fintech is pulling in the talent.

Yet Cockerton is the one who said that ‘30% is the first step’ for women in fintech. That it is beyond time for aspiring women to take that step.

Because the continued success of Britain’s fintech sector depends on talent wanting to come into it.

As an industry, it is growing so fast that to sustain its momentum it needs a pipeline of creative, intelligent, passionate people.

Diversity is crucial to this.

Women are crucial.

And with so few women recognised at the top (only 8 of 61 are women on the City A.M. Powerlist), it’s time for girls to believe that they can do it.

If London is the blueprint for fintech, it’s time that it became the blueprint for gender equality in finance as well.


Page Three…One small step for man

At long last The Sun has stopped publishing photos of bare-breasted women on Page Three. Men’s rights groups across the world will surely be celebrating such a momentous victory; no longer will menfolk be objectified by the newspaper’s daily, demeaning attacks on their intellect.

The internet has exploded with feminists and post-feminists and women’s rights activists hustling to give their two pence on the topic – but they’ve missed the point. This isn’t about them. This isn’t even about women. This is about men.

Page Three objectifies and demeans men, and it has done since its creation.

Pressure has been mounting on The Sun to scrap Page Three.

You can imagine the scene: it’s 1970 and young (ish) whippersnapper Rupert Murdoch is twiddling his thumbs, desperate to come up with a plan to boost his paper’s sales. “How do I get working-class men interested in the news, and more importantly, how can I encourage the fools to READ?”

In a similar vein to children’s magazines that come with a must-have toy or sweetie taped to the front to engage and excite their immature audience, Murdoch did the same with his invention of the Page Three girl.

In a day and age where internet porn didn’t exist and you had to scuttle down a back alley to a seedy adult shop to purchase your next fix of a naked breast, the free gift with the 50p Sun would have seemed like finding Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket in every issue. It was a stroke of genius which saw The Sun’s sales rocket to become the UK’s most read newspaper.

But all in all the whole concept of Page Three is an insult on the intelligence of working-class men (who the paper is aimed at and who form the vast majority of the readers). It has wrongly led the world to believe that all men are this simple – it tells women that they can manipulate these unsophisticated beings to do anything they want – just by flashing a bit of booby. Poor, uncomplicated men.

The Sun’s Page Three has always made me feel uncomfortable – the solution? I don’t read it. I don’t know any women who do. Good Housekeeping magazine’s relentless focus on women staying at home and making the perfect quiche Lorraine to delight their husbands also makes me feel uncomfortable, so I avoid it.

But similarly – I find the host of women’s glossy magazines which prattle on about female empowerment and ‘champion’ women in business on one page, then tell you that the only way to be “seen” in 2015 is by following their ultimate eyeshadow tips in a 24-page-pullout – equally uncomfortable.

It’s fine and dandy for these women’s magazines to put skinny, half-or-fully-naked women on their front covers because it’s “empowering”, or whatever, and yet they seem to be the most vocal when it comes to criticising Page Three.

Don’t get me wrong, nudity has no place in amongst the breaking news stories of the day, and in a supposed “family” newspaper it is utterly inappropriate. But the Page Three models are consenting adults, making a living in the way that they choose. The Sun readers make a choice to purchase the paper, it is not forced in front of anyone. Feminism is about freedom and equality for everyone, including the women who choose to make a living this way and the men who choose to enjoy it.

The recent, high-profile events around Je Suis Charlie saw global leaders telling the world it must be tolerant about free speech. Nay, CHAMPION free speech. The Muslims who find Charlie Hebdo insulting and deeply uncomfortable are expected to just ignore it and brush it aside. We can’t champion free speech with one hand and berate it (in the form of Page Three) with the other. It doesn’t make sense.

The issue is conditioning – Page Three makes women feel insecure and sub-standard, it creates a ridiculous idea in our society that all women should be flawless, white and skinny with large breasts. It gives men the idea that women don’t mind being ogled and judged. It gives the impression to all that working-class men are simple beings who require some kind of sexual gratification to engage their interest.

The truth is, man or woman or child, Page Three does nobody any favours (unless you’re Rupert Murdoch, then you’re laughing all the way to the bank).

Is first female CEO of Lloyds a statement of intent for other women?

Inga Beale has been named as the first female CEO of Lloyds of London in its 325-year history, smashing through the so-called glass ceiling to make history in her industry.

Beale, 50, has an ample 30 years’ industry experience and will replace outgoing Richard Ward in January, with her appointment making her one of the most powerful women in the City, with 900 staff and a market of 90 syndicates and companies under her control.

In my view, this is a very positive step in the City where the gender divide has remained stubbornly high, with four in every five workers being male. The appointment of a female to such a prestigious post will surely encourage the steadfastness of other ambitious women pushing to reach higher ranks.

Inga Beale

Inga Beale

As the debate continues as to whether there should be quotas for females in the boardroom there is great value in women establishing themselves as role models. A number of initiatives have been set up to establish such quotas. For example, the 30% Club, a group of companies including Diageo, RBS and John Lewis, has pledged to get more talented women into their boardrooms. However, reports have shown that fewer than half of staff considers their employer to have a clearly formed policy on diversity. In addition, just one in five believe that their firm actively recruits with diversity in mind.

The absence of women in the upper echelons of the Lloyds structure has been obvious in the past, with Claire Ighodaro currently the only member of its 12-strong board.

Beale has frequently vocalised the opinion that there is a necessity to have greater diversity in Britain’s boardrooms. She believes that a variety of perspectives will lead to balance and that, “Diverse boards help companies make better decisions, which affect the bottom line.”

However, in previous interviews, Beale has stated that she believes women can sometimes hinder their own career progression and has been quoted as saying, “Some of the time we put our own ‘glass ceiling’ on ourselves because we are not confident in our ability. I talk to a lot of women who have been working as I have for 30 years in the industry and we wonder what happened to all those women who started when we did.”

There are currently just four female chief executives of FTSE 100 companies, including Burberry boss Angela Ahrendts, EasyJet’s Carolyn McCall, Imperial Tobacco’s Alison Cooper and Royal Mail’s Moya Greene.

Whilst quotas may help to promote women in business it appears there needs to be a change of attitude as well with women pushing themselves forward, embracing competition and having absolute faith in their own merit. The more women become visible as powerful, high-flying businesswomen such as Beale, the more motivated others will be to follow.

If women go into their careers believing they can reach that level, rather than doubting they ever will then that mentality will propel them forward. There is no better inspiration for this than seeing others who have reached the top and are respected by those who they share the board with.

Getting More Women through the Door is Imperative for Tech Businesses

A recent article on BBC revealed that only 17% of jobs in the UK in the technology sector are held by women. Although none of us can shake off the power technology has in our lives – and most importantly, tech companies can’t ignore the influence women have in tech purchase decisions as four in 10 tech products are now bought by women, according to Forrester Research.

The challenge remains whether tech companies fully understand the contribution women make to their business.

Image Belinda Parmar

Image Belinda Parmar

Belinda Parmer commonly referred to as ‘Geek Goddess’ has cited a few suggestions for tech businesses:

Diversity is important in any industry:  Every chief executive should be made aware of the following stat: tech companies with more women on their management teams have a 34% higher return on investment.

Ignore the pink it and shrink it approach: A common ‘for-the-ladies’ strategy is to take last year’s product, re-release it at a slightly lower price point, slightly smaller and clad in pink plastic. This pink it and shrink it approach represents typically shallow thinking about gender and usually only appeals to younger (lower income) women.

Learn a few lessons from our Eastern European neighbours: In many Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Estonia and Latvia – also referred to the Geek Nations’ – the technology gender divide is less prevalent.  It’s partly historic – during the communist era, all women were encouraged to work – but also that technology is perceived as a rewarding and well-paid career for women. If these countries can get talented women creating their tech products, then so should Britain.