Why the Fintech Industry Must Take the Lead in Achieving Gender Equity
The United Nations issued a stark warning on Monday, revealing that gender equity is still 300 years away. To bridge this wide gap, the UN has called for greater gender inclusion in innovation and technology.
This is of particular importance, especially when it comes to financial equity. As Sallie Krawcheck, the Founder and CEO of Ellevest, pointed out, women have been given a late start in many aspects of finance, from having access to credit cards to reaching top positions in corporate organizations. Yet, hundreds of years later, we are still trying to close the gender gaps created by history.
Therefore, if we hope to achieve gender equity, we must also center the need for financial equity and leverage technology.
That’s right, on International Women’s Day, all eyes are on us, the fintech industry.
I spent my International Women’s Day at the American College’s Women Working in Wealth Summit put together by the brilliant Lindsey Lewis, Director of the Center for Women in Financial Services. The event was a convergence of 200 women and allies that work in wealth management, financial advice and planning, and financial technology.
Women whose shoulders we all stand on like CEO of J.P. Morgan Wealth Management Kristin Lemkau, Behavioral Finance planning expert Chia-li Chien, Invest Vegan Founder Sloane Ortel, overall badass in alternative investments Kelly Ann Winget, and the queen of teaching equity and representation Timi Lindsay.
Here are 5 of my key takeaways from the day you can take with you.
#1: Community Matters
Ask Gloria Steinem how, after all these years, she is still cheerful and laughing, and she’ll say:
“If I were isolated, I wouldn’t be laughing. We need each other.“
As women in male-dominated fields like finance, technology, and fintech, we’re used to being “the only” in a room, especially women of color. Empowering women leaders in fintech so they can put money back into their community means supporting women-centric events because it’s a gaslight-free zone.
Women can share their experiences without most of the room questioning whether those experiences are authentic and valid. Instead, we nod, laugh, and get it.
It is not enough to have female leaders, investors, and operators represented in the room.
We must go deeper to harness the true power of each individual, which lies not within the walls of their company but in their families and communities.
The value of any individual does not lie in the number of accounts opened, followers on Twitter, or assets under management; rather, it lies in their engagement and contribution to making economic equity a reality.
We have the technology and the capacity to make this happen. However, it is time to shift the focus from representation to actual value creation and make a real difference.
#2: Question Context
America doesn’t have a problem with equality, it has a problem with equity.
As an industry, we need a cognitive shift from giving historically underrepresented leaders and consumers a “seat at the table” to co-creation and full collaboration that ensures the outcomes are better for everyone and allows for higher innovation and market share.
As leaders in the fintech industry, it is our responsibility to open our mindsets to create new systems and to be aware of our history.
As we stand on Wall Street, it is essential to remember that it was where commodities and enslaved people were sold. Likewise, many organizational techniques, such as those of large corporations, are rooted in the history of plantations.
If we do not question the exact history behind our management, operations, metrics, and leadership standards, we are only doing ourselves and financial inclusivity a disservice.
All the innovation in the world can only help if we confront the history that got us to this point and strives to rewrite the narrative.
We must be truthful in our efforts and become aware of the systems, practices, and standards that have been established. It is essential to strive for a new standard, one that is built on inclusivity and equity rather than reinforcing a history of injustice.
#3: Diversity Is Credibility
It can be hard to be a fintech company right now. Venture capitalists are more selective than ever as markets are down, and there’s a ton of pressure on profitability.
The truth is that with 50% of our population, aka women, represented in fintech, only then will we know the true potential of this industry.
With the adequate representation of the voices of women and people of color, our industry’s credibility will remain strong, and the products we create, as well as the innovation we bring to the table, will be able to meet the needs of their intended users.
The sobering fact is that the most influential decision-makers are still overwhelmingly old, white men. So we must focus on this issue if we are to make progress.
To this end, it is essential to ask ourselves: How can we use technology to effect positive change? Only through concerted effort and a focus on implementation will we be able to ensure that everyone has a voice in the conversation.
#4: Active Allyship
Tyrone Ross and George Nichols actively use their voices and platform to address men’s responsibility to speak up about cowardly behavior and ensure that men have different worldviews than the standards laid out for them.
Kelly Ann Winget spoke to the role of privileged white women who need to use that privilege to elevate women of color so they can put money back into their communities and generate cycles of meaningful wealth.
Allyship means having the power to anoint a woman and putting her in a position she deserves. When it doesn’t happen, it’s important to acknowledge this, be honest about the issues we’re facing, and come up with solutions.
As Black men, Tyrone and George have experienced the hurt and disappointment of inequity and understand that they need to take action to create a lasting change.
We need to ensure that the resources and opportunities available in the room are accessible not only to those within our privileged inner circles but also to those who don’t have the same kind of access. This is the only way to ensure that women’s voices are heard, and their needs are met on the path to financial wealth.
#5: Be the Wave Maker
An attendee during the event shared that she always feels like she’s “fighting” to do the right thing in her company, exhausted by the uphill battle.
She asked, “how do I pick which battles to fight?”
The short answer from an expert panel of industry leaders: Fight every battle.
People in your life who ask you not to fight every battle are the people too scared to have you in the arena. So please don’t listen to them.
And the people who are telling you not to fight are those who don’t have the strength to fight themselves.
If something doesn’t sit right with you, fight for it because you’re in that room fighting that battle for the other young girls looking up to you so they can enter this industry.
If you don’t fight, they don’t have a voice.
I know from personal experience that fighting for what’s right takes a toll on our psychological safety, which emphasizes the importance of community, context, credibility, and allyship (aka takeaways 1-4).
Ultimately, the convergence of finance and technology innovation is the glimmer of hope for speeding up the pace of gender equity, which is dire because no one wants to wait another three centuries.
So, my fearless fintech femmes, allies, and new friends let’s make International Women’s Day every day.