As the IT industry prepared for the annual Women in IT Awards last week, a new report by recruitment consultants Astbury Marsden revealed that under 10% of board level positions in the top 50 British FinTech companies are held by women.
The research also found that 69% of the FinTech businesses surveyed have male-only boards.
The figures for other parts of the digital sector are more promising. London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’ has an 18% uptake by women for board-level positions – double the FinTech number.
While this figure is more encouraging, a 2015 report from McKinsey stated that 366 businesses they researched in the UK, North America and Latin America didn’t see a financial pay-off from gender diversity until women constituted at least 22% of a senior executive team.
FTSE 100 companies typically have boards where 25% of the directors are women, so at least this minimum criteria has been reached. It is telling that not a single one of these successful giants has an all-male board.
I am a strong believer that diversity is beneficial for all parties. It is positive for professionals, both women and men, bringing different perspectives that are healthy for driving businesses forward in the constant search for innovation and competitive advantage.
Most importantly, diversity is good for the bottom line. Research by Grant Thornton conducted with UK, US and Indian listed businesses found that diverse boards outperform all male boards by a staggering £430 billion.
McKinsey’s research also revealed the most gender diverse leadership teams were 15% more likely to report financial returns above their national average. It also found that inclusion of ethnic minorities also has a profound effect on financial performance.
The puzzling issue is why a new and exciting industry such as FinTech is not attracting the diverse talent pool it needs to keep powering ahead. Why are women not influencing the FinTech and other technology industries from senior positions in the numbers they could?
It takes a lot to get to the top: talent, passion, persistence and education.
Professionals that aspire to director level positions need these qualities in abundance above every other consideration. I don’t advocate a top-down approach to the issue.
Pressure from government to bring a broader range of experiences or skills or backgrounds to decision makers in FinTech or other industries is not necessarily an issue we should force in this way.
We can, though, tackle the issue of diversity more effectively through encouragement and education.
The FinTech sector is hugely exciting, it is growing substantially and has room for a diverse range of skills and experience.
The digital and wider IT sectors also offer a wealth of opportunity, but I am not convinced this is being communicated to women making career choices at college or with established professionals looking for a new challenge.
We also need to lead by example today, creating more role models for women in technology to show that women are respected and capable of succeeding to the highest level.
Perhaps the issue is the FinTech industry has not advertised all it has to offer to women. There is an opportunity to take part in an exciting industry where women can make a difference. We need to get this message across.
The current digital revolution is removing barriers and opening-up opportunities such as remote working, which can attract more women.
Women can bring drive, emotional intelligence, management skills and vital commercial experience from sectors such as retail and banking. When we influence the decision-making process you often find more appropriate, faster solutions to problems.
I’m not suggesting that men do not have these qualities, but women are often associated with possessing them in abundance.
I am very honoured to have been shortlisted in the ‘International Star of the Year’ category at the Women in IT Awards. The opportunity to see the achievements of female IT professionals and talk to them about their work, careers and aspirations was inspiring. We have to make sure as a sector that we have many more stories for the health of the FinTech and IT industries.
Monica Eaton-Cardone is co-founder and CIO at Global Risk Technologies