Seeking stronger company performance and greater employee engagement? The evidence is in: promote more women to leadership roles.

 
When you run the numbers on gender and consumption, a startling contradiction emerges: while women represent 70 per cent of global consumer spending, they comprise just 4 per cent of CEOs on the world banking stage. In Australia, female fintech professionals are outnumbered by men more than four to one and occupy just 13 per cent of the industry’s leadership roles.

There’s no denying the payments industry has a gender problem. And with reports that suggest women control more than $US20 trillion of global household spending, if the industry hopes to realise its potential and maximise its human asset base, it’s an issue that needs addressing.

“Companies that are more diverse and have women in leadership positions are proven to be more innovative and successful.”

Diversity spells success

 
More than a matter of gender equity, such a gap can also be detrimental to business, according to a white paper by the Digital Finance Institute. Entitled Power Women in FinTech: Bridging the Gender Gap (2015), the paper found that gender diverse teams had more successful outcomes and greater financial returns than those dominated by men.
 
Typifying the research was a study by trading platform Quantopian, which found that equity returns for the 80 Fortune 1000 companies with women CEOs were more than double that of the S&P500 (the leading indicator of market performance in the US).
 
“Women are woefully underrepresented in the world’s fintech companies, and this needs to change,” the white paper says. “Companies that are more diverse and have women in leadership positions are proven to be more innovative and successful.”

Good for the bottom line

 
The campaign to encourage more women into the payments industry is gaining momentum. In 2012, Women in Payments, a learning, development and networking organisation, launched in Canada, with symposiums now held in the UK, United States and Australia.
 
Founder and CEO Kristy Duncan says gender diversity delivers better outcomes for shareholders, employees and customers. “Gender-diverse teams produce superior financial results – up to 15 per cent higher in the long term,” Duncan says. “And share-price performance of firms with 50 per cent women at senior levels is 50 per cent higher than at firms with no senior level diversity.”
 
Studies show having more women in senior ranks also boosts employee engagement and retention, while customers benefit because women are more “empathic” to their needs, she says.
 
“The majority of customers are female, so we need the product, client experience and customer support teams to reflect the customer base.”
 
Duncan says there is plenty firms can do to tackle the gender gap, including examining their hiring and promotion practices and setting gender targets. They should also appoint a senior executive to drive their gender diversity strategy, provide gender-bias training for employees, and enhance workplace flexibility.
 

Seek out translatable skills

 
BPAY Group Chief Information Officer Angela Donohoe says more needs to be done to attract women into the payments and fintech sectors by promoting career pathways in schools and universities and assisting women in mid-career to make the transition into the industry. Research has shown that attitudes are shaped in primary school, so we need to invest in STEAM education for our girls so they can see the breadth of options through science, technology, engineering, arts and maths studies.
 
She says there also needs to be a greater focus on promoting opportunities for those with diverse skillsets beyond technology, such as leadership, product design/development, business/client engagement, problem solving and business strategy/ management.
 
“There is a perception that you need to be able to code to work in fintech or tech,” says Donohoe. “We need to get a greater understanding out there regarding the range of skills that are needed and roles that are available and make it easier for those who would like to make a change. Technology is growing in importance for organisations, presenting great opportunity for women to have influence and impact.”
This article represents the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BPAY.
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