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Listen to the voices of women in fintech on International Women’s Day 2019

Premalatha Varadhan, Head of AI at Temenos.

To mark International Women’s Day today, we spoke to some of the most influential women in fintech, to find out their views on a varied number of topics.

IBS Intelligence spoke to Premalatha Varadhan, Head of AI at Temenos. Premalatha comments on her experience as a woman at senior management level within the male-dominated fintech sector. She emphasises the key role women can play in shaping tech, fintech and software firms: “Having spent two decades in software, I haven’t seen enough women working in the technology world, and it’s still perceived as a male-dominated sector. To some extent, geography is a factor. Interestingly, the problem isn’t as prominent in India, where there are a higher number of women working in artificial intelligence, technology and software.

“In my opinion, the ‘pay gap’ element isn’t as much of an issue, as it ‘evens itself out’ later – but this continuing gender imbalance in the male-oriented subjects must be addressed. Women have a large role to play in shaping fintech firms. To make this happen, more developers and technology firms should be taking a conscious role of opening these fields to women.

“Women need other female role models and technology firms have to help support this. A small idea can have a big effect and women need to be comfortable in expressing their viewpoint and opinion in the workplace. This will have a positive knock-on effect with a more varied approach to problem-solving and sits alongside design-led thinking as a way to develop products and services that enhance the customer experience.”

Andrea Dunlop, CEO of Merchant Acquiring, Europe at Paysafe Group had this to say: “I wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of diversity in organisations at all levels. Women make up a large proportion of the workforce and it makes sense to have a fair representation of females at every level in an organisation. The benefit of diversity is that it brings different points of view, which helps with better and more balanced decision-making.

“It’s great that we have a day that recognises women in the workplace, but the work shouldn’t stop there. We need to make sure we stand up for ourselves and every other woman in our organisation to ensure we have the same opportunities as men. It’s not easy and we need to take courage and lead with spirit.”

Claire Gates, CEO, Paysafe Pay Later said: “Gender diversity continues to dominate both the business news agenda and the UK’s political agenda, particularly because of the #MeToo campaign, and it can only help to ensure there is a sufficient representation of talented women in the business world. It’s so positive that there is now a day that celebrates the successes of women across the world. I trained as a Chemical Engineer and when oil prices suffered a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to do some work in the oil and gas sector, which was fascinating. Oil and gas has such a fundamental impact on all our lives but it’s not a field which you hear much about at school and girls often aren’t encouraged to embark on a career in this space. Through initiatives like International Women’s Day, I hope this will change.”

Speaking to the theme of #BalanceforBetter, Capco, Partner, Rachael Zukerman said: “First and foremost organisations need to be really clear – this is not solely a woman’s issue; it’s a business issue. Diversity has many positive impacts on business and everyone must work together across gender diversity initiatives to realise the goal of gender balance. It is imperative to create opportunities together if we are to solve the problem and create openness”

“It is important to start with the end in mind. Organisations should agree and measure, upfront, what ‘good’ looks like from a diversity perspective, just like they would agree and measure any other dimension of their strategy such as return on equity. Once the definition of ‘good’ is understood, organisations can work backwards to get a plan in place to achieve their desired outcomes.”

Looking at the role of gender balance in the area of AI, Capco, Partner, Kim Sgarlata says: “AI can inspire us to really think about the future of work – what we want to do, what we should do, how we can do it and how we can better embrace diversity to create richer opportunities. This journey should not only consider gender diversity but also other diversity angles, e.g. cognitive diversity.”

“For the good of the future, we should strive for learning algorithms built by a diverse set of creators, i.e. not dominated by a particular gender, age, ethnicity. Women are already shaping this change. There are many females running companies in the AI space or taking senior roles in large organizations that will shape the future of automation/AI. This coupled with the other good things happening to encourage more women into technology means that women surely will shape the change.”

Trisha Price, EVP Product Development & Engineering at nCino said “More companies today are realizing that a diverse workplace is good for business. I have been lucky enough to work for companies, such as nCino, where it is a priority to have women at the leadership table. When hiring, we are focused on ensuring we meet a strong number of female candidates. I want to encourage women to believe that opportunity exists in the fintech industry – because it does! Teams with more diversity are more creative, innovative and profitable, that is why I am committed to help the fintech industry increase its representation and retention of women. Make room for women in your business and make sure when they arrive you give them the right tools to thrive.”

Roxana Mohammadian-Molina, Chief Strategy Officer at leading peer-to-peer property lending platform BLEND Network, said: “I am delighted to see that women are playing a greater role in such rapidly evolving industries as FinTech and alternative finance. As technology continues to disrupt the financial services industry, women in the sector must seize the opportunity to reshape the industry from within.

“But they also need support to do it. Only 3% (£54m) of the money invested in UK FinTechs by venture capitalists last year went to companies with female founders, and only 17 out of 261 UK deals (6%) had at least one female founder or co-founder. This is probably not all that surprising given only 17% of FinTech senior roles are held by women. So while progress is clearly being made to encourage and promote women in the industry, clearly we must continue to recognise that more work is needed to create a greater gender balance that offers equal opportunities for all participants in what ate some of the economy’s most vibrant and dynamic sectors.”

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