Interview

Celebrating women in fintech, paytech and STEM

Thursday 8 March 2018 09:28 CET | Editor: Melisande Mual | Interview

The International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. However, the day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

What better way to celebrate this day than through inviting four great ladies to share their experience as women in fintech, paytech and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Nadja van der Veer, Payments Lawyer, Anna Maj, Fintech Expert, Silvia Mensdorff-Pouilly, General Manager, ACI Worlwide Europe, and Trisha Price, Product Development & Engineering, nCino have joined forces to talk about women’s role in the fintech, paytech, STEM space and to offer their advice for women who want to be a part of these industries.

How does one get to become a force in fintech/paytech/STEM ? How did your beginning in the industry look like?

Nadja van der Veer (NV) - My entrance into the industry was entirely unplanned. After graduation, a recruiter put me forward at a job interview with a PSP. I had no clue what a PSP was, however accepting the job turned out to be the best move for me.

 

Anna Maj (AM) - I started working in the fintech industry before it was cool. My professional career began at Citibank in its e-Business division. At the beginning of my career, I was employed as a product manager in a male-dominated working environment, but I haven’t faced any barriers or obstacles to communicate and cooperate with men, or to be promoted, either.

Silvia Mensdorff-Pouilly (SMP) - Whilst doing an MBA at Rotterdam University we had a guest lecturer from Chipknip (pre-paid local currency cards in The Netherlands). The lecturer was very enthusiastic about this service and the innovation that was starting to be seen in payments. On completion of the MBA, I began to look for a job and came across an advert for a product manager at Chipknip’s competitor - Chipper! I had nothing to lose, so I applied, and got the job.

Trisha Price (TP) - From an early age, I loved to study maths and solve problems in creative ways. I followed my passions and graduated with a Bachelor’s in mathematics from North Carolina State University. As I was pursuing my Master’s degree in software engineering at Harvard University, I realized my desire to be at a “product” company – to be on the asset side of the business, not the cost side.

What are your thoughts on women in fintech/paytech/STEM as it stands? Why is there a gender parity and what can be done to motivate women working in these industries?

TP – Currently, only 17% of those studying computer science in higher education are women, which is the lowest percentage in any field except for engineering and technology, where female students make up just 15% of enrolments. Of those that do take STEM subjects, only half (51%) actually go on to do STEM-related jobs.

For the industry I work in, I find the #WomenInTech movement to be vital to the empowerment and rise of women. The fintech industry does not have as many women leaders as it needs. Women offer a different perspective that is important to diverse thinking and it inspires me to help foster diversity in any way I can.

SMP - There are a lot more women in paytech than when I entered the industry 20 years ago, however, many of the same gender parity issues stand. The good news is that this matter is now under scrutiny within the industry and society in general. What I do find encouraging is that gender parity issues are being acknowledged and that is a first step to a solution.

AM - The higher you get, the more difficult and challenging it becomes and there are fewer women. As a female at the top you may often feel isolated and left on your own. “Three percent of venture funding goes to women. Although women start 30 percent of businesses, they receive only 5 percent of small-business loans and 3 percent of venture capital” Quartz Media (Zebra companies). Men get other men on board, similar to themselves. In that case similarities, not opposites, attract.

We witness that there are more women in the industry strategic roles, more financial corporations promote diversity, but there is still a lot to be done. Women become more visible in the fintech scene: they speak at industry conferences (despite still existing men-only panels (manels), they establish mentoring programs, they drive innovation, lead financial corporations and set up startups.

NV - Women typically face both internal and external struggles that are preventing them to be the best they can be and rise to the top. And the top can mean different things for different women. The first hurdle to overcome is for women to realize and acknowledge these struggles. To be able to do this, I started reading and I joined the European Women Payments Network (EWPN). EWPN is established to bring women in the payments industry together through networking events and programs (such as mentorship and leadership). I strongly believe that behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women (and men) who have her back.

Where do you see the future for women in the fintech/ paytech industry and what advice would you give to women who want to be a part of it?

AM - Believe in your own strengths – the unique combination of your talents, skills, background and personality. Explore new areas including technology, innovation, science. Learn from your teacher, lecturer, coach, boss, commander or mentor. Follow strong female role models. Find a sponsor – somebody who will support and promote you in a corporate world, who will pave the way for you. Be visible.

NV - Become aware of your work environment, the rules that apply and change the way you think about for instance the need of network relationships. Become also aware of which behavioral mistakes are holding you back in your career and life. Don’t wait to be given what you want, ask for it, take it. Finally, even if you are working inhouse, you need to brand and market yourself. Make yourself noticed.

SMP - Being collaborative, curious and respectful are hugely important to me and I look for that with every initiative I get involved in.

TP - I encourage women to find a company that appreciates diversity and values the progress needed for women throughout the fintech industry.

How could companies and leaders get involved to support women that want to make it in the industry?

AM - I am an advocate of the business cooperation based on diversity and inclusion, not limited to gender only.

NV - Unfortunately, it has come to a point where government measures had to be taken as well (Women in Finance Charter in UK and regulatory quotas for boards of big companies), a step that may give people mixed feelings as to its needs. However, this is not only about regulatory compliance but also a much needed step of acknowledgment. Only after this change of mindset can we look at how a support framework can be built.

And of course, the best step would be for them to get involved with the European Women Payments Network! Becoming a corporate member or supporter of the network will allow companies to show that there is C-level commitment and that they want to give their female employees the support needed.

SMP - There are many companies who understand and agree with the need for increased diversity across the industry, not because society demands it, but because the organisation sees the value of it. These companies, such as ACI Worldwide, should proudly champion diversity and the women they work with to help achieve equality. It shouldn’t just be women who are part of women’s initiatives for the industry! There are some great manbassadors who are supporting diversity across the industry - we just need more of them. Calling on more Manbassadors in fintech!

TP - It is the leadership’s responsibility to create an authentic and open workplace, which will better serve employees and create more opportunities for career growth and success. I truly value my role as a mentor at nCino, as it’s a platform for me to advise other women in various capacities to be confident, outspoken and consistently providing ideas and insight to their roles. It is important for leadership to understand what makes individual employees motivated to succeed, and to have that influence on communication and management style from within.

This International Women’s Day, I encourage us to celebrate women not only on 8 March, but all year long, as women continue to shake up the industry.


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Keywords: fintech, paytech, STEM, Nadja van der Veer, EWPN, Anna Maj, Silvia Mensdorff Pouilly, ACI Worlwide Europe, Trisha Price, nCino
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Countries: World