The payments industry offers untapped opportunities for women

Wednesday 11 October 2017 07:53 CET | Editor: Melisande Mual | Interview

Martha Mghendi-Fisher, EWPN: Even though there are many women on entry and mid level, the number of women on senior and leadership positions in the financial sector is very low

On 31st October 2017, the European Women Payments Network will be hosting the 1st Annual Conference in Amsterdam. We took the opportunity to sit down with Martha Mghendi-Fisher, the founder of EWPN, and learn more about the organization she created.

Could you please share with our readers the idea behind founding EWPN and what is its core activity?

I founded EWPN in 2015 because I had seen how women limited themselves in the industry. Despite so many women-led initiatives, the most are closed up in small groups due to language, or location.

We feel very comfortable running multi-national businesses across borders but when it comes to conversations about our issues, we contain these in smaller silos. I want to break these silos and open up the barriers so women could take these conversations across the borders. There are more opportunities for women in that sense and the diversity and inclusion conversation need to happen across the borders, not just at home.

In 2016, we focused on pulling the driving team together by defining our core programmes, identifying potential partners, and drawing up our strategy. Then in 2017 we officially launched the network. Our core activities are:

  • Mentorship programme: mentor and mentee are paired together for a period of 6-12 months;

  • Leadership programme: this is tailored to meet specific needs for a group of women e.g. provide master class on leadership skills or negotiation skills;

  • Membership: Individual membership or corporate membership (organisation signing up female employees). This charges EUR 250 annually;

  • Millenials programme: this bridges the gap between the younger generation and employers and also helps millenials gain soft skills;

  • Events and meet-ups: we organise events and meet-ups that bring together women for a day of learning, networking, and sharing. These events are also used to recognise and appreciate women making tremendous contributions to the industry.

What challenges women do face within the payment industry and how does the EWPN help them overcome these issues?

Some of the issues that women working in the financial sector face are unique, but the majority are universal.

1. Gender parity

This is very visible in the financial sector. Even though there are many women on entry and mid level, the number of women on senior and leadership positions in the financial sector is very low. This also means that women are missing at the tables where conversations about them take place.

EWPN is creating a safe and professional environment through our network to address this issue and come up with concrete plans and suggestions on how to improve this. For any change to happen, it has to come from top of the organisation i.e. leadership level. By engaging and encouraging leaders, top executives and the board members to take part in open conversations at the EWPN events, we play a huge role in ensuring that the message reaches the right people who can directly influence change in their organisations.

2. Gender pay gap

Women still get paid much less than male counterparts in the industry even when they have the same set of skills and experience. EWPN encourages open dialogue on the disadvantages and impacts of such wage discrimination and offers feasible suggestions by continuing to push for equal pay based on skill sets and not gender. By continuing to bring this topic up and encouraging public discussion, EWPN will directly bridge the gender pay gap.

3. The distorted image of financial industry

It has always been portrayed as macho and masculine and this is also seen in magazines and advertisement. This plays a huge role in putting off women from getting into the industry. EWPN creates role models for other women. Through this network, we are able to create visibility and focus on women making huge contributions to the industry. This visibility is helping shape the future picture of the financial industry and by having role models to identify with, younger women can be encouraged to pursue careers in the industry.

5. Work-life balance

Unfortunately, the traditional roles continue to deny women equal opportunities because they are expected to take time off once they start a family. By the time they get back to work, their colleagues will have moved up a level higher and they are left on the same spot. This can be a morale killer for the female employees. EWPN aims to get employers to retain women by family friendly practices and returnees programmes that help women re-integrate after taking time off to raise children without losing out.

6. Shared maternity leave

Many countries don’t have shared maternity/paternity leave, meaning that women bear the burden of losing out when they take a break to raise children.

7. Opportunities and connections

Networking is a crucial factor in career and opportunities. Having a mentor or sponsor to help introduce one to the correct network is something that every woman needs.

You have recently launched a new African chapter with EWPN. Could you elaborate more on this?

I launched AWFP in 2017. My aim is to create a global network of women working in the industry. There is much more value to be gained by sharing on a wider scale than just in our home countries. I am also originally from Kenya, so the continent is very close to my heart. The same opportunities that we are creating with EWPN can be shared with women in Africa.  In 2018, we will be hosting the first event in Kigali Rwanda, and we are also implementing the same programmes we have in Europe, though these are of course tailored based on the needs of each region.

EWPN and AWFP are helping women build relationships and this positively impacts the employers as well. The industry is so small and we end up doing business with each other. EWPN and AWFP are paving the way to create opportunities for employers to gain a lot of value out of this, directly and indirectly.

How could companies and leaders get involved in the EPWN network to support its vision?

There are different ways to get involved as a leader or a company. As a leader you could: sign up as a member;sign up as a mentor; sign up to speak at EWPN events; become a contributing writer; attending EWPN events; becoming an ambassador for EWPN.

Companies can get involved by: corporate membership; signing up female employees as members; offering venues for events and meet-ups; partnership and sponsorship.

What key topics will be addressed at the event?

We have tried to find a balance between issues women are facing in the industry. We have an interactive agenda and an excellent line-up of speakers. Some of the key topics are: Diversity & Inclusion, Regulatory Update, Women in Leadership, Fraud & Security, Banks & Fintechs partnerships.

About Martha Mghendi-Fisher

Martha is the Founder of European Women Payments Network (EWPN) and African Women in Fintech & Payments (AWFP). Martha has almost a decade of experience in cards, payments, ecommerce and acquiring. Her area of focus is on Operations, Card Scheme Compliance, Interchange, E2E processing, BIN sponsorship ad Set up, Clearing and Settlement, Authorisations and Conversions, and Product Management. Martha is an upcoming young FemTech leader and a role model paving the way for fellow women in the industry.

About EWPN

European Women Payments Network (EWPN) is a platform for women working in Fintech, Cards & Payments with an objective to inspire, empower and mentor women in payments to help them realise their full individual potential.


European Women Payments Network (EWPN) will be hosting 1st Annual Awards & Conference in Amsterdam on 30th- 31st October 2017 at Koepelkerk. Awards will be given to individuals making tremendous contribution to the industry and organisations on forefront in promoting diversity and inclusion in financial industry.



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Keywords: Martha Mghendi-Fisher, European Women Payments Network, mentor, sponsor, interview, network, platform, online payments, women, ecommerce
Countries: World