Gender parity in the payments sector – how far have we come?

The European Women Payments Network is committed to increasing diversity and inclusion across payments and fintech, but its primary focus has always been gender parity, says Miranda McLean while exploring the wider implications

Previous research into diversity makes for interesting reading. I find it encouraging to see that things have changed – albeit gradually. This is in part due to the impact of COVID-19 rather than an inspiring shift in mentality but nevertheless, we are progressing.

That research, was developed when the #MeToo movement and gender pay gap were regularly hitting the headlines. Those topics have shifted down the news agenda somewhat, but they sparked changes that rumble on. Across all industries there seem to be multiple organisations publishing reports into gender parity, women in leadership roles, how to encourage women into the relevant industry and so on. The conversation is happening and that is incredibly positive.

Throughout the 2010s, the number of women-founded and co-founded fintechs grew steadily. By 2019 the total share of such start-ups with women as founders or co-founders reached 12.2 per cent, compared to 10.9 per cent a decade earlier.

The International Monetary Fund recently confirmed that the share of businesses with female founders has remained around 10-15 per cent for the past two decades, with firms launched in the past 10 years the most likely to have been founded by women. Tides are shifting, albeit slowly.

A spotlight on the industry

According to PwC’s global CEO survey, 38 per cent of financial services industry leaders say gender representation rates form part of the company’s long-term corporate strategy; and 11 per cent include it within their annual bonus or long-term incentive plan. While this shows gender diversity is being taken seriously by a significant number of companies, it also reveals that many more are lagging behind.

What’s more, according to the PwC trust index, the most highly trusted companies are 1.4 times more likely to have gender diversity targets in their chief executive compensation plans. Further demonstrating the value of diversity at work, Forbes recently found that diverse teams delivered 60% better results and made better business decisions 87 per cent of the time.

An article published by Funds Europe last October reported on a detailed study of more than 100 professional females in the finance industry, of which half had experienced barriers to progression linked to life events that often impact women more than men: starting a family, caring for family members, a requirement for flexible working to meet family commitments, and menopause. The study highlighted that many of these events are unavoidable, but the financial industry does little to support these women, often leading to their career progression stalling.

Deloitte study also highlighted that organisations should do more to support women during specific life events and suggested addressing persistent challenges such as childcare requirements and promotion practices to ensure roles are filled from a diverse talent pool.

Where do we go from here?

While overall awareness is growing, the question of what to do about it remains a stumbling block. Businesses must ensure their cultures and policies are appealing to and supportive of women in all stages of life, and that development opportunities are in place for all employees – whether they are full or part time, or just about to go on/return from maternity leave, for example.

There are many life-changing moments unique to women. For example, fertility treatment, miscarriages, menopause and even issues involving sexual assault. Women need specific support to survive and thrive during and beyond these experiences. A core theme within the EWPN conference since the Covid pandemic was human-centred design, which includes the vital work of designing workplaces and policies that support women through life’s traumas and challenges.

I hosted a discussion at the conference in which the entire panel had first-hand experience of such events during their working lives. The session focused on personal challenges and life-changing moments, what women can do when they go through such an experience and how employers can improve the support they provide to female employees in all life stages.

For last year’s International Women’s Day, Banking Circle spoke to women from across the payments, banking, fintech and financial services world to gather their thoughts on how the financial services sector can play its role in achieving a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.

Many of those involved felt that change could happen for the financial industry, but it needs to begin in schools and girls need to have good role models who can inspire a future generation of women into the traditionally male-dominated industry.

Ultimately, there is a need to go faster, not just because it is the right thing to do, which of course it is, but because businesses that do break the bias are stronger and more successful.

Miranda McLean is a member of Project ESG at The Payments Association, an EWPN executive board member and senior director, as well as the Chief Communications & Sustainability Officer at Banking Circle Group


EWPN – End of the Tunnel report

The Payments Association

IMF Research

Funds Europe