International Women's Day: progress made but "old values" persist in startups

Today marks International Women's Day- commentators say across financial services and tech, achievements have been made but much remains to be done.
International Women's Day: progress made but

It is “clear” that female representation in tech and financial services has improved but “old banking values” persist in startups, say commentators, celebrating International Women’s Day today.

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

As more and more women take senior positions in tech and financial services, progress is being made to breach the gender divide, but challenges remain, commentators point out.

Angela Wakelin, chief operating officer, Kroo, the digital bank, said "old banking values have still found their way into this new and exciting space" of fintech.

A 2023 EY report highlighted that the gender pay gap within the fintech sector stands at 22 per cent with women only holding around 10 per cent of fintech board seats.

Despite progress being made, Wakelin said “there is clearly a long way to go”.

She added:

“It is clear that there has been an evolution in the representation of women within the financial services sector over the last couple of decades. 

“At the start of my career, there wasn’t a single female bank branch manager where I worked, and I witnessed how more and more women rose to senior positions.

“However, there remains a large disparity between the number of men and women welcomed into the industry as a whole.”

Across tech, industry figures show the level of women in the industry has risen from 29 per cent in 2019 to 32 per cent in 2023.

But Janaki Chitta, technical product manager, CMC Invest (pictured), the trading platform, said the gender pay gap remains “a challenge” in the tech industry.

Chitta said:

“I’ve experienced first-hand the power of diverse perspectives to drive effective problem-solving and deliver superior outcomes for our customers.

“Although we have seen some positive steps, we still have a way to go to bridge the gender gap in tech.

“Companies need to actively promote and encourage women in tech roles and prioritise recruitment efforts to attract more female talent.

“Additionally, investing in development and training opportunities is essential to support women in advancing their careers to reach leadership positions.”

Chitta also pointed out the challenge of retaining female talent.

She said:

“Another challenge is retention, particularly for fintech companies. Implementing workplace benefits tailored to women's needs, such as initiatives addressing pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and menopause, can contribute to creating a more inclusive and supportive work environment.”

Meanwhile, Chris Rudden, wealth management expert at Moneyfarm, the investment app, called for women to start investing in their financial future at an early age.

Figures show that women in the UK retire with significantly smaller pensions than their male counterparts, according to the latest Government data, this is on average 35 per cent lower.

Rudden said the gender pension gap was “a stark reality” and largely attributed to factors like career breaks, part-time employment, and the gender pay gap.

He added:

"It's a crucial moment to emphasise the importance of early financial planning, specifically contributing to pensions.

"Encouraging women to start investing into their pensions early not only ensures a more comfortable retirement but also contributes to closing the gender pension gap.

“Let's empower women to take control of their financial destinies, break through glass ceilings, and build a future where retirement isn't a source of concern.”

And Jennifer Sanchis, insights consultant at the media intelligence firm CARMA, called for women to prioritise themselves.

She said:

“I would advise female leaders to invest in their professional development, invest in their life experiences, and invest in their own wellbeing.

“If I have learnt one thing during my (short!) life, it’s that this kind of investment is the safest you can make. It is the best return on investment you can ever get.

“Women should never stop prioritising themselves and what is right for them.

“Deep down, we know our needs and we know when something isn’t right. We need to be better at investing our time and efforts in the endeavours that fulfil us most.”

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