This October at The Fintech Times is all about the incredible women working in the fintech industry. With women still forming only around 30 per cent of the workforce, it’s important to spotlight those who are working to make a change and blazing a path for those to follow. Some influential women in fintech give their advice to aspiring women in the sector.
Having spoken about how women in fintech have been smashing the ‘glass ceiling’, we turn our attention to advice for women looking to do the same. Here Nabanita Roy, Qian Liu, Darcy Douglas and Jane Podbelskaya share their advice for aspiring women in the fintech industry.
Nabanita Roy, data scientist at the real-time payments solutions provider, ACI Worldwide
Recognising the impact digital transformation and the acceleration of artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions have had on the many emerging avenues of fintech, Roy confirms that “there is something for everyone interested in this sector” and that “you don’t have to have a finance background to work in fintech.”
Reflecting on her own career journey, she reveals that her Master’s degree was actually in computer science, however, she goes on to explain that it was her “developing interests that lead me into a growing and thriving role in the world of fintech.”
Roy cites drive and curiosity as major enablers of success in such a rapidly transforming industry, adding that “being open to learning new things will help you stay ahead of the game.”
“I would advise identifying and reflecting on your strengths and being open to learning from your mistakes,” she continues; highlighting the importance of self-reflection to personal and professional growth.
“It is all about understanding and being determined about what you want from your life and your career.”
Roy understands that the big wide world of fintech is by no means an easy map to navigate, making it all the more difficult for new entrants to the sector.
“When looking to move into a new sector,” she adds, “especially into fintech, questions will almost certainly arise and it is important to use all the resources at your disposal.”
Quite simply, Roy reassures women that “if you are unsure of something or are stuck, ask someone.”
She recommends seeking out the bottomless knowledge pool of books, online resources and experts to anyone that is looking to learn the ropes.
“If you get the opportunity, having a mentor is important for all stages of someone’s career, as well as becoming a mentor and leading by example,” Roy comments.
“Building a network that you can tap into and use for support and knowledge is so important and will help you immerse yourself in the world of fintech.”
Qian Liu, chief data officer at Guideline, the small business retirement platform
For Liu, fintech is a craft that must be perfected, emphasising how “excelling at your job is the fastest path to overcoming the barriers that disproportionately face women and minorities.”
Despite the disparities in gender representation, she underlines why it’s important to “stay in the game.”
“It can get lonely when you are one of the few, and it can feel impossible in the quest to balance career and family responsibilities,” adds Liu.
“Draw on your strength of resiliency and do not give up. Doors will open if you play the long game. When you become a leader, level the playing field by empowering the sisters behind you.”
Darcy Douglas, vice president of global programme management at the working capital solutions provider, Taulia
Douglas’ top piece of advice for women in the fintech industry is “don’t limit yourself.”
“Too often, we don’t try for more, thinking that we don’t have the talent, skills, or confidence to think bigger,” she explains.
Reiterating the thoughts of Roy, Douglas also recognises the importance of good mentorship, adding “talk about those limiting beliefs with a friend or mentor, and you’ll find that most of them are just in your mind, and other people believe in you and your ability to do more.
She encourages all women to “think big, set big goals, write down the things you want to achieve, and share them with others. You’ll most certainly get there, or close to it, if you remove those limiting beliefs!”
Douglas continues: “I always assumed the Director level was as high as I would get. I would look at people on executive teams and think that I didn’t have what it took to get there.
“My mentor helped me learn what it takes to be an executive, and I quickly realised that I was doing a lot of things that executives do. It gave me the confidence to remove my limiting beliefs and go after my next promotion.”
Jane Podbelskaya, principal at Information Venture Partners, a Canadian venture capital firm specialising in direct and fund-of-funds investments in fintech
If you’re looking to enter the fintech industry, Podbelskaya advises that “you must understand the reality that this is still a male-dominated environment for now.”
Developing this view, she says “there is a deliberate effort to increase the diversity of FI and fintech teams, but the evolution will take time as newly hired women progress through the ranks.”
Recognising the greater value being placed on diversity these days, Podbelskaya is optimistic that this will generate “more opportunities for women to get into the space.”
“Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs in the industry,” she adds, “especially if fintech is a space you’re interested in joining.”
“If you want to launch a fintech company or be a C-level exec at one, understand that there are long-standing biases that can work against you,” Podbelskaya comments, pointing to raising capital as an example of these biases in action.
“However, many funds are working to improve their portfolios’ diversity and applying deliberate efforts to overcome their biases,” she continues.
“You can be advantaged (more support, funding, and mentorship opportunities focused on women, including funds like StandUp Ventures) and disadvantaged (biases still exist).
“Be persistent – look for these funds and opportunities, and take advantage of your offerings.
“If you’re a woman in fintech, I encourage you to find – or launch – a community of women in fintech in your region. Support from other women in the industry can be invaluable.”