This October at The Fintech Times we are championing the fantastic females in the fintech industry. Around 30% of the fintech workforce are women, and we want to spotlight those who have not only made it to the top, but those who have overcome hurdles, bulldozing a path for the women to follow.
Here we hear from Amber Ghaddar, Julia McColl, Sam Seaton, May Yang, Nathalie Miller and Lety Nettles as they share how they paved the way for others to follow.
Amber Ghaddar, Co-Founder of AllianceBlock
“Typically, there is a smaller network of women in software development, venture capital and finance space, especially at senior levels. If we focus on just the blockchain industry, there are so many exciting new projects out there and yet fewer women have the opportunity to get involved. This means it can be a challenge for companies to find senior female leaders or developers in the blockchain space. In the wider tech space and in the UK, only 12.5% of developers are women, leaving us with an extremely small pool of talent.
“One way to help solve this is through mentoring and networking. I currently mentor five fantastic women in both the blockchain and broader fintech space. I am also a senior advisor and mentor at The Bigger Pie – one of the most active “women in blockchain” communities reaching more than 25 countries. The Bigger Pie supports female professionals and businesses in the blockchain, crypto assets, and DLT sector. We connect and support incredible women who are working in the space, shine a light on what they do, and provide them with the support and resources they need to achieve their goals. Our goal is to accelerate change and create a more equal blockchain industry.
“But one of the main reasons there are less women at the executive levels in blockchain, fintech and most industries, is because women – and minorities broadly – are not judged on the same criteria as our male counterparts. For example, in the UK, research shows that women are significantly under-represented in the pipelines and investments of UK VCs – only 17% of VC investments and 11% of investments notional went to teams with one or more women founders. Research has found that unconscious gender bias strongly influences the VC decision-making process. Ironically, the Rose Review commissioned by HM Treasury, found that if the UK achieved the same average share of women entrepreneurs as best-in-class countries we could add £200 billion to the UK economy. And this is why I started the 200bn Club with Bridget Greenwood – an accelerator that aims to make high potential female founders VC ready by teaching them the ropes of fundraising and how to bypass this unconscious bias. We currently have 28 VC funds signed up on our investor panel and a few high profile partnerships to be announced.
“As well as having less opportunities in a very male-dominated industry, it is more difficult for women to become leaders. However, when provided with adequate training to reach their full potential, there is no doubt that women are more than capable of becoming successful leaders and torchbearers to the next generation.
“At AllianceBlock, we know that there is a large pool of women out there that have the potential and would be a great fit for our company and we wish to see more of them applying to open roles. AllianceBlock is on a mission to change the course, and give more women the opportunity to explore the possibilities of a career in blockchain and DeFi.
Julia McColl, Commercial Director, Chetwood Financial
“Right from the outset, we knew that identifying and developing talent would be critical to our success. At Chetwood, we’ve grown from roughly five or so of us at the start to over 170 employees, many of whom were hired during lockdown. As we’ve taken products to market and scaled our business, we’ve seen roles expand and change dramatically. There has been lots of opportunities and a number of our employees have changed their roles completely, trained for specific qualifications and been promoted. Yet for many, all this choice only creates more confusion around the big question: ‘what do I really want to do?’
“A key part of my role as a leader is in helping those around me figure out how to keep developing in their role and to shape a career path that gets them to where they want to be. It’s not about finding the quickest route to the top, but about thinking through the skills they need to achieve their goals. Often, it’s as simple as asking open questions and giving people time to think about the response. Making the time to do this, not just for those you work with closely, but across the whole organisation, is not only hugely rewarding but also improves performance, increases retention and builds better engagement.
“Sometimes you uncover a range of issues holding people back: a perfectionist streak that is slowing them down; a reluctance to claim their achievements; or imposter syndrome. By talking about these areas, we normalise them. We help others to realise that we also feel the same, have experienced the same thoughts or overcome similar issues. It’s much more effective than pretending that, as a leader, we are somehow invincible to the everyday doubts and worries experienced by all. Most importantly, I’ve found that it helps others believe they can overcome difficulties too. Which is sometimes all it needs.
“On a personal note, I have really benefited from using a professional coach to help me navigate my professional landscape – I can’t recommend it enough! But at the very least, I would encourage everyone to try and find coaches outside of their direct team and/or external to where they work. Building a network of people around you who want you to succeed, and who are focused on listening and coaching, can make a huge difference to your career path.”
Samantha Seaton, CEO of Moneyhub Enterprise
“I’m proud to be a founding member of Open51, the organisation that promotes the role of women developing open finance and the new data economy. Having a role model in your sector that you can learn from and emulate is important, and without that representation, we risk women believing that these roles aren’t for them.
“When I first started studying at university, I was the only woman on my computer science course, and while we are seeing more girls and women pursuing studies and careers in STEM, we still have work to do to encourage women into these roles. This is why flexible working is central to the Moneyhub ethos.
“Our flexible working policy isn’t just there to help women, we offer the same maternity and paternity leave for our team. It allows employees to balance their work around their lives even if this means working remotely from Mexico two weeks of the year. We are committed to every one of our colleagues achieving personal growth, and to that end, the Moneyhub ‘Stretch and Development’ allowance offers two days’ time and a fund of £750 for personal development to spend as they see fit. That kind of flexibility over geography and training has opened up new career pathways for a diverse range of colleagues.”
May Yang, Global Head of Operations at Synechron
“Creating a rope ladder for those looking to progress in their careers is a vital part of being a leader. Fundamental to aiding their career growth is having a mentor and someone to learn from. That’s what propels careers at an accelerated rate versus those who do not receive a step up on the proverbial ladder – which is particularly important in helping minority groups get off the ‘sticky floor’ and break the glass ceiling.
“No matter how many years experience and how good you are at your job, there are always new things to learn. These can be learnt from those below, as they bring fresh perspectives and differing ideas. Hence, the rope ladder can work in reverse. This phenomenon ultimately makes those at the top better leaders. They will go on to continue the cycle of helping those below.
“Personally, I have faced many obstacles to reaching my position as a woman in the fintech industry, including pushback from other female leaders who were higher up the ladder. Such experiences fueled my desire to use the platform which I have now to enable other women and employees to progress their careers. They shouldn’t feel like others underestimate their own capabilities. ‘Imposter Syndrome’ is something that we all face and, as part of the ‘Same Difference’ DEI program I implemented at Synechron, this is something we encourage women to take control of.
“Within the ‘Same Difference’ program, I have introduced multiple initiatives such as, ‘The Better ME!’ mentoring program, the ‘Take the Leap’ external speaker webinar series, and the ‘We Have Your Back’ return to work program. We’ve also created ‘Diversity Working Groups’ at the business unit level to drive grassroots initiatives with local flavours, partnerships with various external DEI organisations, and the WE (Women’s Empowerment) platform which connects all female employees globally.
“At the leadership level, we are committed to increasing our global female workforce by 10% year-over-year (Y-o-Y) – now tracked as a key business metric I am pleased to say that we are on target to not only meet but exceed our target. Moreover, employees and teams across the world are now more educated and aware of the benefits of having diverse teams, and we have global involvement and an increased level of allyship within the company.
“Our unique selling points are our innovation-led culture and our ‘FinLabs’. I believe, as does Synechron as an organisation, that a diverse workforce is pivotal to the success of any company.”
Nathalie Miller, Head of Strategic Partnerships, Ascend
“I try to be transparent about pay and compensation. This is especially important for women and minorities, who are systematically underpaid across industries. When it comes to contract negotiation, the cards are pretty stacked against us. Research shows bias against minority names or less prestigious educational paths; studies indicate that while men are judged based on their potential, women are judged based on their track record. All of these social conditions limit what kind of roles and opportunities open up for women and minorities.
“While I may not be able to upend the patriarchy or eliminate racial and unconscious biases, what I can do is share information with people so that they can make informed decisions. So that they have more power and leverage–but also so that they can feel valued and fairly treated.
“Money is somewhat taboo, but talking about compensation has always felt fine to me—likely because I grew up surrounded by Asian aunties that felt extreme comfort talking about money (not to mention everyone’s looks, weight and marital status). With platforms like Glassdoor and Option Impact, there is so much data at our fingertips, but that usually serves companies better than employees.
“So I try to bridge that gap. I treat any prospect who is interested in working at Ascend with the same empathy and transparency as I do my friends who are navigating the job market. This makes sense because ultimately if they do join Ascend, especially at the company’s early stage, we will become friends–and I’ll want the best for them.”
Lety Nettles, Executive Vice President and CIO, Digital Innovation & Digital Business Platforms for LPL Financial
“When I took my position at LPL Financial, I was motivated by the potential to further democratise digital innovation for women within the industry – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s the smart thing to do. I am also keenly aware that my path was paved by the trailblazing women technology leaders I have followed. As I think about my career and the success I have achieved, I lean heavily on the concept of “all ships rise”, being that, if I in turn help another female in fintech, they are in turn paving the path for my two daughters.
“In my mind, this is about digital democratisation and, at LPL, we’re promoting it in a few different ways. For example, we’re offering content, education, and engagement opportunities like hackathons, where all employees – I especially encourage women to participate – come together to innovate. Out of 200 registrants in our last hackathon, 53 were female. Out of four of the winning teams, two teams had women on the team. We’ve been told that these events are like a breath of fresh air for these women. They are able to step out of their ‘norm’ and let their creativity take over, and we’ve seen some amazing things come out of it.
“As for my own professional life, I have intentionally surrounded myself with female technology leaders who continually support each other. I am a member of a Charlotte Executive Women Roundtable, consisting of C-level women across industries such as banking, financial services, healthcare, software, and cybersecurity. At LPL, I am mentoring several senior women leaders in technology, four of which are in my organisation and one outside of my organisation.
My philosophy boils down to this: barriers and bureaucracy destroy creativity. I have seen women at the top of the ladder successfully navigate their careers by being deliberate about reaching down and pulling someone up. I have intentionally surrounded myself with technology women who believe in “lifting as we rise”. I have a core belief that we are woven together by our common passion for technology and how it impacts the world, and that true ingenuity flows when many people from many different backgrounds come together to solve a problem. At LPL, we want everyone on our side innovating for solutions, and that’s the future I’m building in my role.