At a time when women are woefully underrepresented in both the financial services and tech, TFT spoke to Julie Louvrier, Business Development at SuccessData. With over 17 years of experience working in fintech, we picked her brain on the state of the sector.
TFT: What is your opinion on women in tech and why do you believe this needs to change?
Julie: I’m going to push an open door: women in technology are obviously as innovative, passionate and dedicated as their male colleagues. They design, they deliver, they question, they invent, they lead. However, they are much less present – they represent about 20% of the workforce. I believe this is due to multiple reasons but cultural bias is the biggest one. But I do believe that the lines are moving for women. Slowly, but irremediably because the corporate world is moving.
Take the example of banks, they are challenged by Fintech companies. This has introduced more inclusive structures, which are built on a model where less traditional skills are required, whatever the gender. And this forces the IT department at banks to rethink the way they recruit. For example, 20 years ago a man in a recruitment interview who asked if he could leave at 15:00 once a week to pick up his children, would have seen his candidacy rejected on the spot. But today the same question would be received in a very different way. This highlights the willingness of looking for a good life balance, which is actually reassuring for an employer!
This new paradigm gives women more flexibility (because the number of dads who do the school run has increased over the last 20 years), but it also goes hand in hand with a real appreciation of skills hitherto stamped by women. For instance emotional intelligence. I certainly don’t want to say only women use their emotions in a professional context. But they tend to do it more freely, and it has been demonstrated how emotional intelligence is essential in all aspects of our careers.
There is still a way to go in order to have 50% of the technology workforce made up of women, but I see positive signs. I also know a bunch of IT companies who are really keen on recruiting more women, not because they have been asked, but because they understand more diversity means higher creativity!
“There is still a way to go in order to have 50% of the technology workforce made up of women, but I see positive signs.”
TFT: What are your future predictions for the tech industry?
Julie: I had the pleasure of attending the Women in Tech conference in London recently. Here I learnt an interesting fact from Dayne Turbitt (Senior VP at Dell). As you know, the demand for technologists is growing exponentially, however in years to come only 45% of the future jobs will be filled at current graduation rates. What do we do? Create more tech universities? That could take years!
The solution is opening positions to underrepresented populations and accelerating the career conversion or reintegration of women. Look at the companies that already have reintegration plans for women who stopped working years ago. These companies have perfectly understood that recruiting those qualified, very motivated women is absolutely paramount for their future growth!
TFT: To what extent does fintech operate on a level playing field? Would you say that the space has equality of opportunity?
Julie: I have been working in the field of technology for banks for almost 20 years and have never witnessed discrimination in hiring or salary with women or minorities. However, I can tell you that I have always witnessed the difficulty to recruit in this area for lack of candidates. So gender has never been a question. And Fintech is a new industry built on inclusive values.
“The game must certainly be changed from the earliest age in education”
But this should not prevent us from seeing the problem: too much homogeneity of the candidates looked for. This industry has to open up to more diverse university courses – as the school 42 tries to offer in France for example – or to a less formal careers – like hiring a stay-at-home mother back on the employment market. From my point of view, the problem therefore remains the number of women applying for a Fintech job rather than discrimination in hiring. But to change the situation, this requires a huge amount of work to be done beforehand with all the parties involved: women, to get them to project themselves into these careers; companies, to ensure they are not systematically looking for the typical engineer with a good university and linear CV.
TFT: What measures need to be put in place at a governmental level to quicken the glacial pace of change?
Julie: It is a complex question. The game must certainly be changed from the earliest age in education and the place that is given to technology in the universe of girls in school and university. It goes through the education system, but I believe it would be naive to think that it is up to the government only to deal with this issue. It is primarily the parents, but also the companies through their offers and their communication, that must work to change the perception of girls and women vis-à-vis their own interest in technology! Then, at the level of employers, the possibility of incentives to recruit off the beaten path should certainly be explored further.