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 Gloria Garber, Proud Limpongpan, Sophia Sanders, Samantha Yap, Kelly Fryer, and Catherine Boundjia as they share with us how they smashed the glass ceiling.
Gloria Garber, Director of People and Culture, Paymerang
I started at Paymerang as the Human Resources Director when the company had about 50 employees. My current title at Paymerang is Director of People and Culture. As the company has quadrupled in size, my scope has broadened. It encompasses several elements including people operations, learning and development, engagement and retention, and much more.
I work with my teams to break away from the stereotype of HR as an administrative department or policy enforcers. People departments bring so much value and insights into a culture. Leaders need to pay attention to what is going on with their employees’ mindsets in order to make sound strategic decisions.
There is a need within our society for female corporate leaders who will inspire the younger generations. It’s essential that women balance out industries and leadership teams to bring a different dynamic and diversity of thought and innovation to the table.
Being a female in a leadership position hasn’t been easy by any feat, especially in situations where I felt like my voice wasn’t being heard. It’s challenging to assert oneself or convey a contrarian opinion. This might lead to a healthy debate and brief discomfort, but the hardest part is just getting over that hump. Challenging a peer, or your boss, isn’t easy but the alternative of staying silent is worse. That mindset has helped me over the years. If something felt intimidating, I took a deep breath and did it anyway.
There is so much information out there for women on how to “behave” in the workplace – speak this way, dress this way, pay attention to body language – a lot of this advice is based on having women play by rules set in a male-dominated world. It’s important to be sure you’re staying true to your authentic self. The true value you can bring is rooted within your own skills, values, and capabilities – not someone else’s. When you’re able to be yourself, you build stronger relationships, move with more confidence, and perform better overall.
If you’re working to climb the corporate ladder, carve your path. Reflect on what you want to do and where you want to go. Having this clarity will help you set goals and find the right resources to get there.
Proud Limpongpan, CMO, Zipmex
Globally, we’re seeing that about 30% of senior management positions are held by women. Although globally we’re seeing an upward trajectory, this figure is slightly lower for APAC where slower change is observed. Thailand is an exception, ranking second globally for women represented in senior management especially in finance and consulting. Looking back now at how this issue has been raised repeatedly in the west, I feel honoured and humbled to be working alongside other female colleagues in management roles in the company, and that we’ve been able to champion this cause at Zipmex throughout the different countries we operate in, whether it be Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, or Australia.
I never felt the need to “break the ceiling” because I did not see it to begin with. You cannot be limited by something if it does not exist. Ironically, it was my father who erased this ceiling and encouraged me from the start. Through sending me to a secondary school that believed girls can access leadership roles and become whoever they want in the future, I grew up gender-blind; believing that I really could just pick any path. From seeking leadership opportunities, to work experiences ranging from consulting tech CEOs to project managing construction sites to now running a fintech company, it all just seemed natural.
Understandably, not everyone agrees that there is no ceiling and might try to judge and hinder your performance. The most important thing is to stay calm and learn to choose which fires to extinguish immediately and which to ignore, and which at first may seem like a fire but if you take a step back, was actually a light at the end of the tunnel to a problem you didn’t realise you had. This goes for anyone, male or female, but seeing that a lot of female leaders are often called ‘too emotional’, having this mindset prevents anyone from ever saying that about you. I think we all should question, challenge the status quo, think innovatively and above all, be the very best versions of ourselves.
Sophia Sanders, Distribution Lead, Chetwood Financial
I loved Michelle Obama’s autobiography, but there is one part that has stayed with me – for years girls have been taught they can be whatever they want to be while sat around the dinner table, but despite our efforts, this still hasn’t translated into the boardroom There is so much work we need to do to help women achieve their full potential, and throughout my career, there have been many contributing factors and people that have helped me build the career I have had so far. I’ve tried to distill them into just a few thoughts:
- Don’t pretend there isn’t a glass ceiling. In 2019 only 7% of FTSE 100 companies had a female CEO. If we don’t recognise there is a problem, we won’t be able to fix it.
- Like the work you do. It’s not about how quickly you can get to the top, it’s about enjoying what you spend most of your time doing! Your passion will help you achieve success.
- Find a company that you believe in and one that believes in you. It’s easier to be your best self when you know you are valued and what matters most to you, matters most to them.
- Surround yourself with strong females. I’ve always found the advice and viewpoints of the women I am close to invaluable.
- Trust yourself. If you want to do things differently, then do it. Don’t try and be something you aren’t and if your company doesn’t respond well, go back to point number 3!
- Support other women – there’s room for all of us at the table. In the words of Rupi Kaur “we are stronger together”.
- Be tenacious. Go after what you want and don’t be afraid to share your ambitious career goals. I can guarantee no man or woman in a senior leadership position hasn’t advocated for themselves. This doesn’t mean you have to be naturally assertive or bold, just willing to say what you want to achieve in your own unique natural style.
- Value women regardless of their choice to have children or not. Invest in flexible working and accommodate female talent. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that companies can be successful with flexible working. Three-quarters of working mums believe flexible working is crucial to helping women progress into more senior roles.
Samantha Yap, CEO and Founder, YAP Global
One of the biggest obstacles I faced in building YAP Global in the crypto space was in negotiating for retainers and contracts. Before I established it as the leading DeFi and Crypto PR agency, there were often times I would pitch my services and everything would be received well until it came down to fees. Clients would try to negotiate prices down, and I had to remain steadfast and resilient to prevent being undervalued.
Ironically, I never really see myself as a “woman” in Crypto and DeFi. I’m just someone who is passionate about the industry’s growth and I happen to be a woman, and this really helped me in breaking boundaries.
My firm belief is that while you cannot change the behaviours and attitudes from stereotyping, you can control that of your own By staying focused on placing one foot in front of the other and steadily progressing towards my goals, I never let anyone limit what I was able to achieve just because I was part of the minority in Crypto, DeFi, and PR. I would have to attribute part of this mindset from my experiences growing up and working in various countries (i.e. Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and London etc.) around the world.
Lastly, learning to celebrate your achievements is also key to staying motivated.
Kelly Fryer, Executive Director, FinTech Sandbox
In an industry heavily dominated by white males, breaking through the glass ceiling to me has been building a steady track record and career for myself within the fintech and financial services industry at large.
I kicked off my (fintech) career during my time at Bloomberg, where I was overseeing the Custom Index product for the Global Data department – a task I was charged with after only being with the company for a short time. I then became the go-to person for various index-related projects, including the beginnings of the Gender Equality Index, which tracks “the performance of public companies committed to disclosing their efforts to support gender equality.”
Bloomberg was formative for my professional development and ultimately led me to pursue a Master in Business Administration, focusing on Corporate Innovation and Venture Development. After completing my Master’s, I joined the Barclays Accelerator powered by Techstars as a Programme Manager. Through my performance and developing relationships, I built a positive reputation within fintech, startups, and early-stage VC ecosystems. Meeting with and giving advice to female founders and founders of color was very important to me during this time, but generally, I wanted to support those founders that VCs often overlook(ed). I moved from Programme Manager to Director in two years and evaluated more than 1,000 fintech startups each year in order to find 10 investments.
Personally, the concept of “smashing the glass ceiling” is challenging to reconcile in my mind. While I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished, I feel like there’s a lot more work left to do for women in fintech and that there’s still many more glass ceilings ahead, which has led me to my current role as Executive Director of nonprofit FinTech Sandbox. Here, we help guide fintech startups build innovative products by providing critical data access and development resources at no cost. One of our goals at the Sandbox is to support and build products that empower people and help people gain agency in their own financial lives, and hopefully contribute to smashing more glass ceilings for women going forward.
Catherine Boundjia, Chief Product Officer, Amadis
As a young girl, I was surrounded early on by bold women, encompassing all spheres of society: entrepreneurs, doctors, CEOs, judges, politicians, and a variety of professionals. This empowered me to believe that success was easily accessible to all women. It wasn’t until later in my twenties that I realised that being a female leader is a constant struggle. There are three tips that allowed me to smash the glass ceiling in the Payments industry.
1. Surround Yourself with People Who Believe in You
Being surrounded by people who believe in me has played a key role in my career.
Very early in my first job at ACI Worldwide, I was put on large-scale and complex projects. My clients were among the largest banks in Europe. Although I was a junior-level payment expert, my management team trusted me completely to carry out these projects. Their confidence in me empowered the young graduate I was to excel in my role, to make an immediate impact on customers, and to reveal my leadership skills. Later in my career, I have been fortunate to continue working closely with inspiring male and female role models whose trusting, pragmatic, and fast-learning mindset has greatly influenced the leader that I continue to grow today.
2. Stop Overplanning: Success Does Not Have a Timeline
I learned to stop over-planning because success has no timeline.
As women, we tend to over-plan our next steps. Being too focused on the process and making incremental changes may slow down a career. You can’t break a glass ceiling while doing clever calculations of how to get through. Twelve years ago, when I left France for a new opportunity in Canada, I had no idea that this unplanned and uncertain change would propel me towards other great career opportunities. Being shortlisted for the 2018 Women in Payments Canada Rising Star Under 40 Award a few years later was in some way recognition of my daring.
3. Don’t Wait Until You Have a Seat at the Table to Step Up
I didn’t wait until I got a seat at the table to step up.
Breaking the glass ceiling is a great achievement, but it shouldn’t be the beginning of your story. You need to cultivate a leadership mindset long before you’re part of a C-level team. In my case, true leadership has always been about stepping up for my company or my teams, especially having difficult conversations, in tough situations. I think of it like a football (or hockey or soccer) game: Would I rather be on the bench, gently waiting for my teammates to lead us to victory, or would I rather be one of those who stick their neck out to whatever the outcome of the game is?
In 2019, my team and I were responsible for delivering the payment solution deployed at one of the world’s largest sporting events. It was an intense period of work to meet the deadlines given to us to successfully execute the vast scope of the project. I rolled up my sleeves and worked out strategies with our partners and teams to achieve this ambitious business goal. Several years later, it is still one of the projects I am most proud of.
Breaking the glass ceiling is not a long calm river for women as we must continuously double our efforts to achieve our goals, but the adventure is well worth it.