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 Julianne Sloane, Nolvia Serrano, Vivienne Hsu, Aliya Sadeque, Kathy Stares, and Nabilah Hussain as they share how they paved the way for others to follow.
Julianne Sloane, Co-founder and CEO, Nossa Data
As a female founder, I view it as my duty to support other women groups and minority groups to develop themselves within the fintech sector. There are a few key ways that we have focused on doing this within our own organisation.
Hiring: First of all, we are committed to always posting a hiring announcement when growing our team/adding a new role. This is important because it is a common issue for companies to hire from within their existing network of friends: aka people similar to you. Doing this really limits who has access to the opportunity and if a company takes off, it limits who benefits. For every job opening that never gets listed, people from different backgrounds never get the chance to prove themselves and gain expertise.
Providing growth opportunities as a manager: Next, once employees come onboard, I try to focus my time and energy on making sure that people are getting the right skill sets not just to excel at our company, but for the rest of their careers. Some tangible ways we focus on doing this is via conducting regular ones with all employees to understand how their learning is going and where they want to develop themselves professionally. For example, if an employee wants to get more experience on client calls this is about finding a training opportunity to prepare that person to join/eventually lead client calls for the organisation.
Mentoring other founders: Starting a business is hard and impossible to achieve without a support network. The simplest place to go to support is your existing network but unfortunately, for female and minority founders, they likely have fewer peers they can turn to for advice on how to launch a fintech company. I make an effort to give time to entrepreneurs who thoughtfully reach out cold looking for advice on key aspects of starting a fintech company. Right now I can provide time, advice and resources to those earlier on their start-up journey. In the future, I hope to also be able to provide capital to early-stage women and minority founders who are just getting started.
Nolvia Serrano, Head of Operations, El Salvador, BlockBank
I’ve spent most of my adult life mentoring young girls from my father-in-law’s orphanage. They’re like brothers and sisters to my husband, and hold a huge place in my heart, so I feel responsible for helping them find success – whether that means helping them network and find new jobs, providing educational opportunities, or sharing my experience.
Sometimes, it just means educating these girls on the technology, but it can also involve mentorship more broadly. I want them to understand the value in embracing the unique perspective and skillset we offer as women in the workplace, and particularly as Latina women.
Women are often raised to have a better emotional awareness – almost a sixth sense. We like to exceed emotional expectations. I want them to view this emotional awareness as an advantage, especially in the tech industry where women remain in the minority. It may seem counterintuitive to worry about emotional intelligence in tech, but it’s made by and for people, and my emotional awareness has certainly helped me excel in managing those transactions.
As Latina women, I also want them to know that there is a major advantage to holding that unique cultural perspective – it gives us a very distinct ability to understand varied points of view in a way that might feel unnatural to others, particularly in the relatively homogeneous tech space.
Advice like this isn’t just for the girls in the orphanage – I also try to share with women in the wider community. If I can give them knowledge and give them tools that help them access better opportunities, I’m doing my part.
In a more tangible sense, I also think it’s important to focus on promoting women from within companies rather than hiring from the outside. The guidance and mentorship have so much more impact when we give opportunities for women to apply those insights to their work.
Vivienne Hsu, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, Sokin
The best way to create a rope ladder for other people is to include them in your own journey. I’ve been exceedingly lucky to work with lots of incredible people over the years who did just that. By doing so, they pulled the best out of me which I did not see in myself. Before I knew it, I was involved in activities that, to me, seemed impossible, but those around me saw things differently. I will always be grateful for that.
It may sound simple, but by doing so you naturally open opportunities and further
responsibilities for those in your team. It is by providing an accessible platform
to learn which is fundamental in supporting others through their professional careers, especially in fast-paced industries such as fintech in which there are plenty of chances opening every day. It’s about giving people both the confidence and, most importantly, access to pursue them.
I am not hierarchical and strongly believe the “you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with” mentality is correct to fully embrace other talents to build a resilient, well-rounded team. By doing so, you can start to bring out the best in people by listening and understanding what it is that motivates them.
However, it is important to bring the entire senior team along with you on this journey, as something as simple as creating opportunities to pull out hidden potential can help women and minorities feel more supported in their careers. The good news is that we are starting to break down a problem that has always been there but wasn’t always discussed. Now women of all levels of seniority in all industries are paving the way for change. I find this particularly inspiring.
Aliya Sadeque, Senior Director CRM Ecosystems, Zafin
I went from working at a midsize startup where we all knew each other and hung out all the time, to a very large organisation where most of us were on the road at various projects four days out of the week, and it could be very isolating. This inspired me to start a peer support group for people to come together and discuss, in a safe space, the aspects of our roles that they find the most challenging and hear others’ experiences and how they continue to manage these challenges. The goal was to help new hires and those earlier in their career feel connected and seen – which could be very challenging in the road warrior model.
This group eventually became a pilot for an organisation-wide initiative, which was a testament to both participants and leadership finding it to be a valuable exercise. It was also fulfilling for me and helped me feel more connected to the company and my colleagues in the industry because I was able to make personal connections with lots of bright young folks on other teams that I might not have been given the chance to work with.
Kathy Stares, Executive Vice President, North America, Provenir
For the past two years, I have led sales, customer success, and pre-sales consulting teams, across the Americas for Provenir, while overseeing strategic partnerships. As a member of Provenir’s executive team, I have played a key role in 2020, helping the company increase its SaaS solutions revenue 25% year over year.
While my dedication is evident in helping organisations leverage technology to build world-class experiences for their customers, my biggest passion is mentoring the next generation of leaders and creating and supporting workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
As a member of Mentium, a professional development programme that matches mentors and mentees, my goal is to inspire women in leadership to find their voice and gain more confidence to help drive influence in the workplace. My own experience of being a mentee in the programme more than ten years ago has led me to pay it forward by becoming a mentor myself by working with 1 to 2 women each year on leadership and influence.
When I first participated in the Mentium program, my mentor asked me an important question: ‘What are you passionate about in your job?’ I responded by listing tasks and responsibilities that I enjoyed doing but were not what I consider my passion. Through this simple question, I discovered my real passion is in building teams and it changed the course of my career. I realised the true power of mentoring is that often people actually know the answers within them, but they just need help to draw them out in order to succeed.
That experience helped mold my own leadership style, such as ensuring that my team maintains a work/life balance that translates into improved productivity. It’s important to provide and environment where there is always time to talk with my teams and to ensure their personal well-being. I also meet with my team multiple times a year to discuss their career goals and how I can help build specific skill sets to get my team members to the next level.
I’m also a member of the Canadian Lenders Association (CLA) of which my passion for DEI has led me to be a part of a working group to examine and develop policies that enable more inclusivity with lenders associations and the financial services market. The group aims to change the balance of visible inequity by using the same entrepreneur vigor that companies are built upon.
Nabilah Hussain, Head of Financial Crime, 3S Money
In my roles before joining 3S Money, I was heavily involved in peer support and coaching programmes. Coaching and mentoring others has always been incredibly rewarding for me as I value the importance of having a mentor who can offer support and encouragement and someone willing and able to provide helpful guidance and insight based on their personal experiences.
At 3S Money, I’ve been appointed as a mentor in our internship programme and I’m now working on offering coaching and training to a compliance intern in my team. I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge to help shape future talent in the industry.
As a member of the leadership team, I also have the ability to channel my passions for coaching in my day-to-day role and I aspire to be a positive means of support and encouragement to my peers. I believe leadership positions hold with them a responsibility to educate others and influence a culture that tones from the top to create a skilled, inclusive, and friendly work environment.