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 Samantha Yap, Bettina Hosp, Anna Curzon, Andrea Dunlop, Sahar Salama and Lissele Pratt as they share how they paved the way for others to follow.
Samantha Yap, CEO and Founder of YAP Global
“Actions speak louder than words, and I believe by staying focused on building up my firm, I am paving the way for women and minority groups to do the same in the DeFi, Crypto, and PR space. While stereotypes exist in varying degrees, I have never let my race or gender limit what I am able to achieve, and I feel others should not as well.
“Although it is not an external ironclad policy, my team and I will always go the distance especially for panel discussions and press coverage, to ensure that deserving speakers get equal opportunities to shine as thought leaders. This is often more challenging as it takes more time, as we want to weigh all factors and select by merit, but also want to take the chance to elevate those who are underrepresented.
“Internally, for hiring and training employees, we at YAP Global have a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination, and recognition is given fairly based on effort and achievements. I also embrace global diversity by leveraging the different skills sets and experiences of team members, which is a big part of how I’ve been able to expand from five to 20 plus employees from Australia, the UK US, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Germany, and India in just one year.
“In essence, let the quality of your work and accomplishments, and your values as a person define you rather than your race or gender, and you will steadily and surely empower underrepresented groups.”
Bettina Hosp, VP, Operations of Cake DeFi
“I think it’s difficult to take credit for something like this. In an ideal world, every employer is a fair employer — one that ensures that hires are made based on the person’s ability to do the job, and not because of their race, gender or religious beliefs.
“At Cake DeFi, our ‘rope ladder’ consists of progressive initiatives and policies that enable a safe, friendly, and highly flexible work culture. Everyone at Cake DeFi has the opportunity and the right to express their opinions and they are encouraged to share them openly and often, which enables us to understand ways in which we can improve to better support them. We also like to think that we empower our people to forge their own paths to leadership, not simply by working hard and smart, but also by expressing unique ideas that have the ability to positively impact their team and the company. You could say that we operate on a meritocratic basis, with zero tolerance for any work-based discrimination and prejudice.”
Anna Curzon, Chief Product Officer, at Xero
“One of the biggest challenges many women in technology face is the unconscious gender bias that comes with being a minority in your field. In my early years, I often struggled to connect with my colleagues because I was a single mother and everyone on the leadership team was male. I often didn’t see people like me around the table. Relationship building and business was done in the evenings over drinks and it was inaccessible to me.
“As I learned more about the importance of diversity and inclusion and the evidence published about the benefits, the more confidence I grew. I realised the lens I was providing was really important and that being the odd one out in the room meant that you were probably the most valuable because of your unique perspective. It’s irrefutable that having a gender balance leads to better business outcomes, greater profitability and value creation so I do everything I can to ensure my team realises the same thing and can reap the benefits of being afforded equal opportunity.
“I remember when one of our long-serving female product leaders came to me because she was so convinced that we needed to build a cash flow forecasting tool to help our customers. I backed her conviction, purpose-led drive and data-orientated proposal to make a real difference to the lives of our small business customers and as it happened, once the global pandemic hit, cash flow became even more critical for the survival of businesses. Because our product leader foresaw this need and we supported her in meeting it, we were able to provide the first iteration of our short-term cash flow tool to all our businesses and partners at no cost during the pandemic.
“We need to create business environments where everyone can thrive. This is particularly important in the tech sector, where women and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds have historically been shut out of this world. This means enabling people to think critically and understand their privilege and how they can actively use it to ensure everyone feels included. Today, over 60% of the global leadership team at Xero are women and I’m proud that 50% of my product leadership team are women. We have programs in place to foster an inclusive and equitable workplace and this changes everything. For example, it is a requirement for any leadership role at Xero to undertake unconscious bias training and this year we also launched our D&I Leadership training so that all our managers know how to create and lead diverse teams. This is one of the reasons why Xero is included in the 2021 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for the second consecutive year. I also believe it’s why my team is the most effective and highly performing team I have worked with in my career.
“Thinking of this important cause, I’m reminded of a quote from Michelle Obama‘s Mum in her book, Becoming – “Bullies are scared people hiding inside scary people” – and that’s why this year, I’m committed to offering everyone in my team the opportunity to undertake Ally Training so we can better understand our individual power and privileges – and learn how to use them for the benefit of others. We are all responsible for creating a safe environment for those around us and I encourage everyone to do an ally training course — it will not only change your life but also the lives of those around you.”
Andrea Dunlop, Managing Director of the Payment Division at the Access Group
“I recognised that in my early career I had been focused on my own career, juggling the challenges, and learning and struggling to navigate the ever-increasing politics of senior leadership. I started to look for help, and it was in that process of looking for help myself that I started to see the same themes come up time and again. The types of experience that I was having were common among many women, I wanted to make a difference not only within my own company but much wider within the industry but just didn’t know how to affect that change.
“I talked through these challenges for women with Tony Craddock, Director General of the Payments Association and we determined that networking for women was a major gap. We agreed to hold an event and invite several people from across the industry, both men and women, to attend with the purpose of asking women what they want out of networking events as a fact-finding mission. This started, I think, a process within me on how I could use my position to raise awareness of the challenges faced by diverse groups, not just within my own company but across the industry and make a difference. To a large extent, in the early days of this process it was about creating events focused around key areas to help develop people, and to promote mentorship and sponsorship across the industry.
“The events helped us to create on-going and self-supporting platforms which helped people build confidence, share knowledge and insight. At these events, I became increasingly confident to talk about my own challenges and struggles and it opened a door to meet new people and to widen my impact on supporting others. From that first networking event to now, I mentor men and women not only within my own organisations but across industry and even back to my old days of serving in the Military, supporting groups likes Ex Military Jobs, Ex Military Careers, Jobs for Ex Military Personnel which is focused on helping servicemen and women to make the jump from the military into civilian roles. In fact one of my mentees is ex-military and he is doing so well in his career in banking now – it’s very inspiring.
“There is no doubt that the way in which I help to make a difference has evolved, and while I still do many gender-led initiatives and belong to many groups like European Women Payments Network (EWPN), I also act as a sponsor for many helping people helping navigate into new roles. I’m also a co-founder of Investfem helping women to raise funding for their businesses. I have also used my experiences to help people through grievance processes in the industry, leveraging my own personal experience of being involved in grievances as a manager, and also my own experience of raising grievances. These can be lonely and stressful situations for many people and I’m pleased to be able to listen and give pragmatic support to help people navigate very difficult situations.
“I do rather unashamedly leverage my network to help others, and there is nothing better than helping to lift others up and see people move on to bigger and better.
“I will always be grateful for those first steps I made and the people that helped kickstart my journey which in turn has enabled me to create my own power network of supporters. I have to say that I personally don’t feel I would be where I am today without all those people that have supported me and continue to support me today. It has taken some time to create that rope ladder for others but it is definitely there in new networking organisations, support networks, and the skills and experiences that I share and I’m proud to do this every day.”
Sahar Salama, CEO of TPAY MOBILE
“There have been positive strides in the drive for workplace diversity, yet for both women and overlooked minority groups, there are still huge inclusion gaps. The question remains, how do we actively change this? How do we encourage a broader, more diverse demographic to show an interest in and enter the fintech world?
“In my experience, the latter is answered by not only focusing on attracting talent but on retention strategies for diverse backgrounds. At TPAY MOBILE, we work hard to promote an inclusive work culture, ensuring resources are purposely allocated to the recruitment of all groups to fill senior positions, and not only encouraging but empowering any group who faces pervasive disadvantage in the broader society to stand up for themselves and what they believe in.
“The lack of parity in the fintech space is partly driven by the belief of some that women, as well as racial and ethnic groups, lack the aptitude or skills to succeed in the fintech industry, particularly at a senior level. This underestimation can be extremely demotivating for those working in fintech and even lead to them walking away from their role, and indeed, the workforce.
“To overcome this obstacle, I have implemented anti-discrimination policies to endorse diversity (like training employees in implicit bias) and accountability practices (like implementing a formal reporting system for discrimination). TPAY MOBILE promotes a culture of effective policy compliance across the organisation. I also ensure that as a company, we offer diversity mentoring and professional development programs to help minority groups who want to gain more experience and move up the career ladder in fintech. It is important to have role models to look up to – but these are not always easy to find.
“At TPAY MOBILE, the message that I pass on to those below is to have confidence. It’s important for people who are breaking into the fintech market to believe in themselves and speak up for their ideas. Regardless of experience, each one of us always has something valuable to add and contribute.”
Lissele Pratt, Director and Co-founder, Capitalixe
“This year I implemented entry-level traineeships at Captalixe, specifically targeted at young women who want to work in finance. Gender diversity is extremely low in this field, and these roles are still very much male-dominated. According to a study carried out by the Financial Conduct Authority, women only make up 17% of FCA-approved individuals. I think it’s imperative to give young women the opportunity to thrive in a finance career. Our first entry-level trainee starts this month, and I plan on making more traineeships available as we continue to grow and scale our business.
“Capitalixe does not require any of our recruits to hold a bachelor’s degree. I’m incredibly hands-on with training my team and believe that anyone can thrive in this industry through hard work and dedication. As a child, I moved around a lot. Before the age of 15, I had lived in Thailand, Spain and England. Because of this, I missed out on a lot of schooling. I wasn’t the biggest fan of school work and knew that university and the traditional schooling route wasn’t for me. Because of this, I understand that, regardless of what educational background you have, it’s still possible to succeed if you are passionate. If I wasn’t given the opportunity to work as a Junior FX Broker at the age of 18, I would likely not be where I am today.
“I’m also a huge advocate for mentoring. I hold monthly mentoring meetings with each and every one of my team, where we discuss their progress and whether they would like additional training. I also mentor two young women interested in entrepreneurship. At present, I hold monthly video calls with them to discuss their goals, ambitions, and I answer any questions they may have. Then, we set out monthly goals and work towards achieving them. These goals could be anything from creating user personas to confidence-building activities like writing down daily affirmations and also working on their needle movers in the business. Recently, one of my mentees launched her own business. It’s been brilliant to see her idea turn into a reality, and I’m excited to help her with its future growth.
“Finally, I recently launched a mastermind group for aspiring entrepreneurs on WhatsApp. Here, we focus on collaboration, brainstorming and peer accountability. People challenge each other to set strong goals and hold them accountable for achieving them. This has proven to be really successful in inspiring these young aspiring entrepreneurs.”