By: Rosie McConnell- Head of Product, IFX Payments
Engaging women in taking up roles in the business sector and the advancement of female talent has long been at the top of business agendas and conversations. Despite this, reports are still showing that only 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs are female: a gender gap equivalent to 1.1 million missing businesses, and on top of this women are 17% more likely than men to struggle balancing business demands with family life . So whilst we’ve definitely seen an improvement in the figure from over the years, it’s clear that there is still a lot of work to do in helping women break down barriers and make the industry their home.
As I approach a ten year mark since I’ve started my career, this is a fitting chance to reflect on the advice I’ve been given and the people who helped me find my standing in a somewhat traditionally male dominated industry. I’ve been very fortunate over the course of my career to receive support not just from female leaders but male ones too, this is something which I hope to foster across my current roles. But what are the key issues at the moment? And how can we champion women in business?
The crux of the problem
Before we can really start making a change, we need to pinpoint why even amidst a massive focus on advancing gender diversity, the problem still exists. Some industries are far better at addressing this than others, and whilst FinTech is grounded in forward thinking and innovation, the issue still persists.
There can be numerous reasons for this, some more personal and others, but from my observations something that has come up repeatedly is that for many women, a career in FinTech or business in general means sacrificing one area of their life to advance the other.
Something that I took from my female mentors was that for them, whilst pursuing their professional successes, a consideration always had to be made as to how to juggle work and home duties and overcome personal barricades that perhaps their male counterparts had not experienced.
In particular, the discourse surrounding working women having children often remains largely negative and, as such, a moment in my career that I found particularly profound was when a speaker at a conference openly encouraged those of us in the crowd to have children. It was inspirational to hear the positives rather than the hindrance motherhood presents, highlighting how it can make you a better decision maker, more focussed and generally able to prioritise more as your time becomes more valuable. But speaking positively about women balancing a family and a career should be the norm, not an exception.
The importance of female role models
Looking back over my ten year career in the FinTech sector, at every step, female role models have played a key part in my development. In my first role I worked under both a female manager and COO who were pivotal in helping me navigate the workplace, my career and the industry, whilst teaching me to maintain authenticity and find ways to put my own mark on the work we were doing.
This level of support and female-led mentorship set me up for success by giving me a strong foundation and resilience to continue pushing boundaries and to recognise the unique value that I could bring to my role. I strongly believe that positive advocacy, female C-suite representation and effective mentorship, can move the needle and help traditionally male-dominated industries retain, champion and cultivate female talent.
All employers should do all they can to make this balance easy for their employees. They should listen, consult and implement policies that care and nurture female talent which in turn will help to make them more successful.
Already we’re seeing glimpses of change, with recent reports announcing that the likes of Citigroup and Asos have introduced miscarriage and menopause leave for staff.
We need such changes to policies and more to be implemented across the board which allow greater flexibility and acceptance of blended working so that female employees not only feel included, but championed.
Encouraging and being a champion of women in business should not be about preferential treatment or a driving force for male-critical discourse to take place but rather a cultural and a mindset change that is flexible, creative and inclusive.
I will forever be grateful for the guidance and support I received early in my career and now in my role as head of product at IFX. And whilst there is no quick-fix to boosting the number of women in business, it is important to remember that cognitive diversity not only in gender, but personality types, backgrounds, ages, race, ultimately encourages better teams and as a result better products.