FinTech and payments companies thrive with women in leading roles
As the world’s leaders in payments and FinTech prepare to gather in Atlanta for the P20 Conference, momentum for the event has been driven largely, and increasingly, by women. Many P20 board and sponsor companies – and the organization itself – feature significant roles occupied by female leaders.
Even though workplace advancements for women have seen significant improvements in the 21st century, the emergence of women in the financial technology and payments industries has only in recent years become more evident.
“My personal experience is that probably 10 years ago, maybe even 5 years ago, I was often the only female in the room,” said Dondi Black, Vice President of Payment Strategies at FIS. “That is by far not the case today.”
FIS, the world’s largest global provider dedicated to financial technology solutions, is one of the companies most invested in helping P20 advance its global mission on the basis of four pillars: Innovation, Regulation, Cyber Security, and Financial Inclusion.
“We are seeing more equality, people with more diverse backgrounds,” she said. “There’s a realization that the market has been so disrupted, we have to think differently and ask different questions.”
One of the pre-eminent female leaders in the payments industry, Pam Joseph, says the growth of women in C-level and VP positions has been especially noticeable in financial technology.
“In the FinTech side, I would venture to say it’s a more male-dominant society. Women are starting to engage more in FinTech now,” said Joseph, pointing out that the banking and financial services sectors have long had a presence of strong female leaders.
“When I was graduating college, the largest opportunity in financial services at the time was in the credit card industry,” said Joseph. “For women in the 1980s, the opportunities were in the credit card industry, then it evolved into debit cards, and so on.”
The paths historically taken by young men over women into technology often meant men surged ahead in leadership roles with technology-based companies. Joseph believes that trend has shifted significantly, and will continue to do so.
“By pushing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in schools, and getting women more into the sciences, I think those numbers will start to change,” said Joseph.
Inclusion and diversity as a business model
The emergence of women in payments is one prong of the inclusion and diversity approach that many companies have embraced. While the social impact of such a trend is a driving factor, Black believes economic prosperity and corporate stability are the outcomes enjoyed by companies that embrace inclusion — such as hiring more women into leading roles.
“If you look at companies that have been intentional about diversity, inclusion … where you see women and other minorities who have a seat at the table, driving ideas … you see there’s a direct correlation to financial returns and outcomes,” said Black.
The push for female diversity is evident not just at the corporate level, but also from a governmental perspective.
“We work very hard to identify those women-led companies in the United Kingdom, and encourage them to come to the States, and we work to help open the U.S. market to those companies,” said Kristen Hirst, Vice Counsel for Financial Services at the U.K.’s Department for International Trade in Atlanta.
“A good example of that is the Female Founders mission, a trade mission in 2017 featuring 10 British companies, led by women, that came to the Atlanta market specifically to look at Atlanta as their gateway into the U.S.”
While the number of women in the FinTech and payments industries continues to trend upward, there is one critical area that many believe still must come more into balance with male counterparts: compensation.
“In financial technology and payments, our voices are being heard and our capabilities are being recognized and leveraged, but there’s still room left in terms of compensation equity,” said Esther Pigg, Senior Vice President of Product Strategy at FIS.
Pigg said her career path has been largely open and accommodating in terms of opportunities. However, she remains aware of the fact that many women are still trying to reach common ground with men in terms of compensation.
“When I moved into the payments area within the bank, there was never any bias or different perspective about what women brought to the table versus what men brought to the table,” said Pigg.
“Although my voice was heard and I was recognized, there was still disparity in compensation. Historically speaking, women have been compensated significantly less than men. That has changed in the last five years, but even today the compensation levels are different.”
Managing work and family-life balance
Perhaps the most daunting, on-going challenge facing women with aspirations of attaining high-level positions at FinTech and payments companies (or any companies) has been that of managing the obligations of family life against the demands of the work place.
“Part of the reason I am where I’m at is because my husband is at home,” said Black, who said she and her husband made the decision for him be a stay-at-home dad when she was pregnant with their third child.
“I don’t have to worry about family care, I have the best possible support system outside of work,” said Black. “In work, I’ve been very fortunate to have great male mentors, and they saw the value of having my voice heard. They believed in me at times when I didn’t necessarily believe in myself.”
“My son is in his early 20s, he’s entering the workforce now,” said Black. “He’s commented to me about how much my experience has helped shape him. He has taken something very valuable away from that. There’s a real value in this generation that’s coming along now, what they’re seeing in watching what their mothers have gone through. What we’ve endured, how we’ve thrived. There’s a value in this younger generation having those learning experiences from their moms.”
“He sees that I love what I do.”
Joseph said she, too, was aided by a husband who was able to be flexible in his career, so that their family could have more stability.
“If you are married and have children, having a very supportive spouse is incredibly important,” said Joseph, who’s husband Henry is retired, and was heavily involved in raising their three boys.
Said Joseph, “Everyone pitches in for what’s best for both individuals.”
A future of growth for women
For whatever obstacles faced them in recent years in the payments and FinTech industries, many women now find themselves in strong, highly-respected positions within their companies.
With many organizations recognizing diversity and inclusion as an avenue toward business prosperity and stability, some of the leading women in the industry are confident that the future will only look brighter for females in FinTech.
“I’m very proud of the number of C-level women at FIS, recognizing their ability and what they bring to the table,” said Pigg. “Although there’s still a difference in the numbers, women leadership is growing.”
Her FIS colleague Dondi Black is also confident, drawing on a big-picture perspective based on decades of progress.
“Whether we [women] knew it or not, we’ve been creating a new reality, a new perspective, on the role of women in the workplace for the generation coming behind us,” said Black.
For Pam Joseph, with more than three decades of industry experience and observation, there has never been more reason for optimism over the prospects of opportunities for women in FinTech, payments, and financial services.
“It’s an absolutely wonderful time in the industry for women,” said Joseph.
“I stay in touch with a lot of women executives, and it’s a fantastic time. I wish I was younger, there’s so much opportunity for women to be able to run businesses large or small. There’s so much technology being developed, it’s giving a lot of people a chance to be creative. It doesn’t matter what your sex is, it’s a great time to be in this industry right now.”