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Home » Fintech » Why diversity as disruption is the key to innovation in fintech

Tao Baker

Founder, Connect

Daniel Henderson

Managing Partner, Athlon

As Ireland and the UK’s fintech industry forges ahead, women in the sector remain unheard. Their inclusion is not just a matter of equity but a catalyst for innovation and growth.

Over her 20 years in international banking and consulting, Tao Baker has grown increasingly frustrated by the barriers faced by women in financial services and fintech. These are, she says, a constant impediment to female participation and growth in the industry.

Opening every corner of financial services to women

Yes, women can be well-represented in certain areas of the fintech sector, such as HR, admin and legal. However, in technology roles — particularly senior ones — there are glaring gaps. “Why aren’t there more female heads of innovation?” asks Baker incredulously. “Or more female Chief Technology Officers? Or more female heads of cybersecurity? The point is: every role should be open to every woman in every part of the industry.”

Baker — who has spent her career at the sharp end of innovation, digital transformation and leadership — believes that women need to come together to help drive the change they want to see, create opportunities and support each other up the corporate ladder.

It’s one of the reasons why she founded Connect — a platform where all women can network, learn, grow together and feel empowered, confident and valued. She hopes that by creating a conversation about the obstacles in women’s way, the industry will take note and become more equitable.

Companies must actively promote diversity in their workforce

It has no excuses for delay, however. “Large payment firms, banks and insurance companies say: ‘We’re developing a three to five-year plan to address the challenges that women face,’” stresses Baker. “Why not sort out the problems today? Take the gender pay gap. That intrigues me because these organisations could fix that problem immediately.”

Daniel Henderson — Managing Partner at Athlon, a brand and digital product agency helping Baker shape Connect’s strategy — working with many FS and fintech scaleups, says he has too often witnessed a lack of women
steering the industry and believes that diverse perspectives are essential for problem-solving and innovation.

“If UK financial services wants to remain a top industry, it will have to tap into a broader talent pool which, obviously, includes women,” he says. “In fintech, a lot of innovation comes from understanding your users; but if you only have one segment of society designing your technology, you won’t be thinking about the needs of the masses. It’s why some bigger players are being bulldozed by smaller fintechs entering this space. The smaller firms are thinking differently and don’t have such narrow mindsets.”

The point is: every role should be open to
every woman in every part of the industry.

Tao Baker

Importance of training, coaching and mentorship opportunities

Fintech organisations must stop being complacent and commit to making a difference. “I think it’s going to be passionate people like Tao who will make that happen by creating conversations that breed awareness,” says Henderson. “Then, it’ll be the responsibility of companies of all sizes to engage their teams in those conversations.”

Baker and Henderson also note that industry and government must up their game to create proper training, skills development, confidence coaching and mentorship opportunities for women. “Someone might have a great, innovative idea, but they’ll need capabilities and knowledge before they can access the tech funding to get it off the ground,” says Baker.

Encouraging young minds through education

Ultimately, the roots of gender bias are found in education, so government and industry need to
do more work in schools to inspire girls into STEM. “Today’s younger generation are tech-savvy and digitally
minded,” says Baker. “However, they need encouragement. There’s a responsibility on big corporations and
government to help them develop an entrepreneurial mindset and bring female-focused talks on innovation to graduate programmes. That will create more opportunities for women, drive change and drive the economy. For me, that’s the future of fintech.”

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