2021 Will Be Decisive for Female Empowerment in FintechBy Cristina Cacho | Wed, 02/24/2021 - 14:31
The right to vote was granted to women in Mexico starting on Feb. 12, 1947. In 2018, Saudi Arabia allowed women to obtain driver's licenses for the first time; Sierra Leone banned female genital mutilation in 2019; last September, Citigroup named a woman as its new chief executive in a first for a Wall Street bank. This year, Kamala Harris shattered the glass ceiling to become the first woman, and first Afro-American of South Asian descent, to be sworn in as US vice president.
Yet, despite all these breakthroughs, the sobering reality is that there’s still a lot of work to do. At the end of 2019, just 31 women held the top spot at major American companies listed on the S&P 500, none of which were banks. There is a real absence of role models, although, thankfully, that is starting to change.
While inequality is pervasive, there are women who have persisted against all odds to make themselves known and heard in a space where not many people care to listen. Looking ahead in 2021, there is ample reason for optimism in the cause of female empowerment within the finance industry, especially in Mexico, and especially in fintech.
Fintech is truly taking over. This includes payment processing (Kueski Pay, PayPal, or MercadoPago), online and mobile banking, person-to-person payments and financial software. This year, we will harvest the seeds of the accelerated adoption and development in technology that 2020 forced upon us. The fintech industry took a leap forward, with the user base growing significantly.
Mexico concentrates the largest number of fintech firms founded by women in all of Latin America. The fintech sector in Mexico grew by 170 percent in 2020. It is expected to become more diverse and expand nationwide. The bank ecosystem is still growing and its players are fighting for market share and recognition, and women share this vision
Firms with women on the founding team seek to accelerate financial inclusion to a greater extent: 38 percent of these organizations are focused on consumers and SMEs, underserved or those excluded from the financial system, versus 31 percent of those constituted by men who deal with this segment.
About 80 percent of fintech companies in Latin America have at least one woman on staff. Kueski is a good example. The financial technology company that has granted more than 3.7 million loans in Mexico actively promotes and seeks greater female representation. Today, 38 percent of the company’s employees, and 27 percent of the management team, are women. Kueski is also part of the 5 percent of companies in Mexico that have at least one woman on their board.
Also, more than half of customers using digital banking services in this company are women and they appear to be better at paying back credit. Kueski believes that small loans are one of the best ways to fight poverty, improve the economy and give women equal rights. It’s a win-win partnership.
A Harvard Business Review study on leadership skills found that women scored higher than men in 17 out of 19 categories, including taking initiative, resilience, leadership, high integrity and honesty, collaboration and teamwork, inspiring and motivating others.
It is important to have more women represent the fintech industry but also to generate inclusive leadership, which means having the ability to lead a diverse group of people while demonstrating respect for each person’s unique characteristics without bias. Now is the time for men and women in the industry to collectively accelerate initiatives that will create more equality and diversity in the industry and deliver better outcomes for all.
This type of leadership understands their team holistically, as individuals and as humans. They are self-aware, culturally sensitive and understand the benefits of having diverse voices at the table. But this is not a gender matter because if the leadership of the companies act inclusively, then the role women play in society will grow organically.
Diversity at the top of corporations is key to ensuring better representation of society. According to Deloitte, teams with inclusive leaders are 17 percent more likely to report that they are high performing, 20 percent more likely to say they make high-quality decisions, and 29 percent more likely to report behaving collaboratively.
As long as there is support and understanding of all the other responsibilities and pressures women are facing, eventually, we will get to a more equal representation. Like any substantive change, this will take time. 2021 is a new year full of opportunity. Even though the odds are (and always have been) stacked against us, let’s have this be the year where women techies and business owners capitalize on their leadership skills. Don't let fear stop you.