As a senior leader working within the FinTech community, I take great pride in the jobs and growth created by my sector. I’m not the only one. It’s the first anniversary since the Treasury-commissioned Kalifa Review recognised Scotland’s achievements in this industry. Recently my organisation, Smart Data Foundry and FinTech Scotland, published a 10-year Research & Innovation Roadmap, setting an ambitious target of 20,000 additional FinTech related jobs created in the next decade. Fantastic news for Scotland’s economy but it’s time to grab this opportunity to create a more representative workforce. Everyone can benefit from more diverse thinking, inclusive design and responsive innovations.
That’s not to say nothing has changed; diversity has improved during the last 20 years. I’ve seen it with my own eyes during a career that started with fleet management software company Isotrak, a job which inspired me to start my own technology business. I may have been one of only two women on an MBA course but later I worked alongside more women during innovation roles with HSBC and ThoughtWorks, a global technology company.
One of the biggest sources of prejudice I faced at the start was stereotypical and limiting careers advice. Thankfully, it didn’t stop me being the first in my family to go to university thanks to good education, strong parental support and inspiring teachers. Not everyone gets that chance or has that support. The FinTech sector needs to prioritise social mobility as well as gender.
Careers advisors that can point young people to FinTech opportunities are important but so too are role models. Networking and support from other women in the sector also play an important part. Working with fellow entrepreneurs such as Rachel Elnaugh of Dragons Den fame, I started and trademarked Girl Geeks, the now well-known networking organisation for women in STEM careers.
Hands down though, the biggest issue for female tech entrepreneurs is raising finance. That is still dire. It’s something I know all too well from my own personal experience of starting a company selling biometric software to help HGV driver security. There were many hard-won successes; I recruited a very influential Chair, Christopher Currie, who had worked with Sir Clive Sinclair, secured the IP, and signed a partnership with Fujitsu. Despite all of this I still faced an uphill battle trying to raise sufficient investment.
Research by Deloitte concluded that women-founded Fintechs have raised only one percent of total FinTech investment. How do we improve these woeful figures? A more diverse funding sector is key, particularly amongst Venture Capitalists. Funders need to work hard to #breakthebias. A 2014 study by Harvard Business Review concluded that investors often make funding decisions based on gender. The study revealed that, after listening to identical pitches given by men and women entrepreneurs, investors preferred pitches made by men.
So, yes, there’s a long way to go but it’s time to crack on.
Mia Dowman, Smart Data Foundry