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Why It Is Now Critical To Encourage Diversity And Empower Women In Fintech

Much of the existing workplace gender equality narrative has been reactive, focused on identifying systemic weaknesses and misconceptions and then finding solutions to overcome them.

I want to focus on introducing the conversation into the workplace and promoting ideas of what we can do to create a stronger foundation for women in fintech

Homogeneity vs. diversity

Throughout my 15 years as a finance professional, I have noticed that a key ingredient for success, whether as a company or in any individual, is to encourage diversity, in particular diversity of thought. The past has proven how homogeneity of thought, or groupthink, can have detrimental consequences to business practices.

One example would be the banking practices that led to the economic crisis of 2008. Homogeneity can become an increasing challenge when companies grow to certain sizes and adopt more standard operating procedures as well as decision-making processes. It may even become one of the reasons why more established companies find it harder to challenge the status quo and innovate.

Groupthink often happens unconsciously. As humans, we are creatures of habit and inclined to form routines. It may appear more comfortable to approach a project in the same way as usual, instead of listening to someone challenging the standard practice. By not listening to the challenge, however, we miss the opportunity to identify new solutions and innovations.

In my opinion, most environments would benefit from having less homogeneity of opinions. One of the ways to achieve this is to encourage a more diverse workforce and ensure a more balanced representation of people during the decision-making process.

Ultimately, everyone should aim to be open to different perspectives and to be challenged by people who might think, sound or look different from ourselves.

So, how then does diversity contribute to women empowerment? Encouraging diversity of people, opinions and choices are, in fact, the key ingredients to empowering women at work.

What diversity in the workplace looks like

As the key drivers of the company’s vision, leaders have to place importance on diversity and proactively address the challenges that come with homogeneity of thought.

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This means creating an environment that values diversity of experiences and backgrounds and sees the occasional challenge as a value-add to the decision-making process. We need to become better at identifying and controlling our own biases.

During recruitment processes, for example, it is essential to put in place a framework with clear criteria that reduces the risk of introducing personal bias and at the extreme, discrimination. Similar guidelines focusing on the merit and experience of an individual should be in place during the training, promotion and salary review processes.

In day-to-day work, leaders, mentors and supervisors should not expect subordinates to automatically execute what they had in mind, but instead, give them opportunities to challenge, and then take ownership of their projects, by giving them room to come up with ideas and solutions.

If certain barriers or perceived barriers continue to exist within a company, there is a need to openly address them and think about what can be done to remove those barriers. For example, if women are unable to progress beyond a certain level in a given company, management needs to identify the reasons for the lack of women in leadership roles and implement processes to develop and promote women into positions they deserve based on their merit.

In my past experiences in investment banking, venture capital and the payments sectors, I have been very lucky to have worked with amazing individuals. They encouraged me to speak up, question things, own certain aspects and gave me the space to prove myself. This has given me the confidence to develop my own career path, culminating in my present role in Southeast Asia-based payments firm 2C2P where I lead our M&A and venture arm, and manage investor relations.

Despite statistics showing that women tend to be under-represented in the financial services industry, I am happy to have seen more and more women coming up through the ranks in recent years and I am optimistic that opportunities for women in this space will continue to grow.

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Encouraging diversity from a young age

Just like how habits start forming at a young age, it is important to encourage diversity of thought from the start. And the best way to do it is to have more people share their stories, become role models in various fields, and encourage the younger generation to read up and research the areas that they are interested in.

The only way to counter preconceived stereotypes about what women can or cannot do in certain fields is to provide contrarian narratives. I encourage all of you, whether in a personal or business setting, to share your stories about successes and struggles alike.

We can all learn from each other and your story might end up motivating someone younger to explore a certain industry or career path.

Besides storytelling and information-sharing, mentorship programmes are a great way to connect professionals with the younger generation. Mentors have played a huge role in my career, in terms of creating role models as well as giving me insights and learnings from their own experiences, which have helped me to navigate many challenging situations.

Apart from demonstrating to the younger generation that it is possible to enter a diverse variety of fields, we should also encourage them to figure out what they really want to do in life, what they are good at and what energises them. If it happens to be fintech, then go into fintech.

If it’s engineering, then do that. Hearing from a wide variety of stories and having the freedom to choose one’s career is essential, but it is also important to first have the interest and passion, and not to forget qualifications.

This International Women’s Day, let us create an environment where there is diversity in choices, thoughts and people, and encourage everyone to be the best they can be in whatever field they are in.

source: e27

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