Five tips for fintechs to better foster diversity within the workplace

Today, Auka’s head of customer success Maria Akkuratnova is joining a panel at the European Women Payments Network Conference to discuss what more can be done to foster diversity in fintech.


Today, Auka’s head of customer success Maria Akkuratnova is joining a panel at the European Women Payments Network Conference to discuss what more can be done to foster diversity in fintech.


The panel will discuss whether the industry is progressing or stagnating, as well as what needs to happen now. There will also be discussion about what the main issues and challenges are that are facing women in fintech and how we can start to solve them. Further, the panel will also explore the role of men in this conversation.

A subject close to her heart, Maria also co-founded a sideline business, Mattekrets, which is aimed at helping children build technology skills for the future. She has said that observationally she sees girls and boys start off on an equal footing when it comes to their interest in technical subjects.

Maria says:

“Historically, the fading of interest and supposed aptitude for more technical subjects was attribute to a genetic lack of ability or lower self-confidence. I personally believe that it purely comes down to a lack of female role models.”

“Girls outperform boys in STEM related subjects when you look at academic results from across much of the world. So why does this stigma persist?”

Maria holds a MSc in Financial Economics and prior to joining Auka, worked at Nasdaq as a customer relations director focusing on global financial markets within commodities.

There are many very real benefits to organisations who focus on diversity in the workplace. These include lower turnover rate due to increased morale, opportunity and equality (Gallup). A recent study also found that improving gender equality in the EU will increase GDP by 6.1% to 9.6% per capita by 2050. Not just good for the workplace, good for the whole economy.

As a young female leader working in fintech, she shares her top five tips for how fintech (or any tech) organisations can better foster diversity:

 

  • Break the “culture fit” myth

 

Tech company Buffer recently shared a blog post about how they’ve stopped using the term “culture fit”. They reference how the term can be discriminatory – whether we realise it or not. Instead they suggest focusing on what cultural contribution an employee can make. Referencing this article by Diego Rodriguez, Hiring: It’s About Cultural Contribution, Not Cultural Fit, the article talks about hiring with the mindset: how could this person make a positive contribution to the future of my company’s culture?

So, an exercise: do you look into the future and see 20 cookie cutter versions of yourself or do you see a diverse team with different backgrounds, experiences and skills? Then ask yourself which you’d prefer. I guarantee the former won’t let your company innovate or thrive.

 

  • Actively adjust the workplace model to be an appealing place for women to work

 

In Norway, where I live, as of 2016, only 23 per cent of tech employees were women. This number seems low but this, sadly, is in one of the most advanced countries when it comes to gender equality. How do we increase the number of women in the tech-industry? One way is by taking a look around you.

Ok, so you’re a fintech, not a dating app aimed primarily at empowering women but I’d argue that we should all be taking a cue from Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe’s office layout.

When you walk into many tech startup offices, the first thing you notice is the beer fridge, the ping pong table, the PlayStation. Now, I am not saying this is a bad thing necessarily – I love ping pong! – but what does it remind you of? To me, it looks like a college guy’s dream room. So why don’t we even the playing field?

You want women to feel comfortable in your office environment? There are loads of simple steps. Making sure the bathroom has the essentials is one thing but maybe you can get a taskforce together to help create an appealing space everyone can enjoy.

 

  • Offer and encourage extra training to all staff regardless of position

 

Chances are (if the stats are anything to go by) your core tech team are mostly male whilst your marketing and sales teams are more evenly split. Empower all staff with knowledge and the ability to take up extra training. This doesn’t have to be costly but it does take some effort. A free programme could see all non-tech staff being encouraged to complete a Codeacademy course with some kind of reward at the end, for example.

Encourage all staff, regardless of position, to use open and inclusive language about what they’re doing and how they go about their jobs. Too often I’ve been dismissed when asking further questions about something. In my experience, if it’s too complicated to explain, you don’t understand it properly.

 

  • Diversity policies

 

Build in diversity policies and targets into your business plans, employee contracts and reviews. Set targets to achieve a more equal split of men and women in leadership positions. Create these policies with the empowerment of existing staff in mind. How will your organisation help to progress the careers of all staff? Do you need separate policies for what this looks like for women and men? Maybe. Is that a bad thing? No. Not when the end goal is to create safe, diverse and creative spaces for all your current and future staff.

 

  • Better communication

 

A recent study of 100,000 men and women in workplace settings found a number of differences in the way men and women communicate at work. For example, in general, men perceived women as asking too many questions whilst women often don’t feel included and feel frustrated when men talk for longer than they see as necessary. The researchers found that men will often discount women who don’t speak up in meetings as having no ideas but often this comes down to the fact that women prefer to be invited into the conversation or to share an idea.

An understanding of the differences between how men and women tend to communicate at work leads to, you guessed it, better communication all round.

As a leader, it’s really important to learn about how these differences might impact the way your employees – both men and women – contribute to your organisation. Regularly dedicating time to having open conversations with all employees about how the business is tracking when it comes to diversity is important. However, if you’re not facilitating ways to actively encourage equal participation, then how much value is it really adding?

Once you have strategies in place to engender open and equal communication, a positive thing to do is to set up regular all-staff meetings focused on diversity at work. These forums could begin with a set topic in mind or with an article you would like everyone to read and discuss. Done right and with openness and honesty at the centre, these discussions can turn into the most valuable part of any organisation’s diversity strategy.


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