Unintentional bias drives the gender gap in fintech

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We must collectively set our sights on becoming notorious for something far greater than being technology powerhouses or processing expanding digital payments: overcoming unconscious bias and leading diversity and inclusion in the fintech sector.

As a woman who has been in the fintech industry for nearly 20 years, I have only recently started to hear companies use words like “diversity” and “conscious inclusion.” Executives are increasingly recognizing that having a diverse workforce at all levels leads to product development and delivery as dynamic as their prospective customers. And ultimately, this leads to better, more consistent financial returns.

In its 2018 study, "Delivering Through Diversity," McKinsey observed more than 1,000 companies and found those with gender-diverse leadership teams outperformed their peers by 21%. In addition, ethnic and culturally diverse leadership teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. Not only is it the ethical thing to do, it's also better for business.
So, how do we approach diversity and conscious inclusion?

One answer is looking at the issue from an organization perspective, realizing we must challenge ourselves with transparency. For example, there is technology that neutralizes gender-specific language in a company's job advertisements to reach a more diverse pool of candidates and drive responses.

At the leadership level, we must embody the values of conscious inclusion. This could be the creation of an accountable mentorship or sponsorship program to help eliminate instances of underrepresentation and encourage leaders to expand their network beyond their peer group.

Let it be known, however, that success from these suggested approaches isn't easily achieved. If it were, this wouldn’t be a relevant topic.

I was recently part of a panel that discussed these issues in depth and came to the conclusion that genuinely committing to diversity and inclusion takes more than creating committees. Recruiting, hiring and promoting diverse candidates must be viewed as more than a box-checking exercise. Because until leadership sets metrics and objectives and publishes its progress against these targets, no real change can occur.

Even technologies that aid in eliminating bias in hiring can produce unintended results. One of my fellow panelists, Michele Swearingen, worldwide director of Talent Management Solutions at IBM, said that although there are benefits to utilizing machine learning in hiring, IBM has been intentional in its approach to ensure the models are thoroughly tested against bias.

Instead of celebrating fintech’s ability to revolutionize the industry, we must collectively set our sights on making it something far greater: overcoming unconscious bias and leading diversity and inclusion.

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