In honour of Women’s Month in South Africa, Taryn Augoustatos, chief financial officer at Finch Technologies, explores the dynamic landscape of African fintech. Discover how she, along with other trailblazing women, is shattering traditional gender roles and shaping a more inclusive future in the industry.
Imagine a financial landscape where women’s voices, experiences and perspectives are not just heard, but actively embraced. Empowering women to participate in shaping the fintech industry can create a more inclusive, fair and impactful financial ecosystem.
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We still have a long way to go, with only 10% of global board seats within the fintech industry currently held by women. However, Africa has already seen a gradual but notable increase in positive developments, with the number of fintech companies founded by women nearly twice the global average.
So, how can we drastically change these numbers and propel more women into the fintech sector, and more importantly, into leadership roles? With the help of other women in the industry, let’s explore some ways we can navigate this space with ease.
Changing entrenched perceptions about the tech industry
Reshaping entrenched perceptions about the fintech industry is crucial to increase not only the number of women in the industry, but also women from various work backgrounds. The fintech ecosystem comprises diverse specialist areas that demand a wide range of skill sets.
While technical expertise certainly has its place in the tech industry, it’s essential to recognise that other skill sets are equally valuable and sought after.
According to Taryn Augoustatos, chief financial officer at Finch Technologies, “Whether you possess an accounting qualification, marketing experience, or have been part of the corporate world, your work experience in other industries can bring a fresh and invaluable perspective to the business strategy and management style within a fintech company.”
Shifting perceptions needs to start from the grassroots, which means schools and universities should be involved in educating female students about career opportunities within this space. GirlCode is one such organisation that is empowering girls with tech skills.
Choose the avenue that’s right for you
Women must be selective about finding the right fit. Seek out companies that align with your values, embrace diversity, and empower women. Such a workplace can transform your career and job satisfaction.
In fintech specifically, where building solutions that benefit both women and men is a significant part of the job, it’s vital that these companies value and encourage input from all their employees. Diversity needs to be part of their company culture, and closing the gender gap should be one of their missions.
In a male-dominated sector, this can sometimes be challenging. In some cases, it means being the change you want to see.
Fintechs eager to change policies and empower women can provide an opportunity where you are championing change.
During the interview process, be sure to ask about the presence of women in leadership roles, potential career progression, and work-life balance. Assess the company’s remote work and maternity leave policies, which can often impact women’s career opportunities.
Mentorship and networking
“The saying, ‘behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back’, couldn’t be truer in fintech. Ladies in this sector share your challenges, and they are more than willing to help you along your journey,” says Ashleigh Butterworth, marketing specialist at Finch Technologies.
It’s invaluable to seek out support from women in fintech to foster a positive and empowering environment. Yes, this might be out of your comfort zone, but networking events provide the ideal community to share tips and advice with women in the industry. A couple of noteworthy organisations include Future Females, Innovation City and Women Who Build Africa.
A big part of mentorship is seeking out women who can help propel you to the top. For women wanting to pursue leadership positions within a fintech, “my advice is to forge forward with passion and integrity, guided by your feminine instincts, empower and support your team and take them with you,” advises Lee Ziervogel, chief operating officer at Ukheshe Technologies.
Embrace education and continuous learning
Staying informed and continuously learning is not just valuable, but empowering too. The key to breaking barriers is ensuring you have a loaded arsenal with all the relevant industry knowledge needed to succeed in fintech.
Your insights and ideas can revolutionise the way financial services are delivered, making them more inclusive and accessible for all. Moreover, staying informed empowers women to engage confidently in decision-making processes.
If you’d like to broaden your horizons and pursue a more tech-based role within the company, seek out short courses or post-graduate studies that can enable you to fulfil these roles.
Advocate for diversity
“What stands out for me is the passion and diversity of females when you include them in tech-based roles. Women bring out a diversity of talent in competency, contributions, voices and opinions, and in working towards achieving collective dreams and aspirations in any organisation,” says Lee Ziervogel, chief operating officer at Ukheshe Technologies.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” should be the catalyst for championing diversity and inclusion. Women are less inclined to apply for jobs in companies that are less diverse, making it crucial for business owners to make diversity a part of their company’s pillars.
According to McKinsey & Co, fintechs that embrace diversity tend to be 25% more profitable, innovative and successful, illustrating that the impact goes beyond just social responsibility and ethics.
“As I’ve climbed the proverbial ladder within my career, it has become clear that leadership in the fintech space is very male-dominated and I often find myself looking around the room to find that I am the only female or one of very few in the room,” shares Kerry Ho-Van Rensburg, digital marketing director at Ignition Group CX.
“Not only am I the only female, but also one of few people of colour. For me, it is always about having a strong will and mind. Stick to your beliefs and be heard. This can be scary at times and sometimes it doesn’t always work, but if you fight for what you believe in and you know it’s for the betterment of the company, you can overcome anything.”
To succeed in this industry, you need to be determined and, sometimes, unapologetic. Speak out when you think things are unjust and help support other women on their journey. It’s also important to remember that your male colleagues are often keen on learning, and diversity means including them in the conversation too.