March 8th, International Women’s Day, has recently been made a public holiday in Berlin, Germany. This allows me to sit here at home and put down my thoughts on the role of women in the industry I work in.
I wonder whether I should be writing this article or rather spend time with my daughter who sees too little of me, but I put down my uneasy conscience about not spending time with her now, with the thought that she is playing outside and when in deep play would not want to be interrupted anyway. I also believe that if she is to have her rightful place in this world and in particular in her working life once she grows up, it will be up to us to make advances for our daughters now.
Unfortunately, taking stock today, it feels like we have not come such a far way. Looking at the mere statistics of female founders, of diverse teams vs. all male teams of fintech start-ups is sobering. For a great summary and visual take a look at the article of our colleagues at paymentandbanking.
However, the numbers look even worse for established players in the financial services industry which is even slower than other industries to include women in the ranks of their boards or supervisory boards. In 2019, the German Institute on Economic Research had calculated that it takes about 80 years until there will be gender parity in top positions of banks and insurance companies.
Women in the fintech industry: great, but invisible
And this is not for a lack of women who work in the industry. Actually, at established banks and financial service companies, the majority of the work force is female. And I do not want to go into the rabbit hole of stereotypes that women do not want to be in leadership positions, make the wrong career choices, study the wrong topics at university, place too much or too little emphasis on family, and …I am sure you can add some more.
No, today, I want to shout out to this world that there are thousands of talented women in this industry who are not being recognized for their talent and skills as they should be.
There are great UX designers, product managers, saleswomen, leaders of finance departments, as well as legal and compliance officers who are not seen. It is often them who know and understand more about the financial services that their companies sell than the people we see on panels, in the media or listen to on Clubhouse. I know this, because I have worked with them often very closely.
So, if you are looking to support women, take a look at the “second row” until the first row has been filled with parity. Don’t complain you can’t find a female speaker for your conference and panel. If you are only looking for big names, you will need to stick with (mostly) men. If you are looking for insights into the industry, deep knowledge and out of the box thinking, look for the unseen women under deck.
The long way to parity
Also up to scrutiny should be some of the self-perpetuating mechanism in this industry. While, for instance, a diversity (including gender diversity) has been made a criterion when assessing the management of financial institutions pursuant to Art. 91 of Directive 2013/36/EU and is also included in BaFin’s guidance note on the managing directors of financial institutions, it does not play out in practice.
This is also due to the rule of presumption laid down in the same guidance note that if a person has had a managerial role in a similar institution for three years, the person has the required skills to qualify for that position in another institution. Prima facie this makes a lot of sense. In fact, it plays to the existing (male) club members who will be chosen to lead new institutions because it will be easier to get them approved by the regulator.
Again, it will take the extra effort to change this and to bring women in leadership positions. But there is no other way around this than making this extra mile or my daughter will be 88 until she will see that there can be parity in management positions in the financial service industry.
“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Mindfully of this quote by Madeleine Albright, I also want to do my share to support female leaders and founders in this industry: I will provide two female founders of start-ups in the fintech industry with each two hours of free advice on any questions they may have with regard to the regulatory set-up of their company, product, anti-money laundering obligations or similar issues to the extent that they fall in my area of expertise. Please email me at Susanne(at)paytechlaw.com . If there are more than two requests, I will need to draw a lot.
Cover picture: Copyright © Adobe Stock / Jacob Lund