Insight: Fintech needs diversity in the workplace

Amanda Lieu
15 Aug 2023

I’ve always loved the digital space; it changes and evolves so fast and is so full of opportunities. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been writing code, and building websites. That passion has remained with me throughout my career. As such, I’ve always naturally gravitated to roles in the fields of tech and digital, as well as in the world of financial services, which has been one of the core verticals I’ve worked in throughout this period.

When you combine all this together, it’s obvious why fintech was such a natural fit for me. It’s the sector where my experiences and skills can really come into play. In one way or another, I’ve been working in the industry for around 10 years now. Personally, I have always found working in these spaces to be enjoyable and accessible, but I recognise that this has not been the experience of all women.

In fact, recent analysis of National Statistics data commissioned by Integro Accounting has revealed that despite a general rise in UK tech sector employment, the count of women within the industry declined by more than 20,000 in 2022. According to that report, in 2021, 22.7% of all employees in the sector were female, compared to just 20.1% just one year later. After years of solid improvement, the tech sector has taken a backward step that it must quickly address.

Evaluating the issue

Unfortunately, in light of this recent research, it’s clear the technology sector is still struggling to achieve anything close to gender equality. To further illuminate this point, a recent Tech Nation report that investigated diversity in UK tech companies revealed that 77% of tech director roles are filled by men. In another poll, Women in Tech found that 76% of women have experienced gender discrimination or bias while working in a tech role.

As a sector, we need to redouble efforts to encourage more women into tech roles. Simultaneously, there needs to be a significant drive to ensure greater female representation within existing senior positions. We’ve all allowed this imbalance to fester in the background for too long, and as an industry that prides itself on being forward-thinking, innovative, and progressive there’s now a huge imperative to change.

SEON’s Amanda Lieu

Assessing the causes

Admittedly, improving diversity-related performance in tech will be no easy feat. Put simply, the industry must work to tackle a multi-layered and nuanced challenge impacted by factors both in and outside of its control. Progress will require consistent work and incessant engagement. What’s more, it will inevitably necessitate cross-industry cooperation and collaboration with external actors, including governmental and educational bodies.

The sector needs to tackle an interest gap, a representation gap, and a salary gap simultaneously. Right now, there’s a general lack of awareness of the career potential in the tech sector. When this is combined with a lack of representation and awareness of women in tech, it creates very little inspiration for young girls to join the field.

Those who do have that interest may be put off by a salary gap. In fact, the gender pay disparity in the UK’s technology sector stands at 16%, surpassing the overall national average of 9.4%, according to The Guardian‘s analysis of the government’s gender pay gap reporting, which is very frustrating. Worse still, women in technology only occupied 23.5% of the top-paying jobs.

Therefore, not only do we need to raise awareness about the career potential in the tech sector, but ensure that young women have the necessary support in place to help them to reach their goals. Once they’ve achieved that, we need to take greater effort to ensure they’re going on to receive the same level of opportunities as their male counterparts and, ultimately, are being equitably reimbursed for their efforts.

Step in the right direction

While awareness regarding STEM professions and their nature is gradually increasing, there remains a gradual progress in educating people about more nascent fields, such as financial crime (fincrime) prevention. It’s conceivable that a portion of highly talented individuals might not have encountered the realm of fincrime prevention yet, due to this ongoing knowledge gap, but would offer great value to the field if given the right opportunity.

I always bear this in mind when working to build teams at SEON. Hiring great talent is always a challenge but it’s made harder within the context of the sector. I try to prioritise candidates that possess the right attitude and passion, for this reason. Everyone must begin somewhere – knowledge and skills can be taught, so it’s more about finding people who are the right fit, then equipping them with the knowhow.

Embracing diversity

Diversity is important in every single field. In my opinion, it’s alternative viewpoints that help to expand possibilities and that contribute to healthy debate. Equipping your team with diverse mindsets and outlooks is a great way to encourage people to be more open-minded, helping to challenge assumptions and the status quo. Through the exploration of new perspectives, businesses can unlock previously unattainable insights.

That’s why the best teams are built around diversity. In these examples, the concept is far from an afterthought, but a real value adder that can help companies move closer to their goals.

Right now, the worlds of tech, fintech and fincrime prevention need to ensure they’re doing all they can to harness this valuable power. It won’t happen overnight, but hopefully we begin to see greater change soon.

Amanda Lieu is director of brand, product marketing and growth at SEON