The Case For Gender Inclusion In Fintech

Giulia Iannucci, Founder of KnowThyBrand (Photo © Stephanie Jabardo / Silicon Luxembourg)

The importance of gender inclusion for fintechs and concrete steps to overcome the external barriers to foster greater gender balance were discussed at length at the third LHoFt event in the The Power of Gender Inclusion series.

Six speakers shared personal experiences and best practices during the dinner and networking hosted at the Big Bang at the LHoFT and moderated by Giulia Iannucci on 13 June. 

According to an EY fintech report, 70% of men surveyed believed that fintech was an inclusive industry, compared to 55% of women. 

“That is a problem,” said Iannucci, adding: “We clearly have different views on what gender inclusion means. And if men don’t see there’s a problem and men are the vast majority of talent in fintech, nothing is going to change. Because you won’t do anything if you don’t see a problem.”

The pandemic has further negatively disrupted the gender balance across all sectors, with homeworking pushing more mothers into the role of homeschool educator and caregiver. The result is that increasingly women are exiting the workplace. Iannucci, an Italian national, pointed out that in December in her native country, 100% of people exiting the workforce were women. 

Gender diversity as a business case

The bank ING was among the first in Luxembourg to implement gender diversity and inclusion programmes. It launched a working group in 2009 and obtained the ministry equal opportunities label the following year. 

“Our CEO was convinced that diversity was a business case,” explained Stéphanie (Deitz) Moulin, HR business manager at ING. It implemented working from home in 2012, followed by flexible working hours. They apply the 70% rule whereby no team should have more than 70% of the same gender, nationality or same age group. If your team is quite balanced, everybody can be heard. Finally recruiting or promoting, if two candidates of differing gender have the same skills, the policy is to hire the one that will bring the most diversity. 

Moulin added that after implementing diversity, the bank had worked broadly on inclusion. She said: “It’s really the key, because we need the best of our colleagues, it’s a business case.”

Anne-Pascale Malréchauffé, Clearstream executive board member outlined the golden rules her bank has established to promote gender equality and admitted they started late and slowly with their diversity and inclusion employee resource programme. Three and a half years later, the bank has a group of employees setting the agenda for the board, which meets regularly to discuss topics including gender, culture, place of origin, sexual orientaion and disabilities. She stressed the importance of gender equality not only to “preserve ESG ratings or appear cool but to attract and retain talent and retain talented women as well.”

Delphine Mailloc, marketing and business development manager at law firm Simmons & Simmons Luxembourg LLP, pointed out that motherhood was “one of the reasons women are reaching the glass ceiling.” Her firm implemented equal leave for fathers to challenge the notion that women are the sole care givers, they topped up the parental compensation to avoid the steep drop in pay high-earners face, and they work closely on accompanying women transitioning back to work after maternity leave through keep in touch days and developing networks within the firm. Meanwhile, the firm also focuses on training and support for women going through menopause.

Malréchauffé pointed out that the benefits were not only on a human welfare level but they also impacted profits. She said: “What’s interesting is greater gender inclusion would lead to a 10% extra spend from the client. Because we are all more likely to support and hire people who look like us.”

Education

Education as a solution were mooted by role models Lisa Burke of RTL Today and Emilie Allaert, project lead at Luxembourg Blockchain Lab. Burke identified that motherhood “doesn’t gel with our education system, it doesn’t gel with our career situation.” 

She said: “We should have education and career lineality designed for women. We need to change it so we have lifelong learning and career opportunities for women in their late 30s upwards. I think we should celebrate motherhood, appreciate it and celebrate the mothers with the invisible voices at home and bring them back into the fold to create confidence and create opportunities when they come back.”

Allaert meanwhile challenged comments she has heard in the parenting community which criticize the teaching of tech and coding skills to children at a young age. 

She said: “People were commenting ‘why should we introduce coding, aren’t they already too much on screens? They should spend time learning French, English or other languages!’ The future is digital. The future is innovation. You want more people in finance, tech and stem, let the kids learn new skills.”

The next event, scheduled for the autumn, will focus on internal barriers to gender inclusion. The goal of the series is to produce a white paper with concrete steps for boosting inclusion in fintech in Luxembourg.

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