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The Increasing Influence of Women in FinTech

The Increasing Influence of Women in FinTech

Women entrepreneurs and owners of small to mid-sized enterprises (WSMEs) are at an all-time high on a global level, and they are significantly making a difference in terms of creating job opportunities, driving change in their respective communities, and fueling innovation at an unprecedented level. However this is more prevalent in high-income countries, as low-income regions still present certain barriers that women have yet to overcome as opposed to their male counterparts. Taking a look at the Middle East & Africa region, we find some of the highest rates of women’s entrepreneurial intentions in the world; a fact that is supported by the one of the highest ratios of female-to-male Established Business Ownership around the globe. However there is also a contradiction in that region, as some countries have some of the lowest rates as well in that regard, which is largely due to factors like cultural gender beliefs and imposed constraints on women’s participation in the labor market and, subsequently, business ownership.

Today, these constraints are subject to change more than ever.

Although they represent the largest and fastest-growing market in the world, women are still largely considered underserved when it comes to digital finance; even unserved in some cases. There are very few FinTech products & services that were created with women’s specific needs in mind when FinTech first took off, and today these companies are rectifying this notion by listening to their female customers and tailoring their FinTech solutions much more than before. This is primarily because gender diversity and inclusivity are much-needed to make a more balanced business world, but also there are trillions of dollars that are left untapped by these solutions because they have hardly adapted to women’s distinct preferences so far. The female economy is growing at an accelerating rate, and this is due to a variety of factors. Let’s look at these drivers and some facts & figures that reflect this tremendous growth.

Education
One of the main drivers of the female economy today is the fast and easy access to online education, especially after the pandemic has paved the way for more free time and high dependence on online tools & resources. Women are pursuing their passion through taking a variety of online courses and aiming for higher paying careers, and FinTech is one of those industries that women are taking more and more interest in. Digital financial education and skill building through online tools provide a great opportunity and framework for women to close the gender gap.

Untapped Potential
This factor applies both ways, in that there is untapped potential in catering to women’s specific needs and requirements for FinTech solutions, and also the employment aspect of FinTech which is seeing tremendous growth in that industry. The female population is growing fast and is largely underserved when compared to the male economy, and this provides ample room for improvement on different scales.

Gender Bias
There is a prevalent lack of women in key roles in FinTech, in terms of founders, product management, technology teams and other areas, and this has resulted in FinTech startups and entrepreneurs being unconsciously biased at different stages, such as business modelling, product development or even services offered. Although research has shown that there is a somewhat balanced ratio between female and male employees in general, that is not the case when it comes to key strategic roles. With a significantly rising female economy, this skewed view needs to change, and this can be achieved by building gender-diverse and non-biased organizations as a priority for FinTech companies.

After exploring the challenges faced by women in the workforce today, let’s explore some research-based supporting facts and figures that win the argument of behavioral traits, gender diversity and inclusion:

    • Companies with gender-diverse C-Suites are 21% more likely to have above-average profitability and 27% more likely to have greater long-term value creation (McKinsey & Company). • Adding one more woman in senior management or on the corporate board leads to an 8 to 13 basis point higher return on assets (IMF). • Teams are 158% more likely to understand their market when team members represent the end user (CTI). • 57% of companies found that diversity and inclusion programs strongly impact customer satisfaction, and 69% found they improved brand image (European Commission).
Women are risk-conscious decision-makers
Times have shown that women are more likely than men to favor a potential advantage or benefit in exchange for lower risk or less debt. This is especially pervasive in times of uncertainty, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, when women were shown to take more time in gathering relevant information to make significant financial actions. Investment News has reported that 72% of wealth advisors believe women take more time to make decisions, while LPL Financial has stated that 44% of women say that learning more about planning and investing is their top priority when working with an advisor.

So, what are the recommendations for empowering more women to get into FinTech, start their own business, and not feel left out due to gender gaps?
1) Focus on supporting women’s high-growth business activity.
As mentioned above, the female economy is thriving today in their remarkable contributions to the global economy and international societies. Entrepreneurship is seeing many women-led innovative solutions that can solve a multitude of problems, and on a global scale there is a slow but steady shift in narrative about women entrepreneurs and their high-growth potential. This shift needs a robust effort to be elevated to new heights and reap the tremendous impact that women are having on international markets.

2) Encourage, enable and empower women investors.
There are several female business owners that are met with resistance, whether it be difficulty to access information, education, networking opportunities or straight up finance. For several years, women that own companies have struggled to get access to equity funding, and recently there are three indications that this is poised to change very soon. The first one is the emergence of female angel networks, where women are learning by experience to evaluate and invest in the products and services that they see value in, while the second is impact investing where investment is made into companies to make a significant social or environmental impact while reaping the benefits. Thirdly, women-focused investing is a trend that’s on the rise to provide ample opportunity without the hindrance of common market barriers.

3) Support female business owners in male-dominated sectors.
There are many training programs and curriculums that target female entrepreneurship to cater to market sectors where women are already well represented, but it is critical to also pay attention to women that are working in male-dominated market sectors, such as incubator and accelerator programs that focus on technology and engineering firms, or other areas where most of the gender inequality happens and women are overlooked. An increasing number of accelerators - which provide early-stage companies with training, mentorship and financing - and venture capital firms are now shifting focus to women-led businesses.

And today, we are at a time when diversity and inclusion at the workplace is imperative for the development and growth of a business, a sector and an industry. FinTech is no exception, and there are several women-led FinTech initiatives that are making an impact in Egypt today.

We at FinTech Egypt fully acknowledge the above challenges and recommendations when it comes to women, and as such have given birth to the Accelerat’Ha program as a means to drive and raise awareness on gender equality to reduce the gap, promote STEM Education for women, and ideally build a FinTech female entrepreneurs pipeline for the benefit of the economy and the future of work. This, following a Virtual Market Here2Hear Roundtable Discussion that gathered the Egyptian FinTech & Women Empowerment Ecosystem to brainstorm and come up with top accelerated Female Specific FinTech Problem Statements, tackling the major pain points and challenges faced by financially excluded and underserved women as well as women FinTech entrepreneurs. You can explore the Accelerate’Ha’ Female Specific Problem Statements here.

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