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While 30% of the fintech workforce are female, only 17% of senior fintech roles are made up of women. Women in fintech face a unique set of challenges regarding career advancement and achieving parity with their male counterparts.
I first started my fintech career as a junior FX broker in London. I was one of the only women in the company, so I often felt outnumbered and outgunned by my male colleagues. At one point in my career, I remember being told outright that I didn’t belong in the industry.
Moments like that made me question my place in fintech and I struggled with imposter syndrome, but I was determined to prove the doubters wrong. I quickly realized that if I wanted to succeed in fintech, I would need to find ways to stand out and make my voice heard.
Here are four pieces of advice for other women looking to break the glass ceiling in fintech that I’ve learned through my own career journey.
The evolution of the glass ceiling
The phrase “glass ceiling” was first used by Marilyn Loden in 1978. It described the invisible barrier to success many women faced in business.
Although the term is now commonly used in business, the glass ceiling is not just a problem for women. It can also refer to any discrimination that limits people’s career progression based on their gender, race, sexuality or other factors.
Some of the main issues women face in fintech include:
- The gender pay gap: As listed on the FTSE 100 and 250 stock indices, female leaders at the U.K.’s largest financial services firms are paid on average two-thirds less than their male counterparts.
- The motherhood penalty: Women are more likely to be judged negatively at work if they have children, while men are more likely to be seen as “dedicated” and “committed.”
- The lack of role models: Only 6% of fintech CEOs are women, which can make it harder for female employees to envisage themselves in senior positions
How to break the glass ceiling
Despite the challenges, there are a number of things women can do to break through the glass ceiling in fintech.
1. Strengthen your network
One of the best ways to further your career is to develop a strong network of contacts. Get involved with fintech meetups and conferences, and connect with other women in the industry on social media. Not only will this help you to develop valuable relationships, but it will also give you a better understanding of the latest industry trends.
Women are often left out of the “old boy’s network,” so it’s important to create your own. I attended several women in fintech events and eventually even co-founded a community for female entrepreneurs to support each other.
2. Advocate for yourself and others
In order to get ahead in your career, you need to be your own biggest advocate. Women are often reluctant to “blow their own trumpet” and can be passed over for promotions because they don’t speak up about their accomplishments.
Start by keeping a log of all your successes, no matter how small. When it comes time for your annual review or to apply for a new role, you’ll have a record of everything you’ve achieved to back up your case. Some other ways you can advocate for yourself include asking for stretch assignments, taking on leadership roles and being assertive in meetings.
It’s also important to advocate for other women in fintech. We need to lift each other up and create opportunities for advancement. This includes things like mentoring younger women, sponsoring female colleagues for promotions and speaking out against discrimination or bias.
3. Praise and celebrate your accomplishments
To progress in your career, you need to be confident in your abilities and believe that you deserve success. We often downplay our successes and achievements, but it’s important to celebrate them — no matter how small.
Start by taking the time to acknowledge your accomplishments, both professional and personal. Write them down or keep a visual record so you can look back and reflect on how far you’ve come. Share your successes with your friends and family, and let them be a source of motivation and inspiration.
4. Invest in yourself
One of the best ways to further your career is to invest in your own professional development. This could include taking on additional work responsibilities, pursuing further education or obtaining industry-recognized qualifications.
When you invest in yourself, it shows that you’re committed to your career and takes some of the pressure off your employer to provide development opportunities. It also demonstrates that you’re willing to take risks and go above and beyond to achieve your goals.
Breaking the glass ceiling can be challenging, but it’s especially difficult for women in male-dominated industries like fintech. However, following these four pieces of advice can give you the best chance of success.
Remember to advocate for yourself, build a strong network, celebrate your accomplishments and invest in your professional development. It is also extremely important that men become allies and advocates for women in fintech. Diversity benefits everyone, and men can play a vital role in creating a level playing field.
So let’s all work together to break down the barriers and create an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.