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Women in Fintech interview series: Instalment one with Eigen's VP of Product Dr Simone Bohnenberger Rich

This month we’re launching a Women in Fintech interview blog series inviting women, and those that champion them, to share their experiences and thoughts on gender diversity in the industry and inclusion more generally.

In this, our inaugural blog in the series, we talk to Dr Simone Bohnenberger-Rich, our SVP of Product here at Eigen.

Simone, in your opinion, why is there a gender imbalance in fintech?

There’s been a longstanding diversity issue within finance and technology and an under-representation of women in both, so it's not surprising that there's a problem when these two sectors collide. There’s still a hangover from the days when women in finance and technology had to choose between a career or a family because the working hours weren’t conducive to doing both, and there was little concern for work/life balance.

Consequently, there are still too few female senior leaders to inspire and pave the way for women across finance, technology and fintech. If you’re a woman working in a company with an all-male leadership team, it’s hard to envisage yourself rising through the ranks and into their shoes. And vice versa. It's harder to understand and address the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated workforce if you’ve no experience of that to draw upon.

When we talk about diversity at work we tend to focus on the role of the employer and company culture but each woman’s personal circumstances shape their job opportunities. The ideology of family and friends has a huge bearing. I’ve been successful in my career because my partner supports me wholeheartedly in my choices, even when childcare costs outweigh the financial benefits.

What’s been the impact of COVID on gender equality in the industry?

Recent studies show that in general women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic from both a financial and health perspective. More women than men have lost their jobs and report an impact on their well-being as a result of COVID. Companies must make a concerted effort to attract female talent into their organizations so there isn't a generation of women lost to business and suffering the consequences.

Hopefully, one positive from the pandemic will be less pressure in the future to be in the office for 9+ hours a day and more flexibility over our working days. There used to be a stigma about requesting flexible working hours, working from home and scheduling meetings around childcare arrangements which had been slowly improving as more people exercised their rights to these options.

One of the many lessons coronavirus has taught us is that we can work effectively from home despite all the challenges that lockdown threw at us. Being able to organize our working days around the needs of family and other responsibilities means we can focus on the job in hand without clock-watching or feeling guilty about the thing we’re not doing. That’s so important for working parents. I hope that this, along with shared parental leave in the UK, will have a positive impact in the future.

What is the industry missing out on by not having more women?

Women represent 50% of the population, and that ratio should be reflected in business and government because that’s the society that we serve. Beyond ethics, there are good business reasons to have more women at your firm. Many research papers and studies show how inclusivity powers creativity and innovation, better collaboration and decision-making, fewer errors and unnecessary risks and ultimately greater profitability. It also means that talent hungry firms have a far larger pool to fish from if they consider all the candidates out there.

For an example of why you need more women at the helm, look no further than the Chancellor of my homeland Germany. Angela Merkel has seen many prime ministers and presidents come and go during her 15-year tenure as the leader of the world's fourth-biggest economy. Merkel’s determination, diplomacy, crisis management skills, compassion, problem-solving skills, level-headedness and integrity have made her a successful world leader.

How can employers attract and retain more female talent into the industry?

Companies need to look at their hiring practices, working policies, culture and benefits to ensure they attract diverse talent. If you’re failing to attract women into your business, ask yourself why. Speak to female colleagues. Join networking groups and events. Showcase women on your careers page or site.

I think there are two key levers to retention: (1) Hire women in senior positions and (2) hire more women in general and coach them upwards.

And more than ever, as leaders and people managers, we need to focus on outputs and outcomes rather than egos and hours worked.

If you’d like to be part of the Women in Fintech conversation and would like to share your experiences and thoughts, please get in touch.