UK fintech sector shows striking gender disparities despite millennial workforce – EY survey

Rick Steves

“There is a real opportunity for the FinTech sector to lead the way in driving greater gender equality and we hope the recommendations outlined in this report will help power material change.”

A survey conducted by EY and Innovate Finance found that over three-quarters of women (76%) believe their FinTech organisation is inclusive and over half (56) feel it is diverse.

The report, ‘Changing the face of UK FinTech: focusing on gender diversity and equality’, also points to barriers which need to be urgently addressed to bring about equality, at all levels.

The remaining barriers to women include gender inequality in the access to equity fundraisers and debt funding, which led the report to remind the FinTech community that it is vital that female founders are empowered and better supported if the industry is to ensure access to the same opportunities across the genders, especially when it comes to scaling up.

The survey found that fewer than half (45%) of women FinTech founders feel able to raise equity capital, compared to 62% of men, and less than a third (31%) of women feel able to access debt funding, compared to 44% of men.

Still, there are signs of positive change for women in UK FinTech as can be seen by the positive sentiment among junior to mid-level female FinTech employees: 94%  said they are able to express their views and suggestions at work; 89% claimed they are motivated to do their job and 78% said they feel able to be authentic at work.

FinTech sector can lead the way in gender equality

The report indicates that 63% of female respondents believe their gender impacted how they are perceived professionally, compared to just 27% of men. And 80% of women feel their ideas are acted upon, compared to 94% of men.

As to remuneration, 42% of men said they have negotiated on compensation, compared to 32% of women, and 69% of men received all or nearly all of what they asked for, compared to 51% of women.

Anita Kimber, EMEIA Business Transformation Leader at EY, commented: “Gender imbalances are not new issues within business, but as a relatively young industry that boasts a heavily millennial workforce, the FinTech sector sits in an interesting space on this topic. There are some good foundations in place, and it is encouraging that progress is being made and that many women are being supported to achieve incredible things. But we are at a pivotal point in time where the industry now needs to accelerate progress and further support women – at every level – so they feel able to make that next step; whether it be negotiating around salary or accessing the funding they need in order to grow their business. There is a real opportunity for the FinTech sector to lead the way in driving greater gender equality and we hope the recommendations outlined in this report will help power material change.”

EY and Innovate Finance share recommendations for greater equality

The report highlighted three key points to drive greater gender equality:

1) Better support needed for female founders as they grow their business: requiring co-ordination with the investment industry to help remove gender barriers around critical funding.

2) The creation of more inclusive working environments: achieved through further improved flexible working policies (which have been enhanced following the pandemic and the move to more remote and hybrid working), a review of appraisal and salary processes, a reassessment of how talent and recruitment is managed, and the implementation of strong measurement and reporting processes.

3) Focus on reducing gender disparity: attained through targeted recruitment, including engaging with school age children to boost the female talent pipeline and dedicated mentoring to help with career challenges for women already in the industry.

Chris Woolard, Head of UK Fintech at EY and also Chair of EY’s Global Regulatory Network, said: “FinTech is one of the great global financial disruptors of our time and the UK is at the forefront, leading many of the of innovations and developments that are changing the face of the financial services industry. The sector’s future hinges on building an environment where talent is able to flourish. Getting diversity right is a key element to the sustainability of the sector’s growth. But is it not only about competitive advantage; it is also the right thing to do and will secure access to the best possible leaders and innovators.”

Janine Hirt, CEO at Innovate Finance, added: “The UK boasts a world-leading FinTech sector that is seen by peers as the global benchmark for innovation and transformation in financial services. It is therefore vital to ensure that we are also setting the global standards when it comes to diversity and inclusion. It’s clear there is still a long way to go in ensuring everyone can succeed within the sector, including supporting underrepresented founders in accessing increased capital and investment. We – industry, government and regulators – must all work together to make the industry more inclusive. FinTechs in particular have the opportunity to shift the demographic of talent within financial services.”

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