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Equality Starts with Us

As any woman working in fintech can tell you, we have a long road to equality. The good news is that equality starts with us.

And because we are responsible for exemplifying the change we want to see in the workforce, we are in control of how we inspire others and create solutions.

Today we bring you perspectives from two women working in the fintech field to get their take on what they are doing to be the change they want to see.

First up is Sophie Theen, Chief People Officer at Oakam, a U.K.-based fintech that helps underserved individuals build credit. Theen is passionate about recruitment, culture, diversity, and inclusion and has helped a number of tech startups with talent recruitment and HR strategy. She has received multiple industry awards, including being named a WeAreTheCity Rising Star Finalist in 2019.

In your professional life you help startups recruit talent. What is your strategy in promoting diversity?

Sophie Theen: Hiring for diversity to me is very simple. We don’t want to deliberately hire for diversity i.e., rejecting male candidates or promoting or writing an advert that only speaks to a woman. It’s about making it fair and equal to all candidates who are in the process and ensuring that the hiring managers and panel of interviewers are diverse, too (so no all male or female panel).

It’s also got a lot to do with the way we present ourselves as a company. If we want to be recognized as an inclusive employer, then we need to always remember to put effort in taking those baby steps.

Tell us how someone in the industry has helped empower you.

Theen: So I haven’t been in fintech for so long yet, and my first experience wasn’t all that amazing. I was new to the industry and had to learn to navigate through adversity in a heavily male-dominated environment, most of the time feeling quite lost and insecure.

This was the case until I joined 11:FS in 2017. The leadership there really changed my impression about the industry. My CEO then, David Brear, empowered me in every way you could imagine; that made me realize this is the industry I’m passionate about and this is where I want to make a change for the better.

How do you empower other women to achieve success of their own?

Theen: Simple, I give as much of my time as I can back to the women that I meet, cross paths with, and to those who reach out to me asking for support. Because if it wasn’t for my community and mentors around me, I wouldn’t have gotten the strength– let alone the confidence– to enjoy doing what I’m doing everyday.

The one most important thing I’ve learned from them was that I needed to believe in myself. So to anyone of you thinking you can’t– stop. We’re the only ones limiting ourselves!

Our next interview was with SVP of Product and Marketing at biometric authentication company iProov, Aarti Samani. After working for more than 10 years in the investment banking space, Samani transitioned to the tech sector and has since gained experience in banking, consumer technology, and healthcare.

Talk to us about efforts at iProov to promote diversity within the organization and in the tech community at large.

Aarti Samani: iProov is an inclusive and diverse organisation. We always look to hire the right person for a role based on their experience and skill set. Everyone gets a fair chance regardless of labels like race and gender. We actively promote a culture of inclusivity in the organization in a number of ways. Our flexible working policy encourages an inclusive workplace, as well as women centric comms channels to provide support. The diversity in demographics across the organization enables iProov to propel as a startup.

We celebrate the uniqueness of our people, and endeavour to inspire young people from all walks of life. For example, as part of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, iProov published a blog post showcasing the career trajectories and accomplishments of my colleagues and I. By demonstrating some of the exciting work that STEM skills can lead to, we hope to inspire young women to pursue STEM.

Despite a lot of progress, women are still highly underrepresented in technology – both as employees and as leaders. I take conscious responsibility to empower women and other minority groups around me.

Tell us about a way someone in the industry has helped empower you.

Samani: I have been incredibly fortunate to have had great mentors and sponsors who have both supported and guided me in my career.

According to research from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), 85% of women and 81% of multicultural professionals need navigational support to figure out how best to succeed in the workplace, but often don’t receive it with nearly the same regularity as men.

I would like to take this opportunity to call out Eric Collins, a former colleague, and now a dear friend. Eric not only helped me navigate a career transition from finance to technology, he was also a strong role model and an influential sponsor. His endorsement and guidance helped me to grow as a leader and helped advance my career in an otherwise male dominated environment.

Working with Eric was a very positive experience and has greatly shaped my approach to leadership, team-building and the impact I aspire to have on people I work with.

How do you empower other women to achieve success of their own?

Samani: As a leader, I mentor and coach members of my team and in the wider industry to help them develop their professional and people skills to help them succeed in their careers.

I am invested in the growth and well-being of my team so that they are able to be their best selves at work and in their personal lives. I am a big believer in celebrating each individual’s accomplishments and ensure that their work is recognized across the organization. This instills a sense of pride in their work and fuels a virtuous circle of increased confidence in their ability to deliver, which encourages people to aim higher and in turn accomplish more. To foster mental well-being and create space for the team to reconnect with themselves as well as each other, I make available weekly team meditation sessions. This, coupled with an emphasis on open, collaborative team culture means everyone leans in and acts as sponsors for their colleagues. This leads to lower stress levels overall, and promotes greater happiness in and out of work.

To promote the gender goal of 50/50 diversity in financial services, women who register by this Friday, March 13, can purchase a ticket to any 2020 Finovate event at a 50% discount. Just enter the code EQUALITY on the booking form.