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Searching for Fintech’s Top Female Tech Talent

Photo by Chelsi Peter from Pexels

The number of women in technology in general, and fintech in specific, is growing. That’s the good news.

As Julie Bort and Rachel Sandler wrote in their 2018 feature on female engineers for Business Insider, “for all the arm waving about the lack of women in STEM professions, the truth is, there are some powerful role-model female engineers having fabulous careers and creating tech used by millions, if not billions of people everyday.”

A report from consulting firm Korn Ferry supports this. The study, conducted last year and looking at the top 1,000 U.S. companies by revenue, noted an increase of 2% in the number of women who held the role of CIO or CTO last year. “The industry with the highest percentage of women CIOs/CTOs,” the report noted “is financial at 25%.”

By comparison, the number of women fulfilling the role of Chief Technology Officer within the tech industry remains fewer, maybe even far fewer, than you might suspect. By industry, Korn Ferry ranked technology behind financial, healthcare, retail, and consumer, besting only the services industry.

Women like Padmasree Warrior, who served as Cisco Systems’ CTO between 2007 and 2015 and, before that, as CTO for Motorola for four years, have been among the relatively few women at the top tier of technology leadership – especially at the largest tech companies. Elissa Murphy, at GoDaddy, Selina Tobaccowala at SurveyMonkey, and Raji Arasu at StubHub are just a few of the female CTOs in charge of technology at some of our economy’s newer, most innovative companies.

Pamela Rice, former SVP of Technology at OnDeck and current CTO of Earnest, during her presentation at FinDEVr Silicon Valley.

Turning to fintech – and our own experience at Finovate – a woman like Pamela Rice comes to mind. The former Senior Vice President of Technology at OnDeck who represented the company at our developers conference FinDEVr, Rice is currently Chief Technology Officer for Earnest. The San Francisco, California-based company she joined in 2019 provides consumer financing options for underbanked populations including recent college graduates. Last summer, she participated in a company-hosted, Tech Meet-Up on Diversity and Inclusion, sharing her thoughts on the value of making diversity “part of the DNA of everything you do.”

We took a look at how the fintech industry was faring in terms of female representation at the CTO level. There is still a great deal of progress to be made. Here is a sample of the women who are increasingly providing technical leadership for fintechs large and small.

Marianna TesselIntuit – With more than 20 years experience as a VP of Engineering for companies like Ariba, Docker, and VMWare, Tessel took the helm as Intuit’s Chief Technology Officer in January 2019.

Educated at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute of Science – and having served as a captain in the Israeli Army – Tessel was praised by new Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi as a “transformational change agent” who has created “an engineering culture that has accelerated innovation.”

At Intuit, Tessel is responsible for leading the company’s product engineering, data science, information technology, and information security teams around the world. She first joined Intuit in 2017, leading product development for the firm’s Small Business and Self-Employed Group, including the company’s QuickBooks product family.

Rija JavedMarketFinance (formerly MarketInvoice) – After more than four years as an engineer for Wealthfront, including roles as Director and Senior Director, Javed joined U.K.-based MarketFinance as the company’s Chief Technology Officer in 2018. This made her one of the first female fintech CTOs in the country.

“Having Rija on board underlines our focus on hiring the best talent and building innovative technology to deliver business finance solutions,” MarketFinance CEO and Co-founder Anil Stocker said. “It’s the foundation we’ll use to help thousands of business(es) access funding quickly and easily.”

While at the Wealthfront, Javed built the company’s first mobile app. Transitioning to the company’s investment products platform, she helped scale Wealthfront’s offerings including the development of a new brokerage and banking platform. With degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto, Javed is also a mentor for the New York Academy of Sciences.

Ekate KuznetsovaToken Transit – Sometimes the only way for a woman to make sure that there’s a woman’s place at the tech table is to build the table herself. That’s the approach of Kuznetsova, who parlayed her experience in software engineering at Akamai and Google into launching a fintech startup of her own. Token Transit, for which Kuznetsova is founder, CEO, and Chief Technology Officer, provides mobile ticketing and payment verification solutions for public transportation.

Launched in 2016 and available in more than 75 cities in the U.S. and Canada, Token Transit enables people to pay for fares and passes with their credit, debit, or commuter benefits card and provides them with a digital ticket that is stored on their smartphone.

Kuznetsova earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studied Mathematics and Computer Science.

While the ranks of female CTOs in fintech remains modest, it should be mentioned that there are women – from VPs of Engineering to Chief Scientists – who are not only currently leading tech teams, but also are likely among the CTOs of tomorrow. For a peek at one shortlist, check out Angie Chang’s spotlight on 21 female executives who could become one of the Fortune 100’s next CTOs.


Know a woman who’s driving technology innovation at one of your favorite fintechs? Send us a note at research@finovate.com!