For women to bridge the diversity and funding gaps in technology and finance – where men dominate leadership and decision-making – it takes an ecosystem.
Payoneer President Keren Levy and World Bank Group We-Fi Secretariat Head Wendy Teleki told Karen Webster that parity is sorely lacking.
But a combination of education, support, skills development, and even technology can help women entrepreneurs thrive. And along the way, the technology and finance industries can benefit from the creativity and innovation that women bring to the conversation and the boardroom.
Statistics confirm the gender divide that currently exists. Last year, only 24% of management positions in financial services companies were held by women despite the fact that women make up about half of the workforce. And this percentage will increase only slightly, reaching 28% by 2030.
“And if you’re talking about venture capital,” Levy said, “VCs don’t have enough women, which means boards don’t have enough women, which then means sequels They are mainly dominated by men.”
The negative repercussions are considerable.
The diversity gap starts early and widens over time. From an early age, girls and young women are not actively encouraged to take math lessons and “they are not told about business or finances. So they avoid these things and don’t trust [about these subjects] Therefore.”
It is important to have the gift of trust, as noted by Teleki and Levy. Despite years in the payments industry, Levy said, “there isn’t a day that I don’t feel a little bit of anxiety or some glitches in my self-confidence.”
But a woman who is “plugged in” to a leadership position, Levy said, can coach, train and truly influence the DNA of a business…and by extension, the society in which it operates.
There is a skill-building element that is essential, and the stage is set for these skills to be developed, mainly through the innate bonds maintained between women.
“Women tend to have stronger networks than men,” Teleki said. “They’re deep and personal – but they’re not business networks.”
The role of technology
But technology and the digital shift that has taken shape over the past few years, especially amid the pandemic, has given founders and entrepreneurs — especially women — the ability to leverage platforms to build the networks we need. they need to be successful.
Getting there, where women’s success and representation can transform finance and technology, Teleki said, requires accountability and transparency. Progress has been made in setting targets and improving the representation of women on corporate boards, in promoting women-owned businesses as suppliers to large supply chain companies.
“We’re trying to get financial institutions to understand how much they’re lending to women,” Teleki said of the World Bank, “and when they see his 10% of their business, they realize they’re missing something. and that there is a gap that needs to be addressed.”
What gets measured gets managed
As Teleki and Levy noted: What gets measured can be managed—and data seen through a “gender lens” can allow stakeholders to examine what works and what doesn’t.
As Teleki said, “If you don’t follow it, you won’t do anything. Do you give funds to women? How?” To illustrate how data can illuminate the gender gap, she pointed out that studies have shown that women who enter tech accelerators are no more likely to get funding for their business than if they had never been in. But men are two to three times more likely to get funding.
Soft skills play a role, ultimately, in the ultimate success of women’s efforts to start businesses, to find their way to better representation in the C-Suite. And to fund the next round of innovation.
Biases within the financial industry present a formidable challenge. Levy and Teleki noted that in cold field competitions, for example, women may be at a disadvantage. There may be inherent biases in the conversations themselves. Women, Teleki said, are asked more often — in presentations lasting only a few minutes — about “negative” risks to their businesses; men are more often asked about “upside” potential.
To address these biases, selection processes that consciously incorporate and pursue greater exposure to women over time – with longer pitches and more direct interactions and peer scoring – will generally result in more funding. .
What’s going on in the field
Teleki noted that despite the challenges, there is good work being done on the ground. Venture capital helped fill the void, she added.
“FinTech is going to be big on this front,” she predicted, “and we’re taking an ecosystem approach.”
She explained that the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative is a program hosted by the World Bank. There is an initial pool of $350 million from 14 donor countries. These funds are in turn disbursed through various multilateral development groups – spanning the International Finance Corporation and the African Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, e-commerce platforms, government agencies and training institutions, she said.
“We expect the $350 million we have received from our donors to leverage $3.5 billion in funding to support women entrepreneurs,” she said.