Sector’s gender imbalance remains extreme, with the number of female-led startups in European top 50 fundraisers doubling in 2015 – to two.
Spend enough time on the FinTech conference circuit and you are likely to grow used to the sector’s idiosyncratic male-only panels, sea of suits and longer queues in front of the men’s restrooms.
Yet even the most hardened FinTech veteran will be somewhat taken aback when confronted with the actual numbers on the sector’s gender problem.
Of the 100 FinTech companies that raised venture capital funding in Europe in 2015, only five had female chief executives, and of their total 364 key executives, only 7% were women, according to an FN analysis of Dow Jones Venture Source and Factiva data.
There was no significant improvement from 2014. It sounds encouraging that from 2014 to 2015 the number of female-led European FinTech startups among the top 50 by funding doubled, according to DJ Venture Source data - except that it went from one to two. And it promptly halved again when one of the two women left her job in January 2016.
The facts paint an indisputably unflattering picture of the state of gender diversity in FinTech.
However, despite the abysmal diversity track record, the sector has been on a roll.
Venture capitalists poured $1.44 billion into European FinTech startups in 2015, up 17% from $1.25 billion the previous year,according to DJ Venture Source. Increasing moves in the space by large institutions seem to indicate that digital finance is going mainstream.
With activity booming, it does not look as if lack of gender balance is holding the sector back. Some might ask whether correcting the imbalance needs to be high on the agenda.
Why worry that, of chief executives who raised funding for their FinTech startups in Europe in 2015, if you add together those called Michael, Sebastian and Nicholas they outnumber the women? What’s the industry losing out on? Both 50% of the world’s talent and with it different perspectives and a diverse point of view, executives believe.
Diversity fuels creativity, which in turn sparks innovation, executives note. So by being bad at gender diversity, FinTech might end up being a lot less innovative than it could be, executives argue.
Diana Paredes, the chief executive and co-founder of London-based startup Suade Labs, said: “Diversity is always a good thing, there are enough stats on that, and different point of views are critical to making a great product.”
“So, for me, the biggest thing the industry is missing out on is a lack of potential innovation and diversity of ideas.”
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