Beyond buzzwords: Diversity and inclusion matter in fintech

Paymentology Co-CEO Angy Watson speaks to FinTech Magazine on the importance of taking meaningful action to drive diversity and inclusion in fintech

“When it comes to fintech, terms like diversity and inclusion (D&I) can run the risk of becoming simply buzzwords – when in fact, they are central to the industry's innovation and growth,” says Paymentology Co-CEO Angy Watson

Watson believes that with genuinely inclusive teams at the helm, fintech companies are more likely to develop financial platforms that meet the needs of an increasingly diverse user base. 

But how should true inclusion be built, and why does it matter from a commercial perspective? We speak to Watson on the true meaning of inclusion, the importance of psychological safety, and how fintechs can go further to fostering a gender-diverse and inclusive workplace.

How do you define the true meaning of inclusion? 

First, in an effort to be “more diverse”, many companies strive to meet targets without having an authentic understanding of the intention and value of diversity. Inclusion can’t be about token gestures or fulfilling a  quota of board members, with representation from various demographic groups.

That approach can be an insult to the groups being represented and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what inclusion is.

True inclusion is about fostering a diversity of ideas and perspectives. It's about building an environment that captures the fullness of humanity far beyond the confines of gender and sexual identity. It includes considerations for neurodiversity, physical ability, and geography, amongst others. 

We should always be mindful of the richness and depth that we can add to a group of people by being fully inclusive of all the different facets of humanity. Bringing this level of diversity into a business isn’t just a logistical task but a cultural one.

It's not merely about bringing diverse individuals into the proverbial room—our business—but about keeping them there. 

What does psychological safety mean to you and why is it a commercial imperative?

Keeping people engaged is about creating an environment where they feel safe, seen, and primed for growth. If they feel valued and know they can grow within the business, their voice can then truly be heard. Without that, our attempts at inclusion become futile. This is where psychological safety becomes important. 

In a psychologically safe team, members feel accepted and respected. They are comfortable being themselves, asking questions, admitting mistakes and weaknesses, or proposing new ideas without fear of embarrassment, retribution, or marginalisation. Yet we won’t get there if businesses don’t understand why inclusion is essential.

While there are important and ongoing debates in the areas of philosophy, ethics, and gender studies, for businesses to enact real change, they need to understand that inclusion isn’t just a political or ethical agenda —it's a commercial necessity with a practical impact.

After all, according to a 2020 report by McKinsey, companies with gender-diverse executive teams were 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability. Diverse thinking has been shown to contribute to superior business results. 

How can fintechs go beyond gender diversity?

While fundamental issues such as gender equality, pay parity, and equal opportunity rights are vital and need to be addressed, we must also take into account the broader picture. For instance, the mere presence of more women in leadership doesn’t guarantee a balance or diversity of ideas in the boardroom.

The reality is all women are not the same. The thing that differentiates us is not purely our gender.

It’s about having more differences in a boardroom besides gender. We absolutely need more women in leadership – of course, we do. We don’t have enough women in leadership.

But we need other differences as well. We also need men that are different from each other. If we only aim to have more women in leadership, without looking for diversity within this group, then we’ve gone down the wrong road.

Instead, we should ask - what are the different types of leaders we need? We must understand the barriers for certain types of people within our businesses and work to dismantle these. If we claim that we lack enough women in leadership, we should ask why.

Is our company not making it easy for women to be leaders? It may not be that we’re not recruiting them. What are our policies around making it easy for mothers in leadership, for instance? That said, perhaps it is just as difficult for fathers. 

When it comes to building the businesses of the future, diversity and inclusion cannot be reduced to buzzwords. Ideally, they will be the foundation of a dynamic and forward-thinking industry.

By broadening our understanding of what the terms mean, we can create working environments that reflect the fullness of humanity – which is only becoming more necessary in an increasingly globalised and interconnected world.

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For more insights from FinTech Magazine, you can see our latest edition of FinTech Magazine here, or you can follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.
You may also be interested in our sister site, InsurTech Digital, which you can also follow on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Please also take a look at our upcoming virtual event, FinTech LIVE London, coming on 8-9 November 2023.


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