On August 26, America recognized Women’s Equality Day.
While strides have been made over the last century to ensure a more fair playing field for women in the workplace, the statistics show that there is still a long way to go.
This especially holds true in the financial services industry, which for decades has been a male-dominated field.
Despite accounting for more than 35% of graduates from major business schools, women hold only 9% of senior roles in venture capital firms, and 6% of senior roles in private equity firms, according to Harvard Business School.
Such a discrepancy isn’t just unfair and outdated, it’s bad for business. A Scientific American report found that diversity in the workplace makes us more creative, more innovative, more diligent, better at problem-solving, and more hardworking.
And there’s also evidence to show that a lack of diversity negatively impacts the bottom line.
A 2012 study by Cristian Dezso and David Ross found that, on average, between 1992 and 2006: “Female representation in top management leads to an increase of $42 million in firm value.”
Yet, despite all this evidence, the financial services industry continues to lag behind.
Luckily, the tides finally appear to be shifting.
Programs such as Girls Who Invest are opening the doors of Wall Street to women, and technological breakthroughs such as online investing and financial management software are giving anyone access to an active role in fintech, regardless of who gives them permission.
Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl, facing Arturo Di Modica’s Charging Bull (Source)
The bronze statue of a brave girl standing up to the famous charging bull statue on Wall Street symbolizes the fight that women have taken up to challenge Wall Street’s traditional dynamics.
But young women who aspire to become leaders in the ever-evolving world of financial management don’t need to just look to a statue for inspiration—learning from those who have already faced these challenges is a precious resource.
Whether you are a woman who aspires to earn a leadership role in financial management, or a small business leader who is looking to diversify your financial leadership team, here are ten real-life examples of women who are changing fintech.
10 women in fintech you can learn from
The mission of Girls Who Invest is to have 30% of the world’s capital managed by women by the year 2030.
Here are the women who are leading that charge.
To come up with this list, we consulted financial research sites and searched speaker lists for upcoming fintech conferences.
This list is by no means comprehensive or scientific. We tried to come up with a representative variety of standout personalities, spanning generations and backgrounds, who have done things a little differently than the status quo.
These fintech influencers are listed in alphabetical order.
Emotional Banking founder Duena Blomstrom (Source)
With a background in psychology and business, Blomstrom brings a unique perspective to fintech. Based in London, she’s worked in account management, sales, consulting, marketing, and investing.
HOW SHE’S CHANGING THE WORLD: Blomstrom’s latest project, Emotional Banking, aims to reinvent the way we look at big banking after the chain of events that led to the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. Her goal is to change the way we look at money, from a precious commodity to be hoarded and stockpiled by the most powerful entities, to a resource that everyone benefits from.
As outlined in her book of the same name, Emotional Banking is based on the idea that “banks need to care about people’s emotions about their money to retain the relationship. Products need to be redesigned into MoneyMoments using technology. To do any of that they need to change culture fast” from banks as institutions to banks as brands looking to support their customers.
2. Marla Blow
FS Card Inc. founder and CEO Marla Blow (Source)
After earning her MBA from Stanford, Blow ascended to the position of director at Capital One. But after working there for seven years, she pursued an interest to help people who are underrepresented in financial services, first at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and then with her own venture, FS Card, Inc.
HOW SHE’S CHANGING THE WORLD: FS Card’s signature product—the Build Card—is designed as an alternative to predatory, high-interest payday lenders for low-income, subprime borrowers. In about four years, the Build Card has helped more than 100,000 customers rebuild their credit, having extended more than $50 million.
FemTechGlobal founder Ghela Boskovich (Source)
A self-described “fintech fanatic,” Boskovich got her start as an economist and an analyst, eventually landing in business development at Oracle and Zafin for several years. While serving as director of global strategic business development for Zafin—a banking software platform—Boskovich began to form the foundation for FemTechGlobal.
HOW SHE’S CHANGING THE WORLD: FemTechGlobal, which Boskovich launched in 2015, is a global community of women and men who recognize that a more diverse collection of voices and ideas will lead to more innovative solutions in the financial services field.
Like Girls Who Invest, FemTechGlobal is fighting to bring more young women into fintech through collaboration, networking, education, and mentorship.
Celent senior analyst Patricia Hines (Source)
For most of her career, Hines has been working near the intersection of finance and technology. After earning her MBA from Yale School of Management, she oversaw Fleet Bank’s (now Bank of America) foray into online banking in the early 2000s.
She eventually moved into her role as senior analyst for Celent, a Charlotte-based financial services technology firm, where she focuses on global transaction services, wholesale banking, corporate banking delivery channels, trade and supply chain finance, and small business lending.
HOW SHE’S CHANGING THE WORLD: Hines uses her background and expertise in fintech to serve as a role model for how far young women can take a career in financial services, but also—as her resume shows—how diverse that career can be. She has presented at Finastra Universe, Temenos Community Forum, and EBA Day, among other events.
Girls Who Invest founder Seema Hingorani (Source)After graduating from Yale in the early 90s, Hingorani got her start in the world of investing as an equity analyst. She eventually rose to the position of CIO of the New York City pension funds before starting her own firm, SevenStep Capital.
HOW SHE’S CHANGING THE WORLD: Hingorani saw the woefully low numbers of women in influential investment positions, and decided to change it. She launched nonprofit Girls Who Invest in 2015, and since then has helped more than 500 young women break into portfolio and asset management through education, internships with top firms, mentoring, and community support.
6. Anna Irrera
Reuters fintech correspondent Anna Irrera (Source)
Irrera took a less traveled route into the financial services sector, building her foundation in journalism then forging a career that combines both worlds. After studying at Harvard, followed by Columbia’s J-school, she began covering financial news for Dow Jones and now Reuters, where she is a full-time fintech correspondent.
Her areas of expertise include cryptocurrency, alternative finance, blockchain, big data, robo-advisory, digital payments, and capital markets technology. Or, as she writes on her Twitter profile: “Yes, I cover things like bitcoin.”
HOW SHE’S CHANGING THE WORLD: Even as more and more women break through into financial services, the vast majority of experts on TV are older white men. But Irrera’s appearances on Reuters TV and elsewhere, along with her extensive writing on the subject, prove that younger women can also be experts on financial topics. And, Irrera doesn’t shy away from hot-button topics, using her platform to shed light on issues such as freedom of the press and the #MeToo movement.
7. Abby Johnson
Fidelity president Abby Johnson (Source)
While she may not be as accessible via social media as most of the other women on this list, Johnson is undoubtedly the most influential on a global scale in terms of how she impacts the industry. As president and CEO of Fidelity Investments—the firm her grandfather founded in 1946—she is responsible for tens of thousands of employees and trillions of dollars. Forbes ranked her the seventh most powerful woman in the world.
HOW SHE’S CHANGING THE WORLD: Under Johnson’s leadership, Fidelity is advancing into the cryptocurrency frontier. She is the only female leader of a major financial firm, and—soon after a pair of high profile fund managers left the company in the wake of sexual harassment scandals—moved her office to the center of Fidelity headquarters to personally ensure that it wouldn’t happen again.
8. Liz Lumley
VC Innovations director of fintech and content Liz Lumley (Source)
If you’ve attended a fintech conference in the last 20 years, you have probably crossed paths with Lumley. She started her career in the mid-90s covering financial data and technology in New York and London. She now has almost 25 years of experience covering fintech, and is the director of content for FinTECHTalents.
HOW SHE’S CHANGING THE WORLD: Throughout her career, Lumley has always kept the fun in fintech. Whether that means blogging about the people you always see at conferences—from the swag hoarder to the photographer with the man bun—or including live music and a craft beer festival at the conference she helps run, Lumley has shown that a career in fintech doesn’t just have to be about dollars and cents on spreadsheets.
9. Devie Mohan
Burnmark co-founder and CEO Devie Mohan (Source)
Mohan’s career has taken her all over the world with some of the biggest companies in finance and technology, from Goldman Sachs in London to IBM in Mumbai and the U.S. Agency for International Development in DC. She also worked for SunTec, Ericsson, and Thomson Reuters before her latest venture as co-founder and CEO of Burnmark, a fintech research firm.
HOW SHE’S CHANGING THE WORLD: Mohan is one of the more visible fintech influencers and thought leaders online, with more than 26,000 Twitter followers. Burnmark’s research has been quoted in major publications, including The Wall Street Journal, and you can find her speaking about inclusion and diversity in fintech at multiple conferences throughout the year, from Money20/20 to Finovate.
Citi FinTech global chief product officer Carey OConnor Kolaja (Source)
In her 20+ years of experience, Kolaja has worked with an impressive range of companies such as eBay, PayPal, and now Citigroup, where she serves as FinTech’s global chief product officer. She also has served on the board of directors for several startups.
HOW SHE’S CHANGING THE WORLD: While Kolaja has plenty to keep her busy at Citigroup, she makes time to help guide smaller nonprofits that are looking to improve the world. For example, Waves for Water distributes portable water filters around the world through a distribution network made up of traveler’s luggage. She also keeps a busy speaking schedule, and is an outspoken advocate for bringing more women into fintech.
Key takeaways and recommendations
You’ll notice several common threads in these women’s stories. Here are a few of those major takeaways, along with recommendations for aspiring women in fintech.
- Fintech is not just open to women, it’s open to women of all ages and cultural backgrounds.
- By teaming up as a community, women can change the world of fintech.
- Female mentorship is a precious resource for young women looking to build a career in fintech.
- Firms with female leadership are more profitable.
- Women in fintech come from diverse educational and career backgrounds.
Our recommendation for small business leaders: Whether you’re male or female, know the importance of having more women in financial services positions. Promote from within your organization where appropriate, and consider all candidates, regardless of age or background.
Encourage networking and career development through organizations such as Girls Who Invest, or by sending your employees to a fintech conference. Be a part of the future rather than letting your business decay in the past.
Which women in fintech inspire you?
As these ten women in fintech have shown, the doors of Wall Street are open for a more diverse, innovative, open financial services industry.
And luckily, there are way more than just ten women in fintech to look up to.