We all remember the iconic “Fearless Girl” statue unveiled in 2017, which is now situated in front of the New York Stock Exchange. It sparked conversations around the world about the power of women in positions of leadership at organisations. After it went viral globally, several companies made the move to add women members to their boards and several continue to do so today. The statue is one of many efforts over the years to promote women empowerment and, in particular, gender diversity at the workplace.
It is no secret that diversity brings about greater success, with the potential for broader perspectives and ideas in organisations across industries. However, even though women make up around half of the world’s population, they account for less than 40 per cent of the global workforce, as per a study by State Street Global Advisors – the same firm behind the Fearless Girl campaigns.
Amongst all the businesses out there today, finance and technology have stood out as having been traditionally led by male employees. Whether it is pay or gender ratio, women are still largely under-compensated and underrepresented in these domains. This imbalance affects the ability of the sector to reach its optimal output and, as a result, growth and development.
The Indian context brings with it complex socio-cultural factors too, which have hindered the large-scale participation of women in the finance sector. However, as one of the fast-evolving segments, there is great scope for unlocking new opportunities with the right measures to include more women in the finance space. This will enable them to channel their skills and boost the scope for the growth of the Indian economy by way of diversity. As per a McKinsey report, India has the potential to add USD 770 billion to its GDP by 2025, if female workforce participation is brought at par to that of males in the country.
To actively tackle the issues of representation and inclusivity, having strong women role models is one of the major ways to help encourage a larger number of women to follow in their footsteps. Several women have broken through these challenges and stepped up to lead some of the largest financial institutions in the country. These include women such as Arundhati Bhattacharya of SBI or our Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who became household names with the great feats they have achieved at the prime of their careers in respective sector.
Having role models enables women to break stereotypes of how the ideal finance leader should be. These women have been fundamental in showing women of all ages that there is a lot for the young female workforce to look forward to and aspire to within India’s finance sector.
The rise of emerging technologies has impacted industries across the spectrum. Within finance in particular, its impact is being realised by the sharp rise in fintech firms within the country and the increasing dependence of industries of all sizes on them. With this, India has made notable progress in the financial landscape today, but still lags behind in terms of a looming gender gap in the segment. There is, therefore, a dire need to tap into more innovation, creativity and, most importantly, diverse human talent to cater to the new opportunities.
Fintech has not only brought about great innovation and the democratization of financial services but, in fact, has pioneered a shift in focus by creating greater opportunities for women within the traditionally male-dominated sector. With this, women have been able to channel their knowledge and expertise to share fresh perspectives and bolster the growth and development of fintech in the country. I don’t just talk about this, I have walked the path I’m talking about. At my startup, out of 100 team members, more than 50 per cent are women. In leadership roles, we have 45 per cent women managers. Women are now not only a part of the industry but several of them are leading the movement for change in what is now on its way to becoming a sector with more flexible offerings and newer innovations putting forth impactful solutions.
With greater awareness and technological advancements in the sector, the number of women in finance has definitely risen as compared to a decade ago. However, there is still a long way to go before we truly achieve gender diversity and, more importantly, equality within the industry.
In the meantime, organisations within the sector need to focus on reshaping opportunities and realigning processes to give women a chance to chart out their own path. This can be done by believing in women’s abilities and knowledge through their proven track records and skills instead of viewing them through a clouded lens of something as trivial as gender. As the finance sector makes rapid progress into the advanced digital age and access for all, it is essential that our mindsets also progresses to become more inclusive. It is then that the word “fearless” will not be needed before the word “girl”, but will, instead, be a given.
The author is the Co-Founder, LenDenClub