Given the evolving nature of using technology to deliver financial services and products to consumers, the significance of continuing to support women to enable more talent across all generations to be obtained and most importantly, retained, should not be overlooked.
To mark International Women’s Day in prominent fashion, The CEO of Fintech Wales, Sarah Williams-Gardener, gave an in-depth interview with Business News Wales about what the occasion means to her, female influences in her life, how to attract and develop female talent, what can be done to make the workplace and society in general more inclusive and what advice she would give young women looking to make their mark in the world.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
“International Women’s Day provides a great opportunity and a key date in the calendar for organisations and individuals to promote fantastic achievements and support for women.
The work and commitment to shout about such milestones and developments however, happens all year round. FinTech Wales and our members’ ambition to create opportunities, provide supportive and safe environments and ensure equality as well as equity within our industry, is at the top of our agenda every single day.”
What female figures have been the most influential in your life – and why?
“I have been inspired by many amazing trailblazing women during my career from across a variety of businesses. There’s far too many to mention everyone, but we really are blessed to have such inspirational women leading the way, particularly in Wales. I have learnt not to be surprised at how supportive and generous great leaders are; they always reach back and lift others up. This is something I try to emulate myself.”
How would you rate your work sector in terms of its attitudes towards women – and its actions in attracting and developing female talent?
“I’m very proud to work in an ecosystem that, in my opinion, has the highest representation of female leaders in the UK. We have incredible women leading some of the most phenomenal businesses created or scaling in Wales, such as Louise O’Shea, Former CEO of confused.com and our Chair of FinTech Wales, Anne Boden, Founder of Starling, Julie-Ann Haines, CEO at Principality Building Society, Anne Jessop, CEO of The Royal Mint, Lucy Cohen and Sophie Hughes, Co-Founders of Mazuma, Milena Mondini, CEO of the Admiral Group, Michelle Pearce-Burke, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Wealthify and Louise Towers, CFO at Bikmo, to name just a few.
We’ve also seen truly inspirational female leaders coming through FinTech Wales’ accelerator programme, The Foundry, including Shabnam Wazed, Founder and CEO, AGAM International, Ella Hastings, COO and CMO, Wagonex, Louise Marsh and Sarah Wrixon, Founders of FYIO and Savannah Price, Founder of Serene.
Women within tech as a whole however, still remain critically underrepresented, as is highlighted in PwC’s Women in Tech Research Report, which claims that just 23% of the people working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) roles across the UK are female*.
FinTech organisations are passionate about addressing this and I’m proud that FinTech Wales plays a significant role in providing essential solutions and initiatives that link industry and academia to attract, encourage and support more women in tech.”
What, if anything, can we do to make the workplace and society in general inclusive of all genders and other personal characteristics?
“Diversity is key and the only way to encourage and welcome this throughout an organisation is to get it right at the top. This has to be about the company culture not just a programme of activity.
In addition to addressing the lack of females in tech, there is one other significant issue for women in FinTech that I discuss with colleagues and members regularly. Female FinTech founders find it harder to raise investment. For reference, female founders raised just 2% of venture capital money in 2021*.
With more investment in female founders, I am confident that we will see further inclusivity in the workplace. As a result, I am a founding member of the Welsh Female Angels Investors, who invest in female tech founders and I am extremely proud to have created and lead, the Welsh Female Leaders Banking & Finance Group, where our mission is to mentor and inspire more women into the sector.”
What advice would you give to a 16 year old female, starting out in the world today?
“Value yourself and know that any boss worth working for will never hold you back. Be bolder, be braver and seek out great leaders who will help you fly.”