Girl Power and the reader's letter
Girl power rocks the sector
YOUNG women in Bahrain are being encouraged to enter the burgeoning financial sector by an impressive group of female FinTech pioneers.
The Women in FinTech Network Bahrain (WIFBH) has recently been formed comprising of some of the kingdom’s leading women in finance, technology and entrepreneurship.
Just last week they met with a group of Al-Salam Bank summer programme interns at Bahrain FinTech Bay to spread awareness at a workshop.
WIFBH member Wajeeha Awadh, who describes herself as a ‘FinTech enthusiast’ at Al Baraka Banking Group, said she had a ‘great time speaking to the next generation of creators’. “I was happy to see their excitement about FinTech and innovation in the financial industry.”
Some suggest that women are able to bring different ‘detail-oriented’ perspectives and alternative aspects to service offering, therefore providing a breath of fresh air to a banking industry that for far too long has been dominated by straight-laced businessmen wearing conservative suits or thobes.
WIFBH, chaired by Dalal Buhejji, Bahrain Economic Development Board’s (EDB) senior manager, business development financial services, aims to empower more women to join the FinTech ecosystem.
Current members also include project management professional Maisa J Shunnar, BisB, Yasmeen Al-Sharaf, Central Bank of Bahrain, Rose Murad, Bahrain FinTech Bay, Buthaina Amin, Bahrain EDB, Samah Hasan, VIVA Bahrain, Huda Hassan Ali, Citi, Dalia Al Sadiqi, Bahrain EDB, Areije Al Shakar, Bahrain Development Bank, Hania Abdeljalil, Hannover Re Takaful, Hadyah Fathalla, C5 Accelerate, Shanthini Raja, RSquare Technologies, Dr Saeeda Jaffar, Bahrain FinTech Bay, Fatema Ebrahim, Action Global Communications and Ameera Mohamed, Bahrain FinTech Bay.
Samah said: “My inspiration about FinTech is the unwillingness to accept the norm.”
Currently, only two per cent of global banking chief executive officers are women, according to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund. In its study of 800 global banks, IMF found that only 15 of them were serving as the CEO. But new technology is helping to buck the trend. Many women from around the globe are heading-up FinTech companies that are changing the world of finance by using technology to improve activities.
In Bahrain, earlier this year the EDB hosted a dinner for Women in FinTech at the Capital Club, as reported in FinTech Focus, and it appears to have helped ignite the formation of WIFBH.
Bloomberg Professional Services recently reported that a growing gender diversity, and more open conversations surrounding it, are having an impact on financial technology that’s as fundamental as it is subtle. As more women take on FinTech roles at almost every level, their influence is driving user-centric product design and rapid development timelines.
That dynamic was evident during a recent Women in FinTech panel discussion hosted by Bloomberg, the financial, software, data and media company headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.
While the panellists covered a variety of topics - from the speed of FinTech’s advancement to managing expectations when implementing financial cyber-security solutions - they also noted how women’s voices have begun nudging products to be more reflective of users and how they work.
“When you have systems that are very skewed and homogeneous, your ability to build holistic solutions is somewhat limited,” observed Cristina Dolan, co-founder and chief operating officer of iXledger, a London-based peer-to-peer marketplace for insurance. As an example, she pointed to the development of speech-recognition products that struggle to accurately identify nuances present in women’s voices. Despite the sophisticated artificial intelligence behind them, she noted, the products were developed by men.
Relying on homogenous teams ‘is not a really good way to solve problems’, agreed Ingrid Busson-Hall, senior director of financial regulation at PayPal in San Jose, California. “If you have people who all look the same and think the same, you’re going to define the problem one way and then you’re going to solve it in a really confined way,” she added.
Research bears this out. A recent study by Bloomberg, which analysed some 600 decisions made by 200 different teams in a variety of businesses, found a direct link between inclusive decision-making and improved business performance.
The business decisions of inclusive teams showed better results up to 87 per cent of the time, teams that followed an inclusive process made decisions twice as quickly, and with half as many meetings, as those following non-inclusive processes and decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60 per cent better results.
Those are encouraging signs, but Ingrid believes the culture of the organisations still need to be checked to ensure that they really value diversity of thought and expression in its truest sense.
For example, there may be women in the team, but ‘if they never get to say anything, or when they say something their idea is appropriated pretty much immediately and incorporated into the broader whole, it isn’t real’.
In other words, it’s important for teams to value the input of all team members if the organisation is going to reap the benefits of diversity.
And, in order for diversity of thought to flourish, added Ingrid, managers will have to tolerate a certain amount of conflict.
“I think you have to accept that diversity means people disagree, people will dissent and you have to actually value that,” she explained.
It’s those very disagreements that lead teams to define problems differently and come up with better solutions.
I read with interest the article in last week’s GulfWeekly about women being encouraged to enter the financial sector by a female group from FinTech.
It was clear that including women in this sector has great advantages in terms of improved outcomes and in general the article gave a very positive view of women’s roles in business and finance.
It was a great pity however that the headline included the term ‘girl’ in reference to what was clearly a serious article about adult women.
When we call women ‘girls’ we are using the force of language to make them smaller, we infantilise them by using a term that refers to females under the age of 18. We resist and deny their maturity, their adulthood and their true power.
I doubt very much that ‘boy power’ would have been used in a similar article about young men.
Vicky Honar, by email
Editor’s note: Vicky, I’m glad you liked the article and I am happy to clarify and justify the headline used. The full headline read: ‘Girl power rocks the sector’. It should be pointed out that ‘girl power’ is a slogan that encourages and celebrates women’s empowerment, independence and confidence. The slogan’s invention is credited to US punk band Bikini Kill, who produced a feminist publication called Girl Power in 1991.
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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