Fnality is taking serious action to address unconscious bias and a major focus for this quarter has been to support the 2023 International Women's Day’s theme #EmbraceEquity.
Fnality asked for volunteers to write an article about what it means to be a woman in FinTech. Brave, I thought. Because if it's true that a few women have broken the glass ceiling, a lot remains to be conquered. So, as you can guess, I volunteered!
A few years ago, I used to react combatively whenever I felt I had been treated differently because of my gender. However, over time, I've learnt to observe and not take such behaviour as a personal attack. I have crafted my own recipe to overcome these issues gradually, which I will share with you.
It is not my intention to suggest that women should give up, but we should realise that there are privileged categories of people. Though we may be underprivileged compared to men, we might be more privileged when compared to other underrepresented minorities (see the wheel of privilege). By observing I've noticed some common discriminatory behaviours motivated by some men’s best intentions.
I have many examples where I have witnessed or personally experienced gender bias and used to feel undermined as a professional. I'm sure these examples will resonate with other women. These include some men’s unconscious belief in the high value of their opinions, causing them to interrupt women's mid-speech (also known as “Manterruption”). Or, the unconscious belief that concepts expressed by women need further clarification or refinement. Additionally, many times, women have achieved something as part of a team, but only male representatives have been publicly congratulated.
Those are only a few examples and the list could continue, but I would rather stop and explain why I said that “I used to feel undermined”: I’ve shifted the focus towards myself, which is a simple concept, but it requires constant training and encouraging myself to step out of the shadows, where women can often be unconsciously encouraged to stay.
And now, for my recipe of empowerment as a woman in fintech:
- Focus on filling the gaps: read, learn, and do a step per day, every day. No matter how tiny a step might seem to you, and despite all the extra duties you might have to do once back home.
- If the person that has the knowledge that you need naturally tends to bond and share his experience with a colleague that is not you, be persistent, insist, set a meeting, and be willing to advocate for the powerful women that you are (becoming)!
- Unleash the Italian side in you, also referred to as confidence! As a full-blood Italian, I am obviously advantaged here, but heritage aside, you can find your inner Italian too. Don’t be afraid to speak up and interrupt those who interrupt you. You may even occasionally forget that you have a filter between your thoughts and what you say. If there is an expectation that as a woman you may behave strangely, embrace it! Sometimes, acting a little “weird” can help you stand out and assert your presence.
- Don’t let yourself feel undermined. Instead, focus on your strengths and accomplishments, and don’t be afraid to let others know when they crossed a line.
- Don’t be scared to let a person know that they have offended you in some way. They may not have meant it, and if they did, they now know that you won’t stay quiet.
- Don’t hide behind the “I don’t have a female example to follow”: pick the colleague you want to be in a year’s time and work out what aspects you would like to follow! Learn from him, ask him questions and for his suggestions, I mean, you know that a man likes to feel important! Come on, get on with it!
- Help other women to see and nurture their strengths. Empowered women empower women! Make their journey smoother than yours.
- Don’t feel guilty to say no sometimes to “office housework” duties. They are necessary yet thankless tasks, and they are holding you back from reaching your full potential.
By following these steps, I have been able to navigate the challenges of being a woman in fintech and achieve success in my career. I hope this recipe will help other women in the industry to do the same.
I hope my 8-step guide will work for you as it worked pretty well for me.
You may still feel hurt sometimes, but now you’ve got a creative recipe with clear instructions. If you want to discuss further how I’ve navigated my career at a fintech please do reach out.