Series Two Episode Nine: Calling Time on Inequality

Posted on May 30, 2018

Liz Lumley, Steering Committee Member at FinTechTECHTalents18, Founder of The Collective Network and Advisory Board Member of DNXCommunity, discusses how fintechs can find more diverse talent, the barriers facing female founders, the crucial part men must play in driving gender equality, the FinTech Parity Pledge and why raising the visibility of women and ethnic minorities is one of the most important drivers of D&I.

Links & Resources from this Episode

London’s largest innovation centre launches scheme to help women-led technology businesses

Cindy Gallop turns fire on WPP over gender equality

FinTech leaders launch parity pledge to increase sector diversity

FounderDating

Blooming Founders

FriendlyFires

FinTech Parity Pledge

Women in Innovation: new support announced

Tech Talent Charter Annual Report (Due to be published towards the end of 2018)

Liz Lumley

Liz Lumley is a global specialist commentator on global financial technology or ‘FinTech’. She has spent over 20 years working in the financial technology space, most recently as Managing Director at Startupbootcamp FinTech London and as an editor at financial services and technology newswire, Finextra. In addition to being an internationally recognised conference speaker and moderator, she is also a regular contributor to several well-known podcasts including Brett King’s Breaking Banks on the VoiceAmerica Business channel and FinTech Insider from 11.FS. You can read her regular thoughts on her journey through FinTech and global startups on the blog Girl, Disrupted at Girl, Disrupted.

You can follow Liz on Twitter @LizLum.

Series Two, Episode Nine Transcript

Julia: Hello. My name is Julia Streets, and welcome to Divercity Podcast, talking about diversity and inclusion in financial services.

In each episode, we seek to shine a light on successful progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer practical ideas to help drive change. This is remarkable to me, in the 15 or so episodes that we have recorded, we’ve had both our guests arrive. But it was just a matter of time in this world of financial services and FinTech, that unfortunately at the last minute, our guest could not make it. In my mind, that is a great boon because our guest now is Liz Lumley. Liz and I pass each other in many corridors and many conferences, and we always talk about needing to catch up and we never have a chance to.

Liz: I should have brought some wine, I feel bad!

Julia: We should sit down, kick back a bit, bring cake! Let me tell our listeners a little bit about you, Liz. Liz is internationally recognised as one of the leading voices in FinTech, banking technology, innovation, and most recently as managing director of Startupbootcamp FinTech London and as editor in the Financial Services and Technology newswire Finextra. For more than 20 years, Liz has been a global commentator on regulation, risk, data, and technology in investment, retail, and global transaction banking. She is a well established global conference speaker, and you can read her thoughts on FinTech and startups on her blog, Girl-Disrupted.

Julia: Liz, thank you for joining us today.

Liz: Thank you very much.

Julia: Pleasure. So let’s take a minute just to talk about what you’re up to at the moment.

Liz: Everything you just described. I’m a global commentator on FinTech, an advisor. So I’ve just finished a report for FICO, it used to be called Fair Isaac, looking at fraud prevention in faster payments, specifically because the U.S. is now in the faster payments bandwagon like the rest of the world. I’m currently working on a project looking at the digital skills shortage in the UK with FinTECHTalents, MagnaCarta Communications and with some people consulting for the UK government, to put together research and a policy document looking to see how Brexit’s affecting the skills gap, what salaries are people looking for and where the talent is attracted and retained. So hopefully that will be out in October.

Julia: Fantastic. When that does come, please do let us know. We’d love to promote it across all the channels. Let’s talk about that specifically in terms of your observations of … I was saying earlier, years of experience in FinTech, both commenting and also advising, which gives you a very interesting perspective. Not to mention sitting on platforms interviewing people and hearing other people talk about trends. We think a lot on the podcast about is there a digital skills gap? Clearly the research will be interesting to see, and to what degree are we seeing a wave of change because we’re bringing new innovators into the market who are coming up with different ways of doing business, or are we still conducting ourselves in the same ways we always have done? What are your thoughts on that?

Liz: So in terms of startups, I mean, large banks can probably attract tech people that they want just because they have the resources to pay the money even, if they are a lot of people who feel it’s not cool to work for a bank. In fact, I’ve got kind of a running tablet in my head, whenever a bank hires a high profile person from another industry, I give them 18 months. In 18 months, they either leave screaming saying they’ll never work for a bank again, or they learn how to navigate the system because banks are a different beast.

Startups don’t necessarily always have those resources especially in Europe they don’t have the money Silicon Valley has. But they tend to have difficulty actively recruiting. So I think a lot of them are under this misconception that they’re cool and they’re busy and they’re agile. It’s like that phrase, “We don’t pay for marketing. We don’t pay for recruitment. People will just naturally come to us.” I’ve seen a lot of startups put up stuff on LinkedIn and Twitter saying, “We’re looking for a developer. We’re looking for a project.” Yeah, you might get a great digital skills person that way. I hope you do, but that’s kind of a lazy way.

One thing what we talked about before the mics went rolling, it’s really kind of swimming in one pond. There are groups of people in every industry, the FinTech industry is not alone, that have been actively excluded from this world. This is what I need people to understand, women and minorities especially have been excluded from this world. So that means you cannot put up a notice on LinkedIn saying, “Hey, do you want to do a banking project in Canada?” No, you’ve got to actually go and look for a group. There are groups. I know there are at least two groups that actively promote African Caribbean tech workers in the UK. There are tons of women groups. You have to go and say, “Send me a warm body. Who’s your talent?” You have to go out and actively recruit if you care about diversity. If you want to get the same 24 year old developer into your, white male developer into your startup because you just don’t have the time and resources to do it, that’s what you’re going to get.

Julia: That’s one of the biggest risks of social media and it’s reported on time and time again is you tend to create networks of people who are very, very similar in background, focus in business, and experience as well. Just throwing it out onto a network is just-

Liz: …It’s arrogance. It’s hubris and arrogance. It’s “We’re so cool, they’ll just come to us. They’ll beg to work for us.” Well, you know what? There are groups of people that have been actively excluded. You’re going to have to put five minutes more effort in and give them a reason to want to work for you.

Julia: At the same time, the world of FinTech, which I think is a wonderful thing, is that there is this wave of innovation. If you look at all the schemes and all the hubs and we talk about StartUp Bootcamp as one example of that. It’s basically creating entrepreneurs who are creating businesses. Then, in which case, the pool is only going to get ever more condensed and concentrated. So now is the time to be looking laterally and looking very differently as well.

One of the things that I’ve been impressed by, but I just hope there’s enough of, is encouraging female founders.

Liz: Yeah. Oh God, yes.

Julia: There’s some very interesting data out early this year about how if we can just unlock the potential of female founders, the impact that would have on the economy. We’ll dig that research out and put that on the website and promote that as well. You work with female founders?

Liz: Yeah. So I’m trying to find the right way to say this. Female founders are out there, they’re everywhere. You’re not looking in the right place. Over the past six months … I often get told … because I judge startup competitions and I wish we had more female lead startups from the judging. You immediately get cut off by some men. So very, very confidently saying, “There are none. There are no female founders. They’re just not out there.” Now I speak a lot at conferences and I have to tell you, almost every time I speak at a conference, I get a line of women lining up to me, “I’ve started this business. I’ve got my own company.” They’re there. You know what? I have to say and I know it’s anecdotal, half of them are women of colour. And they’re there.

So I think if you are in an organisation, I had someone call me from Nesta the other day saying, “We ran this competition and we just didn’t get enough female founders.” I said, “Well you know what? You need to ask yourself what is it about the system that these companies are not feeling that they’re invited in?.” It’s kind of like the whole tech industry and the startup industry is one of those tree houses with ‘No Girls Allowed’ painted on it. All the men are sitting there in the tree house going, “We don’t understand why there are no women here? We’ve got this really great ladder and a ping pong table. I don’t understand why there aren’t any women here.” It’s like, “Really?”

Julia: What are the constructs that are particularly keeping women at bay, if you like?

Liz: So there’s a lot of semantics that go on, well semantics probably isn’t the right word. So Startupbootcamp FinTech has a global policy of not taking in solo founders. There’s a reason for that because being an entrepreneur is very lonely. You need someone with you to bounce ideas off. There’s an organisation called Founder Dating that will help you go out and find yourself [a co-founder]. More often than not it’s a CTO they need. There’s a woman named Lu Li who has an organisation called Blooming Founders. It’s an organisation for women-led businesses.

80% are solo founders. Most women start companies by themselves. Most women start companies within other companies. Then they get told that there’s a certain way your supposed to have done your startup. It’s a world that emerged out of Silicon Valley and it emerged from a certain type of people. You had to have to read Zero to One. You had to have read the Lean Startup. You’ve had to have got VC funding. If you haven’t done things that way, you’re not an entrepreneur.

Julia: In terms of, as you touched on, the funding, in terms of the money that will follow that, is there also some hesitation to be investing in sole founders who tend to be female?

Liz: Yeah. I think a lot of women aren’t clued into the networks in order to know how to get that money. A lot of women are just like, “I’m going to start this in my kitchen table. I’m going to boot strap it. I’m going to do it.” Then they get put down in that industry because they’re not matching the characteristics that you’re supposed to look like a founder. Most VC’s are men. They fund the dreams of 28 year old white men. That’s the phrase that gets told a lot and that’s what they see all the time.

2.1% of VC funding goes to women. If you make that women of colour, it goes below 1%. My anger comes from people who look at those numbers and don’t see anything wrong with them. I think since those numbers are so low, there is a problem. You’ve probably talked about it on the podcast, there are studies of so-called feminine behaviour isn’t seen as something investors want to invest in. However, if a woman acts with so-called masculine behaviour, that gets counted against her as well. So women are going in there with a lot of barriers in order to get this money, which is why I think women need to almost look at other ways to raise funds.

Julia: One of the guests we had on our podcast at the beginning of Series Two actually was from Diversity VC, which is very much looking at driving greater diversity and inclusion in the world of VC, to try and cut through some of that traditional behaviour of investing in traditional ways in traditional companies in the traditional model, if you like, and looking to challenge that. So it’ll be very interesting to come back to them and see what their thoughts are on that as well.

Looking ahead then, is there anything that you’re particularly optimistic about? We’re almost halfway through this year. Clearly we’ve got Brexit on the horizon. That in and of itself creates opportunity as what is concerned around where the talents going to come from. Is there anything particular you’re sort of thinking about with that?

Liz: Because I really think the funding world needs to be disrupted. I hate the world disruption, but I would love to see that world disrupted. There need to be more avenues in order to raise funds. I was getting very, very excited about ICOs, and I know they’re being overly regulated … there’s a lot regulation going on and concern about them right at the moment and there’s a lot of charlatans out there, but when they first came on the scene, I was thinking, “Oh, an alternative way to raise funds. Women should get into this.” You send it out like crowdfunding so people will buy the token. You don’t have to go to some horrible VC and do a pitch where they’re not even going to understand what you’re talking about. So I would love to see ICOs become more mainstream and a lot more women saying, “You know what? We’re going to raise money this way, and we’re going to screw you.” Then we’ll see more female-led businesses.

Julia: Are you seeing other pockets of funding innovation bubble in any way? So for example, you’re talk about there are particular VC firms that are looking to only fund female-run organisations. Is that fad or is that going to be the future?

Liz: I hope it’s not a fad. I haven’t seen any concrete data. To change that world you need more women in the investment world, more women in corporate VCs, more women in regular VCs, more women startups. Just more of them will I think cause a lot of men who see women as a risk and the reason why they see women as a risk is because they don’t see enough of them. If you see a hundred startups a week and two of them are run by women, you’re like, “Oh, they’re at risk.” If you see 48% of them run by women, it becomes more normal and you see it as less of a risk. You can actually judge that startup and due diligence on its merits.

Julia: One of these we’re often thinking about on the podcast is about how young talent coming through. We had a podcast a couple of episodes ago looking at millennial talent versus more traditional talent-

Liz: …Seasoned. Seasoned talent.

Julia: Seasoned. Yeah, let’s call them seasoned. I like that. I’ll take seasoned. As a seasoned host of the podcast… But actually watching these young, I don’t want to call them just millennials because it’s new talent, young talent takes many different forms. But they look at the corporate world and are functioning and behaving very differently. I worry quite a lot that once you come in, that you lose some of that energy and that vibrancy that organisations really need because we’re looking for cyber security specialist, we’re looking for data specialists, we’re looking for programmers. From many of the events that you’re hosting … are you seeing these young, bright eyed, talent keen to get into it? Are you seeing a degree of fatigue over time?

Liz: Actually the opposite. Getting away from the pure tech talent and just like everyone that works in this industry because I’m not a tech techy person. I understand technology but I’m not a developer. What I have noticed, and this goes into the diversity and the gender diversity issues, women in their 20s are not putting up with the shit that I put up with when I was in my 20s. I find it incredibly encouraging …

Julia: Can you give us an example of what they’re not putting up with?

Liz: Well, this is … So I’ve got a friend of mine named Rosie Turner. She’s got a company called FriendlyFires and InChorus. She’s really looking at helping women … I’m trying to look for the word … put data to whisper networks. When I was her age, you’d hear about that guy you don’t get in the lift with, that guy you don’t want to get in a cab with when you’re in an offside event. I’ve been touched up at events. I’ve been in events where you’re so vastly outnumbered. Shit happens all the time. Because I’m 45, and my mother put up with worse than I put up with. But you just think, “Oh, there’s always douche bag guys around. This is the price you pay for being a woman that leaves the house.”

Women younger than me are saying, “This isn’t right. This behaviour isn’t correct. My body should not be touched at work.” I know that when you say it out loud like that you look back at your own life going, “Why did I put up with it?” You did because of survival. You can’t make a big fuss about every sexist joke at work because you’d never get any work done. I have been the only woman on stage four times at events. I have been the only woman at a room with like 100, 200 guys at dinners. You are complicit because you’re complicit or die and it’s your survival. A lot more women are standing up and saying, “No. We’re not going to be complacent anymore. This behaviour is actually wrong.” I find encouragement from that.

Julia: Yeah. One of the things that struck me. It’s a bit of a tangent to that, or a bit in parallel to that, is that actually I’ve been encouraged by this wave of men saying, “Well, you know what? I’m not going to be the only male speaker on a panel.” The ‘mammals’ concept. As we sit here halfway through 2018, I think that’s been one of the big resounding drivers of change, but I wonder to what degree … is that a reaction to-

Liz: #MeToo.

Julia: It’s become hashtag mammals. Will we see that continue or will that just fizzle out?

Liz: There are two sides to the coin. One, things will not change until we have more women and more groups that are excluded in positions of power. Correct. However, things will also not change unless men actually open their wallet and change their behaviour and do things that might … When a man says no to speaking on a panel, that’s his personal brand. He’s doing something that might hurt him and his business, and he’s standing up or something. You know what? It’s admirable and I congratulate all the men who do that, but I know there are a lot of men who won’t.

Julia: Mm-hmm.

Liz: They won’t say no to a speaking engagement. I know a lot of men who are good guys, who have seen bad things happen in front of them, and have said nothing. Until men start putting themselves on the line, a lot of this stuff is not going to change.

Julia: It’s interesting because in the context of networks and how we’re going to drive change, it’s very much that the men have got to be part of that journey as well. I talk at a lot of women-only events because by the same token, there are lots of women-only networks. I increasingly speak to more and more of them and say, “Well where are the men?” I think it’s served its purpose perhaps for the last three to five years, but now is the time-

Liz: Julia, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, the two I’m thinking of in my head were women-focused events, but they’re like women only. It wasn’t like the Presidents Club for women. So there were usually two or three guys in the audience. At both occasions, neither of them asked a question. In fact, at that end of it the moderator will be like, “Do you guys want to make a comment on something?” You could see them very quiet. I hope that they realise that that’s how women feel every day. Women still stand up and ask that question and start that business and put themselves forward. They sit there quiet because it’s intimidating to be in a room when you’re alone. I hope they realise the barrier that women have to jump over.

I always say one of the things that really, really upsets me is this retort that we can’t lower the bar for the sake of diversity, which really makes me want to rip my skin off. So Cindy Gallop says that diversity raises the bar. It does. You put more people from different ponds in the pool, you got to up your game.

Julia: Just to be really explicit on that, which is with every technology challenge, anybody who works in an agile methodology will know that you put desperate ideas and desperate experiences and different skills around essential problem when you’re trying to break it and you get there faster – it’s a better result. That’s the way I see diversity and inclusion, which is we’ll all perform better if we all sit around one table and one business and one central concept. So yeah, that is why we’re doing the podcast actually because that’s my driving message and it has a financial contribution to performance.

Liz: I know. How much more data do we need that businesses do better, but I decided to be a bit controversial at the last event spoke to where I said, “You know what? I’m going to go out there and say I want the bar lowered. I want the bar lowered because I am a white, university educated, middle class female and the bar I have to jump over is right at my head. You darken my skin, it goes up 10 feet. I want to waltz over the bar men get to waltz over. I’d love that bar because the alternative is raising that bar way up high, and there are a lot of people in this industry that have a lot more experience jumping over that bar. So take your pick guys. You want to keep the bar low where it is with you or do you want to lower it up to my level, because bring it on.”

Julia: So I think that’s a perfect moment to pause there and to turn to Robert and Cynthia for any research that they found to support this debate.

Cynthia: In March 2018, the UK government announced that the second phase of its Women Innovation Awards will be launched later this year. Participants have the chance to secure funding and a support package. The awards have been setup to help drive more female-led innovation. The first Women in Innovation programme launched in 2016 after research showed that just one in seven applicants for funding from Innovate UK came from women. Since the launch of the programme, female registrations have increased from 14% to 24%.

Robert: Over 100 organisations have signed up to the Tech Talent Charter, where companies such as Nationwide and Lloyd’s Bank have committed to improving diversity within the tech industry. The aim is to have at least 500 companies signed up by the end of 2018. The Tech Talent Charter Annual Report is due to be published later this year. It will collect the data from the companies that are part of the charter and show the gender balance in technical roles.

Julia: Robert, Cynthia, thank you very much indeed. As always, you can find that research on our website DivercityPodcast.com. You can also follow us on Twitter @DivercityPod. We’re available across many different channels including BrightTalk as well. Do give us a rating if you’ve enjoyed the show. We always love your feedback. Thank you.

Liz, as we go into the last section of this show, you sit on many panels, we’ve talked about your chairing and participating. How do you see the world driving change for itself?

Liz: So I mentioned before that I think women are becoming a lot more vocal and we have a lot of networks. So there’s a group of us who do speak a lot at conferences, so we’re well placed to see to be the only woman at a conference.

Julia: And you want to build out that pool?

Liz: Yeah. So a bunch of us got together, and it was spearheaded by Sharon O’Dea, and it’s called the FinTech Parity Pledge. It’s a pledge, it’s a badge you can put on your site, and it’s a site aimed at event organisers and other organisations that basically says, “We’re going to take a moment and think about diversity inclusion on our events.”

I’ve written about it. I’ve put together a lot of events and one of the first events I put together in banking and technology was all men. I did it because I wasn’t thinking. It’s very easy to do that in an industry where men outnumber women by a large margin. If you just think for a second, ask around, do a 10-minute Google search. There’s a women in power list out every week about something. There are people you can call. You can make sure that every panel at your event is not for white guys or like I saw once, nine white guys talking about blockchain. That doesn’t make the industry any better.

It matters because this ability matters, okay? A lot of events are put together by people not from the industry so they don’t know all the players. They look at old events, they look at who spoke at old events. They look at the people making a lot of noise. Then the cycle repeats itself. So the FinTechParityPledge.org is about how to stop that cycle. So there’s lots of lists and guidance and strategies on how to make sure that your event is diverse.

So talking about visibility and why visibility really matters, something that went viral was a picture of the little two year old girl looking up at the portrait of Michelle Obama in the U.S. and she just had this look of awe on her face. That’s when people complain about a pipeline issue. Women and little girls get told you’re not allowed in this room from a very small age. We need to stop that now. We need to show little girls that yes, you can be on stage, you can have a voice, you can be important. Someone who looks like you is in that clubhouse, and that is incredibly important. That’s really why the FinTech Parity Pledge isn’t about our own ego or promoting ourselves. We can promote ourselves. This is about making sure that there are more people on stage and their voices are heard and more diversity of thought and context is seen that pushes our industry forward.

Julia: Liz, it’s been a fantastic discussion. I’m so pleased we could have the time to talk these things through. Thank you for joining us today.

Liz: Thank you, Julia. Thank you very much.

Kieron: This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya and Robert Pinto-Fernandes for their insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website DiverCitypodcast.com. Whilst you’re there, you can also sign up for our newsletter for all our latest updates. To be sure of catching all our future podcasts, subscribe to our feed on iTunes or your favourite podcast app. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, remember to give us a rating or review in iTunes. It all helps promote the show to a wider audience. Finally, our Twitter handle is @DiverCityPod. Thanks for listening.