This post originally appeared on the FemTech Leaders website.
It seems like every company, association, and professional services firm has an officially sanctioned diversity subcommittee or initiative these days, and, by and large, that's a very good thing—it reflects a growing (and much-needed) emphasis on creating work environments that are diverse not just in terms of race, gender, or sexual orientation, but also in ideas, perspectives, work style, and age.
But, it's rare that such initiatives, no matter how well organized, are as effective at truly fostering diversity as something more organic, such as when a collection of individuals with a common interest come together to share their passion for an idea or an industry or some other collective purpose, a point that was driven home at the first FemTechLeaders meetup group in New York on January 20. This wonderful, nascent group isn't a commissioned "task force," or a newly established "diversity subcommittee" of a well-heeled association. Rather, it's a natural grass-roots coalescence of a number of remarkable women who happen to be in the financial services and technology industries – and that's what drew me to it. A seedling of an idea from Ghela Boskovich (based on her involvement with a project born out of a collaboration between Innotribe and the Digital Finance Institute), who connected with Lynn Loacker, who called me to see if I'd be interested in coming up to our New York offices to help host, with all of us and many others spreading the word among remarkably disparate corners of the fintech ecosystem.
The RSVP list for that first meeting included folks from IBM, Morgan Stanley and Deloitte, alongside women from tech giants like Amazon and Capgemini, together with representatives of other companies and consultants focused on introducing brand new ways of looking at this space and its many interconnecting parts.
The result was a lively evening lasting well past its official end time. A highlight for me – being privy to the tale of one of the funniest AML Designated Persons List mix-ups (it involved a dog) I'd ever heard, from a charming young woman (younger than me, at any rate) from PayPal. Talk about taking diversity to a new level…
I don't think the importance of these kinds of events can be overstated. While I'm well aware of the sobering statistics around the number of women in financial services and technology, I confess I sometimes find those numbers hard to believe. I've had the privilege of working with countless women as colleagues and clients, and inevitably they bring to the table precisely the kind of thinking this new and evolving space calls for – they are questioners, disruptors, problem solvers. If I were of the mind to make sweeping generalizations about gender, I might say that such outsider thinking is natural for women. And so seems to be the impulse to seek and build community.
I and DWT are honored to be hosting these gatherings. I have high hopes that these events will not just serve as a forum for women active in the fintech space to share stories and advice and foster connections, but that they will act as a catalyst for change as women throughout the industry see a very visible group of active and successful fintech professionals who are helping to shape the strategic direction of their organizations. We need—and want—that communal component, but each event should also focus on providing actionable insight into how members of the group can most effectively mentor younger women interested in fintech, educate their organizations on how to successfully build a diverse team, and provide a platform for both personal and professional development.
I can't wait to see what we can achieve together. Join us at the next FemTechLeaders meeting on Tuesday, March 29th.