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Financial tech firms are falling behind on diversity

Women make up just 9% of board members at 50 of the top fintech businesses.

by Rebecca Smith
Last Updated: 22 Jan 2016

The UK’s finanical technology (or 'fintech') firms might be fuelling investors’ appetite for British tech companies but many of them have a common weakness.

Analysis by recruitment firm Astbury Marsden has found fintech firms aren’t too hot when it comes to diversity at the top. Looking at the representation at board level for FinTech City’s 50 firms within the sector (35 of which are UK-based), women occupied 9% of board seats.

‘Placing more emphasis on creating a broader spectrum of viewpoints at the top could benefit the industry in many ways. It’s not an issue fintech firms should ignore,' said Adam Jackson, the firm's MD. 

In 2015, 18% of directors at Silicon Roundabout’s tech firms were women – better than the fintech figure but still less than a fifth, which isn’t much to write home about. It might be a sign that targets like the government-backed one for 25% representation of women on FTSE 100 boards should be rolled out across specific sectors too.

Astbury Marsden found that 69% of the fintech boards of the businesses studied were entirely men, while FTSE 100 companies had no all-male boards. It's worth pointing out that the FTSE 100 isn’t a paragon of diversity – less than 10% of  executive directors were female at the last count. 

The tech sector often takes a battering when it comes to diversity perceptions – though giants like Google and Apple have taken to sharing the make-up of their workforce to show accountability for improving it and the incremental progress that is being made. It’s also worth noting that changes being undertaken that could have the most significant effect will take time – such as investment to increase the pipeline of women and minorities within the tech industry.

Comparing start-ups to bigger, established firms isn't going to yield wholly equivalent results. Nevertheless, a burgeoning sector like fintech – seemingly ahead of the curve in many respects, should, it’s fair to say, also be making an effort to move into the 21st century when it comes to diversity at the top.

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