Xinja women:
taking it on, one industry at a time

Xinja women: taking it on, one industry at a time

In the recent blog by the Xinja Chair Lindley Edwards’ blog – asking ‘where are the women investors?’- she commented that “The road to understanding the gender pay gap is long and winding”. Nevertheless, at Xinja we feel a responsibility to unpack this topic a little further, if only to open up the discussion further (we’d love to hear your thoughts and have have set up a thread in our community forum where we’ve love it if you joined the conversation – please click here!). In this second article in our series of ‘Xinja Women’, we look at the relevance of particular vertical industries to the debate.

It really hit us in the gut when we looked at our crowdfunding data, only to discover that women were so poorly represented.

So why ‘Xinja women’?

Xinja is unusual for a fintech company; not only are 50% of employees women, but the Chair of the board, and over 50% of the executive are too. As women make up about 50% of the population, this should be pretty normal, right? Well, no. The national figures (according to the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) in late 2016) of women in key management roles are dismal at 28%. And it really hit us in the gut when we looked at our crowdfunding data, only to discover that women were so poorly represented. As Lindley said in her blog, for every dollar invested by women, there were 6 invested by men. Do we care about this? You bet we do.

What’s industry got to do with it?

The gender pay gap is not so much women being paid less for the same job as men but has a lot to do with the fact that industries are segregated along gender lines, where women are typically employed in the lower paid roles OR the industries dominated by women have typically lower wages. As economics expert Dr. Liz Hill (Chair of the Department of Political Economy at Sydney Uni) explains in this interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, in Australia, women are grouped together in lower returns industries and roles, while men dominate in higher returns industries and roles. Although the exact figures are contested, as Bianca Hartge-Hazelman explained in this excellent summary in Mamamia last year, we can estimate that the gender pay gap is on average between 15.4% and 23.1% (when things like workplace bonuses and allowances are included). The numbers between industries vary. In tech, according to Business Insider, the gap widens to about 20%, and in finance, according to the WGEA to 26%. Again, a lot of this can be put down to women in those companies filling lower paid positions. But in the case of technology, there are also simply less women than men.

“women are at risk of losing out on tomorrow’s best job opportunities.”- Industry Gender Pay Gap Report

Technology hasn’t always been male dominated:

Since our last blog, legislation has come into effect requiring larger UK companies to publish their own gender pay gap details. Starling – a neobank in the UK – published ahead, with CEO Anne Boden reflecting on this piece of legislation, and her tech career in her blog post ‘Mind the Pay Gap’. Her main point is that technology wasn’t so unequal when she started in in the 80s, as Emily Peck substantiates in this piece in the Huff Po. Professor Dame Wendy Hall, director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton, also explains this further in The Guardian, pointing out that “women were turned off computing in the 80s… Computers were sold as toys for the boys. Somehow that cultural stigma has stuck in the west.” This is not great news – as the “Industry Gender Gap Report” states:

“If ….. labour market transformation towards new and emerging roles in computer, technology and engineering-related fields continues to outpace the rate at which women are currently entering those types of jobs, women are at risk of losing out on tomorrow’s best job opportunities.”

“while only 16% of the computer science undergraduates in the UK are female, the balance is different in India, Malaysia and Nigeria”- Dame Wendy Hall, University of Southampton

….And technology needn’t be male dominated now:

There are some who think that the domination of men in tech arise from an innate biological ability. Last year at Google, a senior software engineer was fired for claiming that “the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes, and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech”. There are no credible sources for this claim. And as Professor Wendy Hall points out, if biological differences were behind men dominating tech, we wouldn’t see such a wide variation in gender ratios in computing internationally: “while only 16% of the computer science undergraduates in the UK are female, the balance is different in India, Malaysia and Nigeria”. The balance in India, Malaysia, and Nigeria is equal, and sometimes skewed in favour of women.

The question is, will we be able to maintain our own gender balance? How do we make sure we do?

So what can we do?

Part of fixing this problem has to lie with recruitment. And we don’t mean positive discrimination. The balance at Xinja was achieved strictly by hiring the best person for the job. Employing more women in tech and finance to foster a gender balance is a sure way to ensure that your company is not creating a workplace culture that contributes to the above statistics, as Liza Mundy for ‘The Atlantic’ eloquently explains. There are numerous guidelines and organisations that are available to utilise – although many are US centric – the tips are still relevant. In Australia, the issue and solution in regards to recruitment is being trialled by the Victorian Government in a partnership with public and private sector organisations. ‘Recruit Smarter’ works by de-identifying applications and is being piloted to attempt to curb the unconscious bias we all have about just who will be the right person for the job. Instead, only qualifications and experience will be assessed. As Xinja grows, as a fintech company we will be hiring a lot more software developers. The question is, will we be able to maintain our own gender balance? How do we make sure we do?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please feel welcome to participate in our online community forum here with contributions, gripes, and any personal stories you would like to share. We acknowledge that this is a vast and complex topic, and industry is only one aspect. So watch out for further articles in the Xinja Women series in coming weeks.

Camilla Cooke is Chief Marketing Officer at Xinja.

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