5 minute read 17 Apr 2023
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How to champion equality and career progression for women in FinTech

By Anita Kimber

EY EMEIA Business Transformation Leader

Open banking champion. Passionate about facilitating better customer experiences through innovation and creativity. Dedicated to building a better working world.

5 minute read 17 Apr 2023

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The EY and Innovate Finance research highlights key actions for promoting gender equality and a more diverse and inclusive FinTech sector.

In brief
  • The second annual report from the EY organisation and Innovate Finance is focused on individual and collective action to move the needle on gender equality. 
  • Though it presents challenges, more detailed reporting is critical to addressing the persistent gender pay gap, even at firms with fewer than 250 employees. 
  • More visible female leaders and more diverse talent will help the FinTech sector to innovate, boost profitability and realise its full growth potential. 

EY teams and Innovate Finance are delighted to have collaborated again on research promoting the cause of gender equality in the UK FinTech industry. We have been inspired by the energy for change and the commitment to achieving fairness that we see from FinTech leaders and stakeholders. 

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  • Download the report: From glass ceiling to open doors: championing equality and career progression for women in FinTech

The UK FinTech sector has distinguished itself by its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and to creating a more accessible financial services system that works for everyone. However, living up to that vision requires the industry to consider if it is truly equitable and welcoming for all. Certainly, a more diverse workforce can help FinTechs innovate by providing a broader range of perspectives to identify opportunities and create solutions for all types of customers. 

Our latest research shows that gender inequality and unfair treatment of women remain far too prevalent, as evidenced by a significant gender pay gap, persistent barriers to career progression, a lack of investment in female founders and a lack of visibility among female leaders.  The research showed that 27% of women cited lack of recognition of their contribution and 25% cited lack of transparency in promotion and progression.¹

One of the key measurements for equality in workplace is the gender pay gap – our latest research looks deep into the pay gap and the causes. In the UK, only companies with over 250 full time employees are required to report their gender pay gap. Out of the UK’s most funded  FinTech companies – a figure of almost 300 –  this equates to just 17. In those 17 companies, on average the gender pay gap is at 22%. Of the women we interviewed, 17% said an enforced reduction of the gender pay gap is a key way to help improve gender equality within the FinTech landscape.²

As with last year’s report on “why gender diversity and equality matter to UK FinTechs”,³ our objective this year was to understand how well the industry serves female talent and how it’s advancing towards the goal of gender equality. This year’s focus is on recommending actions for achieving fair treatment for women across the industry by reducing the gender pay gap and breaking down barriers to career progression and increased visibility. Indeed, the recommendations highlighted below come directly from a February 2023 workshop we conducted with nominees to Innovate Finance’s Women in FinTech Powerlist,⁴ as well as our months long research. 

  • About the research

    The figures and quotes in the report reflect the input received from research participants over the course of seven months, including a workshop event held in February 2023. The research was predominantly qualitative. The workshop was conducted in February 2023 by EY teams and EY Seren to explore the findings uncovered by desk-based research over the course of the first five months of the study and aimed to generate a set of actionable recommendations. 

    Additionally, we asked 120 women who applied for the Innovate Finance Women in FinTech Powerlist.

    We created a set of actions that could be implemented by participants quickly, as well as some longer-term, structural change recommendations. Participants were drawn from direct invitations and represented FinTechs of all sizes, as well as incumbent financial institutions and investors.

Where the FinTech industry is today

Our research demonstrates that the UK FinTech industry has work do to achieve gender equality to enable career progression for women and address a significant gender pay gap.  First and foremost, UK FinTechs are less gender-diverse than the broader financial services sector, with women making up 28% of the FinTech workforce compared to 44% in financial services at large.⁵ When looking at leadership, that disparity is even more pronounced – today, women hold only around 10% of all FinTech board seats and represent less than 20% of company executives. Only 40% of FinTechs have appointed a woman to their boards.⁶ This gap is massive and unsustainable, especially for an industry that needs to attract talent and wants to create a more inclusive financial services system.

Source: Ethnic diversity in UK fintech - Tech Nation⁷


Proportion of UK FinTech workforce that is female

Source: Ethnic diversity in UK fintech - Tech Nation⁸


Proportion of UK financial services workforce is female

In our workshop, many of the women we interviewed said they joined FinTechs because they wanted to improve the financial services industry. A significant portion cited increased inclusion and better experiences for traditionally marginalised and disadvantaged groups. Faster-paced environments and richer opportunities were amongst the driving factors for some women, while others migrated from related fields, including technology and traditional financial services.

I like feeling like I'm helping people to build for their future, with interesting products that appeal to the masses.
Women in FinTech workshop participant

Of course, the troubling gender pay gap remains a key issue for the industry and for attracting talent. The UK’s gender pay gap stands at 14.9% across all industries, according to the UK Office of National Statistics. From our research, we estimate the FinTech gender pay gap to be approximately 22%, though limited public reporting makes it difficult to make precise estimates.⁹ 

Source: EY analysis


Estimated gender pay gap for women in the UK FinTech sector

More equitable compensation will help FinTechs improve their access to female talent, which is critical to finding the right people, with the right skill sets and diverse thinking to help their businesses succeed. 

When it comes to actionable steps for reducing the pay gap, more extensive and transparent reporting must be a part of the solution. Our survey found that “enforced reduction of the gender pay gap” was one of the top ways the industry could improve its gender DEI.

Currently, the UK Government mandates that all businesses with 250 full-time employees report the percentage of men and women in each hourly pay quarter, the mean and median gender pay gaps using hourly pay, and the same stats for bonuses.¹⁰  Most UK FinTechs have fewer than 250 employees. But given that authorities are considering lowering the threshold to 150 or even 50 employees, we believe firms should begin gathering the data they need to report.  

Whilst we recognise the many challenges to reporting – data protection concerns, cost for smaller companies, fear of bad press – we support expanded reporting by FinTechs of all sizes. Through increased transparency, firms can contribute to increased gender equality, strengthen their cultures and improve their access to the top talent. 

Breaking down barriers to career progression and visibility

Advancing the cause of gender equality requires FinTechs and other industry stakeholders to identify and navigate the considerable barriers to equal opportunity. The objectives must be to open up new pathways to career progression and raise the visibility of women throughout the industry. These won’t be easy tasks, but many of the women who participated in our workshop are determined to make it happen.  

When we asked Innovate Finance Women in FinTech Powerlist nominees to select the biggest obstacles they’d faced as a woman, “lack of recognition for my contribution” and “non-transparent promotion and progression process” were the top two answers, far ahead of “discrimination” and “unavailable promotions.”

In a-male dominated industry, it is difficult for women to be taken seriously. And when it comes to FinTech, it seems that women are perceived to be technologically challenged.
Women in FinTech workshop participant

Limited recognition and unclear criteria for promotion result in a lack of visible women leaders in the sector. There are relatively few influential females at the top of the industry and in the start-up ecosystem generally. In our examination of the Twitter accounts with the largest followings in the industry – typically associated with angel investors and general partners at venture capital funds – we found that the vast majority are operated by men. Women who are featured on start-ups’ lists of “Twitter accounts to follow” have on average fewer followers than their male counterparts and tweet less frequently. 

That distinction also applies to conferences and other events. We have observed that at most industry events, women represent no more than 15-25% of speakers and panellists. Raising the visibility of leaders in such venues can help attract more younger women to the sector and provide role models for women already working in the sector.¹¹

Recommendations to support women in FinTech going forward

It’s clearly time to level the playing field for women in FinTech. There are a range of actions for FinTechs and other industry stakeholders to raise the profile of female leaders and create more accessible paths for career advancement. Female leaders themselves should take advantage of opportunities and raise their hands to present and participate in industry events, calling attention to the issues of gender equality when they do. Among the steps they can take are:  

  • Hold leaders accountable to DEI targets that are directly incorporated into performance metrics and incentive compensation packages and raised during annual reviews to increase transparency around pay, promotion and hiring practices and policies.
  • Create a diverse network of advisors to support female founders and other leaders, including females with significant experience and who may have previously been overlooked for such roles. A trade body could potentially help create the network. 
  • Even if pay gap reporting is not mandatory, report internally to be aware of gaps and inconsistencies in salaries which also will increase transparency. 
  • Establish upskilling programmes for current female employees interested in technology roles, especially women returning from career breaks to ensure inclusion and retain diverse talent. 
  • Establish policies and targeted programmes to retain female leaders and high-potential female employees to continually expand the presence of women at the senior ranks of individual firms and across the industry.
  • Support industry efforts and formalise commitments to foster diversity – such as the EY-sponsored pledge12 to maintain diverse advisory boards, the EQL:HER pledge13 to support founders and entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds, the FinTech for All charter14 to promote diversity and inclusion and the Women in Finance charter15 sponsored by the UK Government.
  • Provide media training and other support for female leaders seeking to establish themselves in the industry to help increase their visibility through appearing in the press or speaking at events. 
  • Create a similar list of females qualified to serve as board members and share the list with key industry stakeholders so that candidates can be sourced beyond male-dominated networks. 

The views of third parties set out in this publication are not necessarily the views of the global EY organisation or its member firms. Moreover, they should be seen in the context of the time they were made.

Contributors towards the article and report.
Tom Wicka, Director, FinTech, Ernst & Young LLP, Tanya Thourani, Manager, FinTech, Ernst & Young LLP, Adam Amos, Senior Manager, EY Seren, Katja Palovaara, Manager, FinTech, Ernst & Young LLP , Ellie Marsh, Consultant, FinTech, Ernst & Young LLP


The success of industry provides a great head start for the ongoing journey to gender equality and future growth. Treating women fairly, removing barriers to career progression and boosting diversity overall are essential for a sector that aims to promote a more inclusive financial system that serves everyone. These are not just the right things to do for society, but also the right things to do to build a more innovative and profitable FinTech industry. 

About this article

By Anita Kimber

EY EMEIA Business Transformation Leader

Open banking champion. Passionate about facilitating better customer experiences through innovation and creativity. Dedicated to building a better working world.