Long before the Finance industry and the Tech industry gave birth to FinTech, there has been a failure to attract and retain diverse employees.
Recent studies by McKinsey have shown that “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Companies
in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
Further, though studies have shown that women outperform men at investing, only 23% of financial planners are women. Across the tech industry, only 12% of engineers are female.
An executive survey by Korn Ferry showed that to be successful in developing women and diverse employees, companies must focus not only on attracting them to the company, but must be diligent about retaining them. In an example, the consulting firm worked with a global company to increase the percentage of women and people of color in executive ranks. To do this, women were paired with managers to build relationships while discussing challenges and opportunities for advancement. This kind of mentorship led to the number of women of color in the executive ranks doubling in four years, from 60 to 120.
In an oft-cited study, Sun Microsystems analyzed data from its mentoring programs from 1996 to 2009. The study concluded that the return on investment from their mentoring program exceeded 1,000%. In another study of its mentoring program, the company found that the benefits of such programs are not specific to mentees, but have great benefits for mentors as well. They found that retention rates increased from 49% to 69% and 72% for mentors and mentees respectively. The improved retention rates translated into $6.7 million in savings. Mentors and mentees both saw increases in their salaries, compared to employees who were not involved in the mentorship program.
Many studies have been done since these first indicator showed the benefits of mentorship to both individuals and companies, and the findings are confirmed time and again. Mentorship works. It helps retain and develop junior employees, opening doors and teaching new skills.
Tonya Flickinger and Christine Poulon, Cofounders at Blispay, a FinTech company based in Baltimore, admit they did not have any female mentors as they grew in their careers, but aim to change the narrative for the next generation.
The duo have established an organization within the company, called “The Ladies of Blispay,” where senior and junior employees have lunch and talk about topics of interest. Before long, they decided to open the group to men at the company as well.
“It’s a really big deal to us because we’d like to help the next generation of leaders be different, and that includes the men,” said Poulon.
Poulon goes on to remember a story at a previous job where her boss gave her feedback that she needed to be “less intimidating.” After talking to each of her colleagues in an effort to implement her directive, she realized none of the men had ever been given similar feedback around being emotional.
“It was my first experience being given feedback that was specific to being a woman. My boss was a woman, so it made me wonder if we as women have certain biases. And am I doing this to other women with my behavior? It had an impact on me, and made me feel strongly about how I’m viewed as a role model. The way I behave toward other women is really important,” she said.
There can be a perception of difficulty in rising through the ranks of executive leadership. When Flickinger got to the point in her career where she pursued leadership roles, she began looking around for examples of female leaders in the industry with families who were making it work. Noting that she could not find any in her immediate environment, she turned to public figures like Sheryl Sandberg.
“I was lucky enough to have great male role models who had young families,” Flickinger mentions, “I was able to talk to them, and even if they couldn’t totally relate, they tried to.”
Blispay, venture-backed and founded in 2014, had its first employee return from maternity leave last year. The team decided to give up a conference room in their small office so she could have a mother’s room.
The duo are aware that they have a responsibility to the next generation to level the playing field. “We need to be in the annual meetings telling them to put the salary list on the board and sort by gender,” says Flickinger,
“It’s not about the buzzword. It makes good business sense.”