The western world is nearing the end of Pride Month, a period dedicated to developing equality for the LGBTQ community.
However, the continued fight for diversity in the workplace remains a priority for many throughout the year.
The financial services sector, for years the majority domain of straight white males, is starting to see change.
According to a recent report conducted by Deloitte, 80% of respondents who identified as LGBTQ said their workplace had introduced inclusion initiatives, 95% of which believed they had directly contributed to support throughout the organization.
Despite this, there is still work to be done. The same report found that 42% of LGBTQ employees had experienced non-inclusive behavior, including jokes, comments, and unwanted physical contact.
The issue is deep-rooted, but it seems the initiatives implemented by companies do make a difference. In Deloitte’s report, 93% of respondents who work within organizations with a global reach also believe that organization-level communications and actions around LGBTQ inclusion translate into meaningful support in their home countries.
Many believe fintech is a driving force for change within this positive development. During an Innovate Finance webinar, the mutual opportunities for the evolution of LGBTQ inclusion and the fintech industry were discussed.
“Fintech is all about innovation,” said Iain Anderson, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Cicero/AMO, Board member at Innovate Finance, and former HM Government LGBTQ Business Champion. “The reason we’ve got the sector is that the existing players who’ve been around for years were innovating. We have a huge opportunity for the sector, people want to work here to be innovative- let’s run with it and foster an industry-wide inclusive culture.”
Lack of representation in workforce can exclude customers
McKinsey reported in 2020 that although academic studies had found a global improvement in LGBTQIA+ representation within the workforce, the workplace was still far from diverse. Women who identified as LGBTQ were one of the groups worst affected. Their representation showed significantly lower than the average demographic and reduced further in higher-level positions.
For gender-diverse people, the issue is critical, with many reporting themselves as “an only” within the workplace. It was found that people who identified as trans also found higher barriers to entry, 53% believing it to be due to their gender.
“We have made some progress, but there is still a long way to go,” said Patricia Magaña, CCO of Maricoin, in an interview with Fintech Nexus.
“There are many problems for trans people or people in the process of transition to find and develop a decent career. Fortunately, there are numerous associations and organizations that work daily to alleviate these problems.” Maricoin is a cryptocurrency that supports global LGBTQ rights and many of these organizations.
“Diversity only brings richness,” she continued. “Feeding on the ideas and opinions of people who think differently and who see things from another perspective only enriches any project.”
Many see improved diversity as key to development within fintech, as it brings a variety of outlooks and backgrounds which can better work to serve a broader customer base.
“If somebody is left out of the room, it means a customer is left out of the room,” said Louise Smith, Chair at Innovate Finance. “The check is, do you fully mirror your customer base? Because if you don’t, some of those customers are left out.”
“How do we ensure that we don’t leave those vulnerable customers, those diverse customers behind. It’s the full sense of diversity and inclusion. So diversity with a voice, and it’s important to listen to that voice so that you bring it to the table. And I think the fintech community has so much opportunity in this.”
ESGs could be key
Environmental Social Governance (ESG) scores are widely reported in the context of climate change; however, they also assess many facets of the work culture in the context of social factors. For Anderson, they may be critical for change regarding LGBTQIA+ diversity.
“I think the ESG agenda really is a way of locking in long term, the diversity, and inclusion agenda because companies are looking for how their social commitments could and should shape up.”
“Just being out at work is really important for colleagues and other LGBTQ folks working with you. If they can see you, you can do things together. One of the most powerful things I’m taking a lot from is mentoring folks and then also being mentored myself. It’s incredibly powerful and unlocks lots of opportunities.”
Many companies have implemented Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), upholding initiatives of mentorship and allyship within the workplace, which met with a positive response. According to Deloitte’s survey, over 90% of those respondents whose employers have ERGs reported that the group helps them feel comfortable being out at work.
Still, there’s work to do
“I think we should acknowledge progress. And that’s good. But there are also some worrying signals,” said Smith. “There’s a lot more to do. And I say that, not just about this fintech community, but also in its broadest sense.”
Smith shared her concerns about a recent trend where rights of particular groups were being re-assessed and, in some cases, taken away. She acknowledged that society had made significant progress; however, there must be a continued focus if advancements in creating equal human rights remain.
“I feel we have to talk about these things and admit when we are worried. As leaders in organizations, it’s important. Half the challenge is opening up the conversation and recognizing that different people will respond to that differently, not one size fits all.”
“You’ve got to keep at it to create change. And you’ve got to keep pushing through. You’ve got to create a resilient, flexible, adaptable, responsive workforce to move through this.”
“I have a challenge for fintech,” she continued. “You are the innovators, the dynamic firms making a change. Please check on your cultures as you scale and grow. It’s vitally important.”
Isabelle is a journalist for Fintech Nexus News and leads the Fintech Coffee Break podcast.
Isabelle's interest in fintech comes from a yearning to understand society's rapid digitalization and its potential, a topic she has often addressed during her academic pursuits and journalistic career.