Fintech, just like traditional finance, is typically viewed as a male-dominated industry where women struggle for recognition, particularly as leaders and influential voices. But in today’s brave new world, does this narrative still stand up?
Finance has seen huge disruption since the arrival of digital assets. Yes, over the last couple of years, certain major failures have compromised crypto’s reputation, but we can say with confidence that crypto and digital assets are here to stay. While regulation is considered the main driver for mass adoption of crypto, it’s also the biggest inhibitor. Education plays a big part here, which arises from ongoing dialogue between regulators and industry leaders.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the goal of these new technologies is to push the boundaries of finance, while inclusivity and collaboration have become buzzwords in fintech’s evolution.
In this scenario, then, is it fair to say that women in the industry remain disadvantaged?
As a female entrepreneur myself, I am a vocal ambassador of focusing on women’s professional strengths, rather than debating on whether they are discriminated against or underrepresented.
In my view the narrative of the male-dominated finance and crypto/digital assets world comes from an erroneous perspective: with this mindset, we’re already starting at a negative. Women are all very different in the same way that men are. Valuable differences should not be used as an excuse to draw gender-based judgements. What people bring to the table as individuals is what matters, along with how they collaborate to achieve goals and deliver results. Personal background, personality and experience combine to forge unique expertise and skill sets.
Let’s focus on what’s being done and what individuals can do regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation.
How can we combine our unique strengths to bring about change in fintech and crypto: a sector is still in its infancy where there is a lot of work to be done by both government and leaders to innovate to serve the next generation?
Let’s shift the perspective and start to talk about collaboration and how together we can create value and make an impact. The debate is not about female power, it is about the impact that any of us can make to the crypto industry to move it forward in the right direction.
Sophia Shluger – Chief Commercial Officer, PV01
“I have been working in crypto since 2021 and entered the industry very serendipitously through a former hedge fund client that introduced me to Amber Group, where I was Managing Director responsible for international expansion in Europe for 14 and a half months. I have over 15 years of traditional finance experience and started my career at Goldman Sachs in New York. I’ve worked across both private and public asset classes, so I have been able to see both sides of capital markets,” says Sophia about her entry into the world of fintech. Sophia is currently Chief Commercial Officer at PV01, whose mission is to build and operate a debt capital market on which a healthy digital asset ecosystem can thrive.
“What blockchain really comes down to is the continued digitisation of the financial services industry. It’s about using blockchain or distributed ledger technology or to make process efficiency improvements, improve transaction transparency, reduce costs and remove non-value-added intermediaries –that is revolutionary compared to the existing transaction rails. According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), asset tokenisation is, unsurprisingly, estimated to become a $16 trillion industry by 2030 (a significant increase from the $310bn last year). The benefits of tokenising assets are numerous in terms of unlocking liquidity, improving affordability and access to investors, as well as leveraging the tokens themselves for wider use cases such as yielding collateral. At PV01, we provide a novel and secure way for issuers to access capital and for investors to purchase high-quality debt, all while staying on-chain, thereby extending those aforementioned benefits to all our collaborators”
Leadership is about collaboration and inspiring others to do their best work, regardless of gender or race. What’s unique and remarkable about the crypto industry is its thrustless and decentralised ethos: that culture, with a genuine passion to make impact and revolutionise the finance industry for the better, is a formidable combination. Finance specialist professionals and industry experts have historically been male dominated, but not exclusively, and circumstances are changing.
“I’ve had a very positive experience in my blockchain career thus far. That lends itself to the fact that the industry is still fairly small, and we are all collaborating to solve different yet important problems around scalability, decentralisation and security. Both of my supervisors in blockchain (past and present) are female, and they sponsored and championed me in
my respective roles. I have also been fortunate to work with male colleagues with very diverse skill sets, such as programming. Scaling blockchain for the world must be collaborative – we have to work together using our complementary skill sets to create a world that is relevant for everyone. I find that working in blockchain is a breath of fresh air compared with the traditional financial markets, where organisations tend to be more hierarchical and the impact can be less meaningful, but ultimately it comes down to the company you work for and the culture they promote.”
When it comes to mainstream crypto adoption, the main driver and inhibitor is one and the same: clear laws and regulations, and their clear application particularly in the US, where regulators continue debating their powers. While the full extent of the legal framework is yet to be defined, the ongoing discussion has been encouraging.
About drivers for mass adoption Sophia agrees on the importance of regulation…
“Regulatory clarity and best standards of practice means being able to build businesses and solutions for the benefit of society that are in line with our existing legal frameworks. This comes from policymakers, but we can help develop these new policies by working directly with those decision makers. We also need more education and less negative media hype – most individuals don’t understand the ‘so what’ on blockchain and crypto. They understand firstly that it’s an asset class, but it’s so much more than that.”
“I’d love to see more women and minorities make the transition into our industry, so that we create a truly diverse industry that’s representative of the people it should and will serve. The data is proof of that. According to the Harvard Business Review*, women scored higher than men in 17 out of 19 desirable leadership traits, and data shows that more inclusiveness makes for improved results and better workplaces,” adds Sophia.
“The data is supportive of the idea that diverse and inclusive organisations perform better. For example, according to research by Deloitte, each woman added to the C-suite had a multiplier effect of 2.9, leading to three more women being added to senior leadership, which is very powerful. Yet in some places such as the UK, only a quarter of these roles are occupied by women. So, there is an addressable gap. The question is, how do we fill that? The issue is attracting the right talent to the industry and retaining that talent, but we can only do so by showcasing through recruitment activities that their contributions will be valued” says Sophia.
“My advice to interested candidates is to do your due diligence. Find the right organisations where your unique skillset and experience will be valued and where you will have mentorship opportunities. In the crypto and blockchain industry, there are many women and diversity networking groups eager to help. As I reflect upon my career, I really couldn’t ask for a better place to be.”
What will drive this industry forward is regulatory clarity and active engagement with builders in the blockchain ecosystem. Regulators need to understand what we’re building and why. The only way forward is to come together, understand opportunities and incentivise organisations to build the right solutions for an inclusive future that belongs to all.