Women at work: Ideas and insights to advance the female economy

In a world where the only constant is change and a time when it’s common to exclude, how will we shift the paradigm for people, markets and society?

From October 6-8, the Financial Alliance for Women brought together major players from the tech and financial services ecosystems for its virtual Annual Summit in partnership with Mastercard. Over the course of the three days, representatives from banks, fintechs, asset managers, governments and academia shared ideas and insights to advance the female economy in 2020 and beyond.

Our roaming reporter was in attendance. Here are some of her key takeaways and reflections.

Day one — Championing the female economy

The summit kicked off with an exclusive CEO roundtable, Championing the Female Economy: The New Normal. The group agreed that supporting women and women-owned businesses is one of the most important things we can do right now — for societies and economies.

“We have the opportunity to build better over the next two and a half years,” said Michael Miebach, Mastercard president and CEO-elect. “And not just build better, but build better with everybody in mind. The digital economy has to include women in a very different way than it has before.”

"We have the opportunity to build better ... The digital economy has to include women in a very different way than it has before.”
Michael Miebach, president and CEO-elect of Mastercard

[Read more about Mastercard’s commitment to include One Billion in the digital economy, including a direct focus on providing 25 million women entrepreneurs with solutions to grow their businesses.]

Elsewhere, Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, took to the virtual stage. “Let’s not try to change women,” she suggested. “Let’s build a company around what would motivate them and provide them the products, the services and the education — sort of like a financial wellness program — that will engage them just the way they are.”

Later, Ann Cairns, executive vice chair of Mastercard, chair of the Financial Alliance for Women and chair of the 30% Club, delivered a keynote address. “Everyone’s leadership here is really important because you are setting the aspirational goals that will empower the female economy,” she said. “I don’t have the magic recipe for shifting the paradigm, but I’ll share three things that I’ve seen work in the past and believe will work in the future: partnerships, aspirational goals, and fairness and transparency.”

Day two — Reimagining the fintech industry

Day two of the summit asked, How can fintechs profit from the female economy? Yosha Gupta, senior adviser at FinStep Asia, outlined the multi-trillion-dollar commercial opportunity: 64% of fintechs have found that female customers have similar or higher usage rates than men. She referenced a FinStep Asia report that offers insights and recommendations in six key areas to help drive more involvement.

The female economy is large, fast-growing and underserved — and fintechs are well-positioned to tap into it. So why aren’t they? Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, warned: “I personally believe that a lot of the financial service providers are unfamiliar with [the female] opportunity.”

"Women are economic drivers as well as beneficiaries of new business models in the internet economy.”
Virginia Tan, founding partner of Teja Ventures

“Finance is dominated by men, at all ends of the spectrum,” summarized Virginia Tan, founding partner of Teja Ventures, the first gender lens venture capital fund in emerging Asia. But women-owned companies can no longer be ignored. “Women are economic drivers as well as beneficiaries of new business models in the internet economy,” she said.

You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data. Later that morning, Mastercard's Chief Data Officer JoAnn Stonier led a discussion to unpack data biases as a fundamental driver of gender intelligent fintech. As artificial intelligence and machine learning becomes pervasive, companies need to watch out for underlying biases that could influence their decision making and product development.

Finally, Mastercard senior vice president Amy Neale offered Start Path’s perspective on female-economy-focused fintechs. “To impact the women’s market with products and solutions, we also need to support women entrepreneurs,” Neale said. "Our goal is to build an ecosystem of innovators and to design the best approach for corporate–start up engagement in the world."

Day three — The future of work

Inez Murray, CEO of the Financial Alliance for Women, opened the final day with a question: “If the future of work is here, what does it mean for women?” She offered a guide to how to become the employer of choice for women: plan and prepare before taking action to encourage an inclusive culture, but most importantly, “measure results and refine the strategy.”

“Having that rich, robust pipeline of female talent at all levels is ultimately what’s going to make getting women into the C-suite of financial services [part of the] everyday,” added Angela Berg, partner and global diversity, inclusion and engagement consulting leader at Mercer, a human resources consulting firm.

The afternoon’s conversation focused on the good and the bad of emerging trends as the pandemic reshapes work realities, and examined the risks and opportunities as we recalibrate gender-inclusion strategies to improve women’s futures at work.

"If we work together, have a vision, and be transparent about our progress, we can change the world."
Ann Cairns, executive vice chair of Mastercard

In her concluding remarks, Mastercard’s Cairns called the industry to action: “As we come out of COVID, we are going to be in a different era,” she said. “If we work together, have a vision and be transparent about our progress, we can change the world.”

Other Mastercard representatives who shared insights and ideas at the Summit included Chief Experience Officer Donald Chesnut; executive vice presidents Sue Kelsey and Sherri Haymond, and senior vice presidents Deborah Barta and Salah Goss.

Hayden Harrison, director, Creative Studio, Mastercard