Although the past decade has seen a considerable change in the number of women working in the FinTech industry, it is still one of the most male-dominated sectors, with a mere 23% of the UK’s Fintech workforce being female. In light of this, there has been an urgent call for industry-wide efforts to ensure greater opportunities for women to hold leadership positions, develop company and industry policy, and create products that are diverse and inclusive.
A critical component to forging this reality is the access to educational material regarding the different areas within the industry, the jobs on offer and who can undertake them, and why an increased female presence will only drive the industry to new heights. This will be accompanied by an emboldened discourse tackling the doubts, the concerns, and the falsehoods surrounding the FinTech sector.
add-victor had the great pleasure of sitting down with Hannah Knight, Yale senior and varsity IV Stroke, as she sets her sights on this spring’s NCAA Championships and her following FinTech internship. Having studied Applied Mathematics and with a keen interest in finance the opportunity to work within FinTech felt like a particularly harmonious combination of the two disciplines.
What drove you to study applied mathematics?
I selected applied mathematics as a major because I enjoy the power and precision of quantitative analysis and I aspire to a career where I can utilize those skills every day. My passion lies in data analysis as it is relevant in a wide range of fields and requires a unique way of thinking.
What do you enjoy most about that field of study?
I enjoy the versatility of mathematics as you can draw connections from seemingly separate fields. Even more than that, I enjoy using insights gained from those connections to solve new problems.
How do you think it ties into finance?
Finance is an inherently quantitative field that involves a significant amount of data analysis to begin to understand how it works. Additionally, since it is so complex, being able to draw upon trends and insights previously found in other fields is key to coming up with creative solutions to questions or problems that are raised in the area.
How do you think your sporting experience has enabled you to be successful in applied mathematics?
Mathematics is a tough field. Like rowing, it requires persistence, composure, and thorough work. In order to achieve optimal results in rowing, you have to train effectively and intelligently with intent. The same is true with mathematics. Being able to be focused and solve a difficult problem requires the same skills as executing a race when the time comes. The skills and the tools built through training or learning are there; you must figure out how to piece them together.
What do you think is a common misconception about that subject area?
I think people often see math or someone involved in math and assume that it is chaotic and doesn’t make sense when, really, it is just problem solving. I find that most things in math have logical explanations and once you are able to make sense of various aspects of them, you begin to understand how they connect and you can appreciate the order in what seems to be chaos.
–There is still a great deal of work required to address the future digital skills gap which is estimated to grow to 2 million by 2020. The industry itself needs a diverse environment to tackle the gender gap in FinTech, which can be achieved through a number of efforts. Sophie Bialaszewski, head of Innovation Culture & Events at Lloyds Banking Group, proposes this can be in the form of “addressing unconscious bias in CV scanning and interviews, building a grass-root infrastructure designed to educate young people about the opportunities for females in FinTech, and finding the best places to advertise jobs to attract a more diverse audience.”–
Do you feel there is a disproportional ratio between women and men in mathematics?
All it takes is one look around any mathematics class and that becomes very clear.
Why do you believe this to be?
There are definitely a lot of factors that contribute to the disparity. Part of it is that people often decide their majors and their classes by what they feel good at. For many women, growing up being spoken over and belittled in classrooms, especially in mathematics, can make them feel as though they aren’t capable enough of pursuing a major like math. I also think that this disparity is definitely decreasing, but it takes time for something like this to truly go away.
How would you encourage others to consider studying mathematics?
I would encourage taking any math classes that you can or looking on the internet for resources. Mathematics can be a really hard and frustrating subject, but once you begin to understand different parts of it, it becomes very rewarding and engaging, so I would suggest sticking with it for a while. I also think being aware of how applicable math really is and how it surrounds us every day is an important component to getting people to consider studying it. I know for me, at least, I did not think math was relevant growing up because the only problems we did had to do with Johnny and his 472 bottles of dish soap. I only began enjoying it later.
Looking ahead to your summer internship, why did the FinTech sector interest you most?
I had been wavering between my desire to pursue tech or data science and my desire to explore the world of finance, so the FinTech sector, encompasses both of those, seemed like the ideal fit.
Where do you see the FinTech sector in five-years time?
I think the FinTech sector will grow significantly in the next five years. Our world today is surrounded by technology and finance is one of the last areas to embrace it, so there’s a lot of room to expand and create.
What are you most excited about with this internship?
I’m excited to start using what I’ve been learning at university in the context of finance and to working closely with everyone at the company. I am also excited to be immersed in the world of finance and understand more about it.
And finally, what is your advice for aspiring women who want to build a career in finance & technology?
Just keep at it. It’s not an easy field, but it is definitely worth it and women are no less capable of excelling than anyone else. Most importantly, women shouldn’t be afraid to speak up with their ideas.