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Technology

Female Leadership is Shaping the Italian FinTech Sector

iStock 1765239646 - Global Banking | Finance

Female Leadership is Shaping the Italian FinTech Sector

Picture104262024 - Global Banking | FinanceBy Clelia Tosi, Head of Fintech District

Catalysts for Progress: Paving the Way for Women’s Participation in FinTech

In the ever-evolving FinTech landscape, diversity emerges as a crucial catalyst for innovation and success. There is still considerable progress to be made, but the trend is clear: the number of FinTech companies led by women is increasing. Deloitte’s insights[1] further underscore this trend, pointing out three key areas of improvement: boosting female representation in the workforce, fostering more female founders, and rectifying gender imbalances in user demographics. This triad paints a picture of an industry historically skewed towards men. Yet, by proactively addressing these issues, the FinTech sector stands to become more dynamic, and reflective of diverse perspectives and talents.

Italy is at the forefront of levelling the playing field for females looking to enter the FinTech industry in Europe. According to EY Boardroom Monitor[2], Italy leads Europe with 47% female board representation in listed financial sector companies, surpassing France at 44% and Germany at 25%. The country’s progress in FinTech is also evidenced by the numbers from the Fintech District. Established in 2017, Fintech District is the international community’s point of reference for Italy’s FinTech and TechFin ecosystems. It acts as an ecosystem aggregator, fostering conditions for stakeholders (FinTech, financial institutions, corporate companies, professionals, institutions, and investors) to operate synergistically and find local and international growth opportunities. This hub exemplifies the country’s sector diversification, encompassing 290 entities, 23 of which are led by women, including 15 as CEOs. Although women leading FinTech companies in the community still do not reach 10% of the total, just a few years ago, they could be counted on one hand.

According to the annual survey of the Observatory for Female Entrepreneurship Unioncamere and Infocamere[3], while traditional sector businesses led by women declined by 6,000 units in 2022, there was a significant uptick in female representation across innovative sectors. Between 2022 and the first half of 2023, 2,000 new female-led businesses emerged, marking a 40% increase compared to the previous two years. This shift highlights the positive momentum towards achieving greater gender diversity in leadership roles in Italy.

Case Study on Female Leadership in Italy’s Fintech District: Shared Values and Economic Impact

Fintech District serves as a case study, where the 15 female CEOs are leading companies at the cutting edge of the financial technology revolution, setting a precedent for corporate culture and ethical leadership across the industry. Their firms are prominent within several sub-sectors such as AI, investments, digital payments, and InsurTech, with additional involvement in crowdfunding, digital banking, and financial education.

Fintech District conducted interviews with female entrepreneurs in their network to examine their leadership styles, discovering a variety of approaches that converge on common themes. The female founders emphasised the importance of collaborative and inclusive leadership, the value of empathetic team relationships and the need for every team member’s voice to be heard. Key leadership traits included effective communication, strong decision-making skills, and integrity. The interviews also revealed that these leaders also focus on meeting customer needs and advocate for a corporate culture that merges technology and empathy to cater to modern clients, thus building resilient teams adept at navigating the rapidly evolving FinTech industry.

To support Fintech District’s findings in Italy, on the international side, a BCG[4] report emphasised how teams under female leadership foster a positive work culture characterised by enhanced communication, collaboration, and receptiveness to learning. The report also notes how female entrepreneurs demonstrate better risk management by being less inclined to overestimate their track record. Additionally, organisations with a greater representation of women in leadership positions outperform male-dominated counterparts in terms of efficiently converting investment into revenue.

Ultimately, as highlighted by a recent McKinsey report[5], increasing female participation by 45% in high-tech fields across Europe could lead to a potential increase in GDP of up to €600 billion by 2027. This underscores the substantial, untapped potential of women in the development of robust business outcomes for the tech-driven economy. In Italy, companies such as Doorway, Wallife, and LITA.co, led by women within Fintech District Community, have successfully raised significant capital from domestic and international investors. Through these successes, FinTech firms can reap the financial rewards of their female-led ventures, while also sending a clear message to the wider industry on the economic fruits of female leadership.

Looking Forward

As the FinTech industry evolves, integrating female leadership becomes essential for driving innovation, fostering cross-sector collaboration, fuelling economic growth, and fortifying the financial ecosystem. Italy’s early success in building a gender-diverse FinTech ecosystem serves as a call to action for the broader FinTech community. More women in leadership roles create a virtuous cycle: they serve as role models and mentors, perpetuating empowerment and innovation. This not only benefits women but also enriches the industry by offering diverse perspectives, leading to improved decision-making and more inclusive financial products, thereby reaching a broader user base.

Additionally, highly qualified training and the development of tailored pathways for women become paramount. Initiatives such as the call for female speakers at the 2023 Milan Fintech Summit – Italy’s main annual event dedicated to the future of innovation in banking and financial services – along with the She Fintech free master’s program by Polimi Graduate School, are instrumental in driving progress.

Increasing female participation in Italy’s FinTech is not merely about boosting numbers; it is about recognising the profound impact these leaders have on innovation, corporate culture, and economic performance. Through persistent effort and strategic initiatives, Italy, alongside the support of Fintech District, aims to establish itself as a frontrunner in finance and technology, cultivating an ecosystem primed to address 21st-century challenges.

 

 

[1] ‘Deloitte – FinTech Has a Bigger Gender Problem than It Realises’.

[2] Sarah Graham, ‘EY – Female Appointments to European Financial Services Boardrooms Fell Year-on-Year in 2023’ (2024).

[3] ‘Unioncamere – Imprese Femminili: 6mila in Meno Nel 2022’ (2023)’.

[4] Matt Krentz and others, ‘BCG – Why Women-Owned Startups Are a Better Bet’ (2018).

[5] Sven Blumberg and others, ‘McKinsey – Women in Tech: The Best Bet to Solve Europe’s Talent Shortage’ (2023).

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