International Women’s Day: How the banking and payments industry can embrace ‘DigitALL’
The critical role of women in computer science has arguably been under reported throughout history. From Ada Lovelace – who developed the first computer software – to Margaret Hamilton leading the development of the software for the lunar landings, their impact has been transformative in digitised evolution.
And while there is still work to be done to encourage more females in tech, there are hopeful signs for the future. For example, only recently did the Chartered Institute for IT, BCS, report a record number of women were now studying technology roles, with computing degrees seeing a 23% growth in accepted applications from women since 2019.
This year, International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrates women in technology. The 2023 theme ‘DigitALL’ is addressing the digital gender gap on widening economic and social inequalities and recognising the women and girls championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.
As a sector in the midst of its own digital transformation, the banking and payments industry has an important role to play in helping close the gender equality gap. In recognition of IWD – and to celebrate the women championing digital at Icon – we speak to Sirin Sevinc, Head of IPF Solution Architecture, and Tamsin Crossland, Principal Architect, about what ‘DigitalALL’ means to them, and the banking and payments industry as a whole.
Sirin Sevinc, Head of IPF Solution Architecture
The significance of this year’s IWD
Initiatives like ‘DigitalALL’ help communicate the challenges, raise awareness and unite society to define principles and best practices that can create more innovative and, importantly, inclusive solutions. It’s vital to share with the world what women can achieve when they are given equal opportunities. This year’s theme in particular is an important milestone in empowering women and achieving gender equality in IT.
My advice for women and girls pursuing a career in IT? Skills can be learned, and gender is irrelevant so don’t give up on the ideas you believe can make a difference, and don’t hesitate to share your voice. It’s an exciting time to join our industry, and it’s promising to know that we’ll be joined by more female colleagues in not only IT roles, but also working across banking and payments domains.
More women in technology can expand the opportunities for a more inclusive digital society
Women are still disadvantaged when it comes to access to education in many parts of the world. And when it comes to access to technology, the gender divide continues. Even today, digital products and services are produced with only a single mindset considered. Including more women in technology creates opportunities to reach and benefit more areas of society. In a complex domain like banking and payments, diversity can facilitate innovation and collaboration – both of which are key to enabling the evolution of more customer-focused digital products and services.
Successful digital transformation is as much about a change in culture as it is about technology and processes
Banks and financial institutions are already feeling the risks of being a commodity business, alongside the pressure to keep pace with the high demands of being ‘real-time’ and available 24/7. As a result, we are seeing many more digital transformation and process improvements projects. Several banks are already shifting their strategy to avoid vendor lock-in and take back control, but it takes time. It requires not just investments in changing technology and processes, but a shift in culture and mindset.
I firmly believe innovation in technology increases dramatically with diversity and Icon is one of the unique companies I’ve worked for that truly understands this. We have women working across all areas – from designing solutions and leading critical projects to engineering highly efficient products and being subject-matter experts in payments and banking.
Tamsin Crossland, Principal Architect
The shift towards digital banking presents an opportunity to address the barriers women have faced in gaining access to financial services
Recent history shows a shameful record of women being denied access to basic financial services. In the 1970s for example, women were being refused finance if they did not supply a male guarantor. I can remember my mother understandably angry with her bank when they refused to put her name on a joint account with my father. The justification? The IT system didn’t allow it. When IT departments are predominantly male, the woman’s perspective won’t be considered.
And even now, approximately 1 billion women around the world are still being denied access to financial services. Rectifying the gender equality problem isn’t just morally the ‘right thing to do’, it can actually benefit the global economy, potentially adding $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. To address the prejudices that women have encountered, we need more women in senior positions. Yet only 21% of board seats are held by women in financial services. If we want to develop digital banking services that cater to all of humanity’s requirements, this needs to be addressed.
If we are going to develop technologies that benefit women, we need more women to work on developing digital technology
There’s so much about digital technology that’s exciting. IWD highlights the need to ensure that this technology doesn’t amplify prejudices that have existed throughout history. For example, when AI systems are used to help with recruitment, they shouldn’t inherit the bias that has previously existed. When AI systems are part of the application process for loans, they shouldn’t discriminate either and remain inclusive throughout.
On IWD this year, we need to ensure that women contribute to, and benefit equally, from the exciting possibilities offered by digital technology.