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Women in payments

Women in payments: How we can increase gender diversity in tech

November 21, 2023

Gender diversity is vital in technology. Alex Limerick shares her insight on the importance of getting more women in the payments industry.

While women have made strides toward professional equality, there is still a long way to go until the world can truly call men and women equal. In tech fields, gender gaps and widespread inequality are especially visible, shining a light on the progress we still have to make to provide women with the opportunities they deserve in this space.

These are the problems we still need to solve, why women need to be in tech and payments, and how to work toward meaningfully and effectively increasing diversity in the industry.

The problem in the tech and payments industry

There is widespread inequality in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) labor force in the United States. Women hold only 28% of jobs in computer and mathematical occupations, and 15.9% of jobs in engineering and architecture, according to recent data.

Furthermore, of all graduates from a Bachelor’s of computer science program across the country, only 16% are women — and only 21% of graduates are women in engineering and engineering technology.

Looking at the tech industry more broadly, research from Deloitte shows that the male-to-female ratio is 3-to-1.

These education and workforce statistics prove that we need to do a better job encouraging women to enter STEM fields, provide the proper support and resources to ensure their success and help them transition into their careers.

Alex Limerick, Senior Director of Global Product at WEX, led a keynote speech at the 2023 Bavel Travel Summit and posed the following questions:

  • Why aren’t there more women in tech/payments?
  • Are we creating the right environment for women in our industry?
  • How can we encourage more women on the product and tech side?

Before exploring the answers, let’s talk through why increasing diversity is not only the moral thing to do but how it can benefit businesses, too. Keep reading to learn more, or watch the video below to see Alex’s keynote:

The benefits of diversity and what it can bring to the payments industry

Diverse workplaces bring numerous benefits to businesses themselves and the people who work there. Taking steps to make our workplaces more diverse and providing equitable opportunities for all is without question the right thing to do. As a bonus, over two-thirds of companies surveyed by the International Labor Organization that track the impact of gender diversity in management report up to a 20% increase in profits.

But here are a few ways it can improve operations:

Balance is key to effective problem-solving

Research shows that diversity in our teams equals diversity of thought. In fact, the more cognitively diverse teams are, the faster they’re able to solve problems.

Such variety in thinking encourages more robust, meaningful work and better outcomes for customers. The faster you can solve problems, the quicker you can offer solutions.

Increased creativity

In a podcast produced by Stanford University titled ”Think Fast, Talk Smart”, Adina Sterling, Associate Professor of organizational behavior at Stanford GSB, says “When people from different backgrounds, that have different ideas come together, what research has shown is that they tend to outperform [more homogeneous groups] from a creativity and an innovation standpoint.”

Combining the cognitive abilities of men and women, coupled with the right routines and communication structures within teams, can multiply the power of diversity for innovation, according to a 2023 report titled “Inclusion unlocks the creative potential of gender diversity in teams”.

How to increase diversity effectively

Increasing diversity in the payments industry — and all STEM fields — is not a pipe dream. In fact, WEX has taken actionable steps to improve the status quo of women in the industry. WEX aspires to achieve gender parity in leadership roles throughout the organization by 2025. As of 2022, 46% of all leaders at WEX are women.

But how did we get here, and how can the world follow suit? Encourage women to get involved from the start

It’s imperative to provide positive role models and reinforcements to instill confidence in and encourage women to get involved in tech. The idea of being the only woman in the room can be daunting.

Harkening back to the “Think Fast, Talk Smart” podcast, Adina Sterling says “There’s [a] lot of things that we can do, especially within STEM, where our study focuses. We know that when you diversify the faculty and you have more female faculty, that can be an important signal. [It] can have important signaling value for women and increase their confidence. You can structure teams in ways that there’s greater gender balance.”

But how? Here are a few ways to encourage and support women in tech:

  • Create an understanding and supportive community that encourages women to join.
  • Support women to expand their networks in tech and the broader STEM space.
  • Create pathways for women to follow from a young age.
  • In the workplace, start with a thoughtful approach to mapping career paths for women.
  • Understand women’s needs and make the workplace accommodating.

There are myriad ways to achieve these goals, but let’s take a look at a real-world example. In 2022, WEX initiated several partnerships as part of its effort to bring in and support more diverse talent. One such partner was Girls Who Code, an organization that aims to increase the number of women in computer science.

Together, the organizations developed engaging programming in Maine, capturing the imaginations of K-12 students who might not otherwise be exposed to technology as a viable educational path and career.

While there’s still a long way to go in the grand scheme of gender equality in tech, the progress WEX has made is indicative of better workplaces for us all. Together, we can make a huge difference for women in tech — and improve business outcomes as a result.

Interested in working for a global organization that understands the important role women play in our industry? Visit our careers page to browse open roles.

The information in this blog post is for educational purposes only. It is not legal or tax advice. For legal or tax advice, you should consult your own legal counsel, tax and investment advisers. 

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