Women in Fintech: Perspectives from 5 women at Nomanini

International Women’s Month was recently celebrated around the world (in March), but of course, this topic is important every day of the year. The empowerment of women is important to Nomanini and we are pleased to see so many insightful and compassionate conversations taking place within our network about gender equity and equality, unconscious bias, and the benefits of empowering women in business.

We have been talking about #breakingthebias and what this means for the women here at Nomanini, and we wanted to share some insights from a few of the women who lead and encourage us, and who are especially passionate about inspiring other women.

First, let’s meet the ladies who shared their thoughts with us:

  • Natalia Gomes, Strategic Manager 
  • Joni Augustine, Employee Success Manager
  • Kim Grimwood, Product Manager
  • Ujjal Valjee, Regional Partnerships Manager, Southern Africa
  • Rupal Shah, Regional Partnerships Manager, East Africa

We asked each of the ladies three questions to find out how they believe FinTechs can help to #breakthebias. Here’s what they said:

Q. What does ‘break the bias’ mean to you?

“It’s something that’s really quite complex and an ever-unfolding journey that we all need to embark on as individuals as well as together as communities and organisations,” explains Natalia. “It means truly sitting with, and reflecting on the conscious as well as unconscious biases that are placed on us as individuals, but more importantly looking at and acknowledging the parts of ourselves that we have biases towards, the untruths that we have told ourselves around what we can and can not do based on our gender. #Breakthebias means having individuals in my space that push me towards identifying the blind spots that I hold within myself and encouraging and giving me the opportunity to show up in my most authentic truth at all times.

Kim believes that unconscious bias is what a beetle is to wood: “while seemingly a natural inhabitant, it can eat away at the fabric of what makes a liveable structure solid,” she says. “There is a real need within organisations and spaces in general, to create psychologically safe places where there is limited, to no, risk of being treated with bias (prejudice based on preconceived or other experience). And there is the personal struggle that needs to be contended with, as women overcome that bias in order to be seen and heard equally. We need to rally together to break the bias so that, hopefully, we can make it easier for future generations to move forward.”

Joni thinks: “We have to actively become aware of the subconscious biases that result from historical inequalities.” She tends to agree with Nelson Mandela when he said: “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all kinds of oppression.”

Rupal acknowledges  the  importance of explaining the benefits of overcoming gender bias. She says,  “Moving the needle on this needs to be more than it being just socially fashionable or the morally right thing to do. The heavier lift seems to be to build a deeper understanding on both sides of the real benefit that gender diversity can have in FinTech, and to then continue to push both the value of including women and for women to want to be a part of this game-changing sector.” 

“Breaking the bias, to me, means acknowledging what your unconscious biases are, and actively taking steps to overcome them,” explains Ujjal. “It means striving for equality and listening to people to understand without any judgement. In my opinion, it means breaking free from the cookie-cutter mould that society might expect you to fit into, embracing your free and beautiful thinking and smashing through barriers whilst remaining true to your authentic self.”

Q. What do you think FinTech would be missing out on by not maximising the talents of both genders?

“I think that in any industry, a lack of gender equality often leads to a lack of diversity of thinking. Different genders approach situations with differing mindsets, arising from different life experiences,” Ujjal explains. “In FinTech, which is particularly driven by innovation, if you aren’t maximising the talents of all genders then you could be missing out on the innovation (among many other things) that comes from diverse thinking.”

Kim says, “I am not one to dissociate between gender strengths, but there is the possibility that the general perspective can be one that is blinded by certain elements they might be used to being carried more in one gender than another.  It is this bias that can create unfair treatment within an organisation and prevent people from sharing their opinions and ideas to improve the workplace. This is really the biggest loss: when people of any gender feel that they can’t speak up as themselves in their work environment,  it means that their individual genius is silenced.”

“I can’t imagine a workplace which does not embrace diverist and inclusion, be it gender, race, sexual orientation,” concludes Joni.

Q. Please share a positive experience that you’ve had as a woman in FinTech.

For Rupal, “I get to work on projects that have an impact further downstream far greater than I might think or can see - these are some of my most positive moments”. 

She wisely notes that,  “no matter where they are in the world, everyone has to deal with financial systems in some form. Being able to work in fintech, and a woman in fintech, gives me the opportunity to add my voice and be part of this bigger story making these financial systems and services more inclusive.”

Joni’s positive experiences come from her work at Nomanini: “Nomanini celebrates women and we are actively looking at attracting and appointing female talent into our business. Being able to work from home makes it so much easier for the mothers in our team to keep a healthy work life balance. Diversity and inclusion is high on our agenda, and our business celebrates Women’s Day to remind our female talent that their  voices matter, that their talent is appreciated and that, at Nomanini, all voices are equal.”

For Natalia, “working in tech but more specifically at Nomanini, has provided me with a host of experiences that I don't think I would have found elsewhere. Nomanini has a flat organisational structure and this means we are always learning from each other, regardless of our title or number of years experience. Being agile is at the heart of the business and I've always been placed in situations where I am encouraged and directed as opposed to instructed, which gives you the space and freedom to learn as well as make mistakes and then subsequently rectify them as appropriate. Working for a small team means you get to intricately know and understand all of the elements of the business and the real systemic impact that all of us have on the organisation as a whole. It's a privilege to work in this space and looking forward to many more positive experiences in the years to come.” 

We’re excited about the future of Nomanini. We have big goals and lots to achieve, but we know that we’ll get it all done. And in a big way, that’s because we know that we have women like this to lead us, encourage us, and continue to accelerate our growth. We believe that our business and everyone in it is made infinitely better with the diversity that they, and everyone else on our team, brings. 

About Nomanini

Nomanini is a pioneering fintech that connects merchants, distributors and service providers to overcome fragmentation, optimise digital distribution, and scale Africa’s informal retail ecosystem by combining new digital financial services with existing distribution networks.

Nomanini was founded in 2010 and is headquartered in South Africa.

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