We invited leaders from Boston’s fintech community to a honest and candid discussion on the state of gender diversity, need for allies and as male leaders, what they see as their role in bringing about change. 


Our hosts for the evening were the Stephen D. Cutler Center at Babson College. Constance Armstrong chaired the discussion with Dan New, Paul Brassil and Vasilios Roussos. The panelists and allies facilitated an energized breakout session to ideate on practical solutions to enable gender balance in fintech.

For the speed viewer, we have collected key ideas along with links to the original video.  

(Note: The links in green take you directly to the topic within the video)

Why did you want to be part of this discussion?

  • If you are not engaging with women, you’re leaving half of the talent pool. You are just not focusing
  • As an accelerator, we a certain responsibility to be stewards of industry.  Our job is to do our best to make sure that any woman feels she has a place in the Boston fintech ecosystem, has an avenue to get support and hopefully grow
  • There is a socio-economic impact of fintech. The huge opportunity is that this technology is greenfield so we don’t have fall back on legacy male talent, we can construct equal teams of women and men. The risk is that because of the disruptive impact of fintech, the entry level jobs that most women and minorities come into the workforce will not exist in the future. As IT leaders, we need to start looking at interim programs so that we don’t deal with a crisis then.  

The current landscape for fintechs

The overall trend is growth and global with $100b+ invested globally last year.  The growth has been Asia and the US. In the Boston ecosystem, we reflect the global trends.  Particularly in Boston, there the payments startups, there startups focusing on AI to solve fundamental problems first hand and develop expertise in the ecosystem.  Institutions are hungry to partner with fintech tech and to use AI to solve problems compliance, reg tech. Around the corner there will be opportunity for, but that may creep up on us slowly. From a funding perspective, in the past 3-5 years we are seeing entrepreneurs find funding here that allows them to stay and grow companies in Boston.  Funding for startups in the seed stage is still more risk averse here than the West.

Building gender diversity within the Fed

It is a combination of culture and actions.  The challenge for the Fed is competing with startups because they appear more flashy and the Fed appears stodgy.  We work to present the Fed as an employer of choice in terms of fintech. We are passionate about creating the pipeline itself.  We have been working with non-profits that focus on internship programs and workforce development. As example we work with Boston schools to educate students on careers in education sot that they don’t opt out of these.

We also have a culture is focused on diversity and inclusion. We have an ODI (Office of Diversity and Inclusion) and nine employee resource groups including one focused on women in leadership. We train on unconscious bias and privilege so that all understand how we can share privilege.

Programs at EY around gender diversity

At EY, we know that if we want to develop leaders of the next generation, we need to recruit and bring more women at the start. We did a good job and we now have a lot more parity at the entry level. Then we noticed that more women than men were leaving as they grew up the ranks. We had to start implementing programs to retain women.   For women starting families as an example, we focused on making the workplace more attractive for them. We have coaching, mentoring programs, sponsorship programs and also training programs for example on leading diverse teams. EY also has external programs like Entrepreneurial Winning Women, where select women founders are helped to rapidly accelerate their growth.

At EY and the Fed, you have structured programs over a period of time to bring change. How do help startups create a culture of inclusion?

The question is: is fintech carrying through incumbent thoughts, beliefs and systems which make it difficult for women.  When I look at startups, the attitude towards inclusion is there now. This is a good direction, we are starting with a philosophy of openness and make a conscientious effort towards that. We have focused on getting more women to apply to our program and have done well.  We are getting equal if not more than 50% women per cohort.

However, when we look at total women CEOs and women Founders in the whole, they mimic what is in the Financial Services industry, roughly at 22% at the top.  There is an issue in that the number is not moving higher. We are trying to follow some of the same best practices that EY has such has not have manels and particularly, have women refer and recruit other women.  We actively drive efforts in having women leaders bring other women to the programs as we see that is key in bringing more women founders and CEOs

Sharing experiences from and in practicing diversity:

  • At mock interviews at the Fed, Paul learnt that the barrier for some women is high because they have never been exposed to opportunity other than traditional roles.
  • At high school, young women self-select themselves out because they don’t identify themselves as programmers. However, there is a constellation of careers that women can take advantage of.
  • The change in recruiting method and leadership where the recruiting team challenges and forces diversity in candidate slates.
  • Men and women tend to measure risk differently, and aspire for risk adjusted results differently.  The interesting statistic is that women out-perform men. However the current funding metrics creates a bias and pattern recognition that is not in favor of women. VCs and others that are judging future success need to use a different framework, and for women recognize this and to help create that new framework.  It requires both men and women to pause and rethink the paradigm

Audience Q&A