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Lauren Ford explains how you can support women in fintech all year

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Interview with Lauren Ford: Celebrate International Women’s Day beyond just the day by including more women in your finance company.

Women in fintech over laptops and paperwork, in discussion.

A bit delayed, but happy International Women’s Day! It’s been a hard year, but this is one day I can always look to for inspiration. To celebrate this year, I interviewed Lauren Ford – the Customer and Content Marketing Manager at OneStream Software, a corporate performance management solutions provider. Not only is Ford a total powerhouse in her industry, but she is also a firm believer in female empowerment in the world of tech.

Here are her top 5 tips on how finance companies in particular can strengthen their gender diversity efforts – and a little bit about Ford too:

Tell me a little about your background and how you came to be the Customer & Content Marketing Manager at OneStream.

I have an extensive background working with enterprise software, specific to digital transformation, and I came to OneStream with a decade’s worth of experience in the Marketing Communications field. After earning my degree in Public Communications and Applied Economics from the University of Vermont, I was intrigued by the state of technology: What it had brought us, what it was doing for us now, and where it was taking us next. I was determined to get involved and landed a role at a start-up software development firm, specializing in enterprise content management and capture automation solutions specific to the office of finance. At the time, there were 30 employees – and I was 1 of only 5 women in that fintech space.

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Overtime I achieved more prominent roles in the organizations and built customer-centric marketing teams, driving strategies for customer engagement and advocacy. The small start-up I knew had grown immensely but after 8 years it was time to take on a new challenge in a larger, well-known company – which brought me to OneStream.

What is it like to be a high-powered women in this industry at OneStream?

It’s no surprise that there is a shortfall of women in finance-leading roles. But, OneStream has really taken the time to focus on engaging, nurturing and retaining the best professionals throughout the industry. And over time the company has created a culture where women in high-powered positions are more prominent and well-respected. There are many women who have made it to the top – and what’s great about that is they’re open to sharing their journeys, challenges, and wisdom to the greater OneStream community. So much so, that the company recently introduced the Women of OneStream group, which has been developed to support the business success of OneStream and the women within. This group works to inspire and transform the landscape of women in fintech and in technology to achieve personal growth and company success. It’s inspiring to have this type of support within our industry, and I commend OneStream for taking the necessary steps forward to ensure a welcoming workplace.

We both know that there is a great lack of women in finance and fintech industries – what do you make of this disparity?

Obviously, the statistics about women in finance and fintech are quite grim – and sadly this is all too clear when looking at high-level leadership positions. Demanding hours can take away from home life, which could be a main reason why more women aren’t entering finance roles. But in my opinion, the biggest obstacle to women entering the finance field is an unsupportive or biased corporate culture. Even when a company looks to implement change to close the gender gap, people in senior roles are often privier to what’s happening whereas entry-level employees don’t have as much visibility to changes in policy or behavior – and therefore don’t believe it exists.

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I think it’s important to communicate messages of change to all levels of the workforce hierarchy, and something as simple as creating more opportunities for mentorship and sponsorship can help make women feel more supported in their finance careers. The good news is we are lifting a veil on a problem that has always been there, but wasn’t always discussed, and now we are paving the way for change.

How can we help to combat this disparity moving forward?

I think there are some strategies that women can use to achieve a more prominent role in their organizations. Standing up, making their voices heard and cultivating relationships with people they respect and admire is important. Creating a support network is key to success. On the other hand, there are several things an organization can do to support diversity, equality, and inclusion to transform the perception of women in fintech:

  • Create internal support groups dedicated to diversity (ex. mentorship programs that empower women to improve and advance)
  • Offer consistent support from the top
  • Develop leadership training to help all get a seat at the table
  • Reevaluate company benefits (ex. paid family leave)
  • Expand internship/apprentice programs to train young and upcoming females (ex. teach them about finance and technology)

How do we make this push for women in finance as intersectional as possible? Why is this important?

There has been a lot of time and effort spent on segmented groups to promote diversity, but many people fall into multiple minority groups. Women and ethnic minorities are often disadvantaged when seeking roles in the finance field. Business leaders must adopt an intersectional lens and pay more attention to the interplay between the characteristics of ethnicity/race, gender, and social class in their onboarding. To help address this, organizations can:

  • Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Policy and create a strategy with quantitative data to meet diverse onboarding goals.
  • Expand internship/apprentice programs to train young women in high school and college to teach them about finance and technology and recruit for entry-level positions.
  • Encourage employees to invest time (volunteering, speaking, and tutoring) in youth STEM programs to help educate and interact with young people who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? How does this day tie into your career goals?

International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the challenges and accomplishments of women throughout history and those who have fought for the equality of so many things I often take for granted. It’s a day filled with pride! I have gratitude for the women I am surrounded by, from my family to my friends and colleagues. This day also is a reminder that although we have come so far, there is still a long way to go.

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There is definitely still a long way to go. If you own, manage, or work at a tech or finance company, Ford’s tips are definitely worth trying to implement. There is an amazing generation of young women coming into the workforce, and you won’t want to miss out – this boss knows what she’s talking about.

Happy ITWD!

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Anaïs DerSimonian is a writer, filmmaker, and educator interested in media, culture and the arts. She is Clark University Alumni with a degree in Culture Studies and Screen Studies. She has produced various documentary and narrative projects, including a profile on an NGO in Yerevan, Armenia that provides micro-loans to cottage industries and entrepreneurs based in rural regions to help create jobs, self-sufficiency, and to stimulate the post-Soviet economy. She is currently based in Boston. Besides filmmaking, Anaïs enjoys reading good fiction and watching sketch and stand-up comedy.

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