Women in tech: "I’ve steered clear of quotas, but I now think they may have a place"

Women in tech: "I’ve steered clear of quotas, but I now think they may have a place"

As said in Quartz, “Over time, having women in powerful positions—placing bets on women and taking meetings with women founders who might never have gotten through the door at male-dominated firms—could radically transform the industry”.

Today we continue to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day with our second profile on the intelligent and extremely experienced, Helene Panzarino, Managing Director of Rainmaking FinTech- a corporate innovation and venture development firm, helping a business create, accelerate and scale in partnership with the world’s leading corporations and entrepreneurs.

Throughout her career, Helene has seen some progress when it comes to her peers; more women creating tech-focused businesses, and more women eager to learn skills and take on roles in areas such as developers, taking the helm at companies that maximise computer science and engineering backgrounds, etc, that have traditionally been dominated by men.

Having first encountered Helene on a group phone call where she encouraged me to speak up, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that she is a vocal advocate for making yourself heard to create a positive change, “My career within the financial services industry and within fintech spans decades. Yes, there has been progress made with regard to gender equality. Sadly, in terms of representation and pay for women, I don’t think it’s changed significantly enough within very large organisations”.

When asked about what could be done to solve the challenges women face, Helene’s response may not be what everyone wants to hear, but is a true testament to her beliefs that actions speak louder than words, “Until recently, I’ve steered clear of quotas, but I now think they may have a place. Of course what actually happens when a woman is in role may be a different story, re discrimination, so we need to start discussions earlier and educate both men and women on the benefits of having women in key roles at all levels”.

And the data supports Helene’s thoughts on the subject. The World Economic Forum suggests that quotas in higher education in STEM disciplines do work and that men need to be a part of the conversation too, “I think it’s fantastic that both women and men are raising awareness around gender equality and demanding tangible change”.

Her passion for transformation is undeniable, and so is Helene’s unwavering support for another cause close to her heart - helping small businesses to prosper, “I’m very proud of having created the ‘Colab FinTech’ initiative at Rainmaking. It was the first fintech scale up and corporate programme in the world and the team did a fantastic job of executing it”.

Her determination and continuous hard work have allowed her to take on other projects too (and moderate countless panels, plus take on keynotes at many industry events) to help benefit small businesses who are, globally, a very underserved sector. Her book on business funding helps to highlight an important cause which stemmed from her time personally helping small businesses chart their financial journey, “It was quite an undertaking. As the sole author, it was all my work. I didn’t crowdsource it and so there were many, many, many hours of thought and typing that went into it”.

Helene’s success didn’t happen overnight, and her advice to women looking to pursue a similar career is filled with optimism, “Have belief in yourself. We all know that as individuals we are only limited by ourselves. Follow what interests you, learn your craft, network wisely and with purpose, and learn that it’s okay to ask for help without coming across as weak”.

Although there are obvious issues within the finance industry, according to the Financial Times, the number of graduates applying to places such as Deutsche Bank, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have not slowed down. A whole new generation of women can learn from experienced people such as Helene, “Look to the women (and men!) who preceded you (or who are more experienced than you at certain points in your career) as genuine role models and advocates. It’s a two-way street. At a certain point in their lives they will have gained enough confidence in their abilities to be able to genuinely share with those who are on the way up, so respect them, really interact with them, support and promote them as well”.

You can see the first in our series here, profiling Ovamba CEO and co-founder, Viola Llewellyn.