Cover Photo: Courtesy of Karen S. Puah

The Fintech Association of Malaysia's first female president shares her thoughts on how more Malaysian women can thrive in the male-dominated fintech industry

Do you agree with that fintech is dominated by men? If so, how can we increase female participation?

Unfortunately, it’s true. There are fewer women in the fintech space, across the globe. It doesn’t help that the financial industry in which fintech companies operate is also male-dominated. That being said, I believe that gender equality is not a zero-sum game. It is not about having more women to balance out a workforce but finding ways for men to support women in the fintech space. 

I speak from my own experience as I am where I am today because of the men in my life, including my husband, co-founder, partner and colleagues. They have supported me through the years, and I believe men play an essential role in encouraging greater female participation in the fintech industry.

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How can we start nurturing female leaders early, and cultivate that spirit of leadership and innovation?

I think fintech leaders need to prioritise finding the right person for the job as fintech talents possess a unique skill set. For example, product managers play a crucial role in fintech companies as they cultivate and receive feedback that is later used to adjust and improve products.

To be a good product manager, you must have a solid tech background but you must also have the ability to build relationships with both internal and external parties. I think the way we can include more women in the fintech space is for fintech leaders to prove themselves as capable individuals who excel in communicating and demonstrate a piece of deep knowledge in technology.

What is the inherent risk to companies or investors that stick to outdated social norms?

I have heard of situations where female founders face discrimination when doing fundraising. They often get a lot of insensitive and biased questions from male investors during the screening process, asking them when they are going to settle down and have a family as they doubt their dedication to their own company.

Frankly, it is high time that companies and investors remove the gender bias lens. If a company is not aware of the changing social trends, it will eventually be left out and lose young talents. But if you have a cause that they can believe in, companies can foster a sense of belonging, and they will remain loyal to you.

What advice do you have for women who want to advance their careers in fintech?

My advice to women in fintech is to step up and step out of their comfort zone. Have the courage to take on more public roles. It can start small, like conducting a webinar or accepting speaking engagements.

I am doing my part as the president of the Malaysian Fintech Association to help raise the profile of women leaders in fintech. This is something I can do in my position to help give them added credibility as capable leaders.


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