It appears that the recent sexual harassment scandal at digital lending giant, SoFi, has lots of talking heads voicing their opinions on sexism in FinTech. Everyone from the deniers to the sympathizers are giving their two cents. But, what I found most interesting is that many of these commentators are men who have absolutely no concept of what it is like to actually fall prey to a chauvinist. While they may readily pass judgment, they will never be able to empathize.
As someone is who is an actual woman in FinTech, and who has firsthand experience with chauvinism, I feel compelled to weigh in.
WHEN DOES OFFICE PARTYING CROSS THE LINE?
The SoFi offices have been described as a “Frat house” where personnel are found having sex in the company parking lot after chugging a few beers from SoFi’s on-site Kegerator. Although I’d probably prefer a Winerator (yes, it is a real product, google it) to a Kegerator and perhaps a desk to the back seat of a Lexus, frankly, I really don’t care how two consenting adults choose to occupy their time.
Socializing in the workforce is not something to be shunned – even when it includes booze. On the contrary, it is something that can instill camaraderie and boost morale. I’ve seen many companies successfully create a positive, fun and harmonious social environment that led to increased sales and greater employee retention.
But, this is not what is happening at SoFi. Instead, SoFi is allegedly fostering a depraved culture where male supervisors believe it is appropriate to sexually harass their female subordinates. This behavior is not only completely unacceptable, it is illegal.
Unfortunately, the salacious allegations are overshadowing some of the other – equally appalling – claims against SoFi including improprieties in loan recordings and having a history of making material misrepresentations to its investors.
With the industry still reeling from the fallout over Lending Club’s misdeeds, who wants to draw attention to further deceit in online lending? Certainly not industry cheerleaders who would prefer to eclipse serious loan transgressions with shrieks of mounting chauvinism.
This begs the question, “is chauvinism actually on the rise?”
Sexism in the financial industry is nothing new, and was categorically much worse in previous decades. Don’t believe me? Then, just go rent the movie, “Working Girl”.
I do not know one female on Wall Street who hasn’t experienced at least some strain of chauvinism in her career – myself included.
While I never let it break me, I have stomached many sexist remarks – not to mention pure acts of chauvinism – many times during the course of my 25 year career in finance. An incident that currently comes to mind is the time when, at 24 years old, I landed a job on an institutional bond desk. When I arrived at work on my very first day, my new boss did not see a trader, he saw a skirt. In front of the entire trading desk, he tossed me his apartment keys and demanded that I take his dogs for a walk. I was mortified. I mustered all my strength not to walk out then and there. But since quitting is not in my DNA, I made the best of a very degrading job by taking pleasure in learning everything I could about the bond trading business. And when I wasn’t cleaning up dog shit, I was happily monitoring treasury futures. In doing so, I started noticing an interesting trading pattern that I used to predict – with some reliability – the direction of the stock market. Not only did I end up making some money trading index options, that demeaning position was a direct stepping to numerous career accolades.
Although I would never diminish it or deny its existence, I just don’t see sexism as an escalating problem in FinTech – or anywhere in the developed world for that matter. In fact, what I see trending is the exact opposite.
Extraordinary women in FinTech are all around us. I read about them every single day – not only in leading industry rags like FinTek News, Bankless Times and Crowdfund Insider, but also in long-established financial periodicals. In fact, FinTek News, which is published by Cindy Taylor, an accomplished FinTech visionary in her own right, devotes an entire section just to women in FinTech. Geri Stengel, who writes a column in Forbes, is always featuring exceptional female FinTech entrepreneurs.
To hear some people describe it, you’d think that rampant sexism is driving women away in droves from FinTech opportunities. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I am constantly encountering remarkable women in FinTech leadership like RealtyMogul.com CEO Jilliene Helman, who in her twenties built one of the largest and most prominent online marketplaces for real estate investing. Or, crowdfunding pioneer, Sally Outlaw, whose new digital investing savings app, Worthy, is poised to displace the entire retail brokerage industry. Or, Yali Harari, CEO of Innovesta, creator the first real-time crowd-diligence platform. Or iDisclose CEO, Georgia Quinn, an attorney and FinTech trailblazer, who created the industry’s premier legal technology platform for small businesses and startup entrepreneurs accessing capital.
My female FinTech colleagues are not cowering in some corner or fleeing swarms of sexists. They are out – in droves – proudly showcasing their technology and speaking at prominent FinTech events.
People who believe that there is a dearth of women in FinTech are simply not looking close enough. And for those who expressed their concern for us, women in FinTech, I have a message for you.
You need not worry about us. We are doing just fine on our own. While you’re out there throwing some pity party on our behalf, were are reveling in our successes.
We do not need any proclamations from men vowing to improve their treatment of us – as if we are somehow a weaker gender. We’re way too preoccupied building our businesses and shattering glass ceilings to care.
While some men, apparently, owe their accomplishments to their genitals, we, on the other hand, attribute our achievements to our brains.
We triumph, not because men treat us better, but because our products are superior, our ideas are more innovative, our technology more advanced and our work ethics more solid. It is the quality of our work demands and receives respect. To suggest otherwise is patronizing.
We are not victims. We are victors. So, please do away with such condescending, self-serving commentary. Any man who intimates that women need the assistance of men in order to succeed in FinTech is no better than the chauvinist whom he outwardly condemns. A guy who thinks like that might as well apply for a job at SoFi.
Do you believe that sexism is on the rise or on the decline? Is it chauvinistic to imply that women are somehow impeded by men’s treatment of them? Why does gender have anything to do with success? Doesn’t business success all come down to the superior product? In the comment section, feel free to weigh in, vent, share your experience or even tear me apart if you disagree. Trust me, I can take it!