Team Chetwood on International Women's Day, #BreakTheBias and Gender Equality in Tech and Finance

8th March 2022

To celebrate International Women's Day 2022, our inspirational Chetwood team members Abi Bebb, Lini Cao, Sally Hannigan, Luc Brown and Sophia Sanders have given us their thoughts on the meaning of International Women's day, who inspires them, gender equality in tech and finance and how we all can work towards a more equal representation in these fields.

Tell us about yourself, hobbies, interests, how long you’ve been with Chetwood, your position.

Abi: I’ve been with Chetwood for two and half years and a lot has changed in that time - not only has the company grown substantially but so have I. After starting in customer service, I was given the opportunity to develop in another area of the business, securing a role as a Middle Office Analyst in July 2021. I make sure Chetwood complies with company policies, support operations and analyse our financial matters and performance. This role has opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities and how the business works.

Luc: I’ve been with Chetwood for almost two years. Yikes, the time has flown! I lead the development and delivery of new customer propositions. Creating fantastic products and digital experiences is my passion so I feel very lucky to be able to do that end-to-end here at Chetwood. It’s both exciting and sometimes a bit terrifying the impact I have.

I am a rugby nut - both as a supporter and an almost-retired player of 15-a-side rugby union. I play on the same team as my twin sister Sophie, which confuses the opposition to no end. I love to travel and combining this with watching a big rugby tournament like the Lions or Rugby World Cup is a bonus.

Soph: Hello, I’m Sophia, most people call me Soph. I’ve been Chetwood’s Head of Partnerships for almost three years now. My team manages the relationships we have with our distribution partners like ClearScore, and we’re always looking for new ways to grow and new groups of customers to help. My team is also responsible for finding new Banking as a Service opportunities – our white label capability where we create innovative new financial services products on the behalf of other brands to supplement their products and services.

I have a 3 year old who is so much fun, but it also means there isn’t always a lot of time for myself! I really like to spend time with friends though, go for nice dinners and drinks and read. My favourite authors at the moment are Rupi Kaur and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Lini: My name is Lini, I’m a mother of two and I've been with Chetwood as a senior data scientist for almost two years.

I love modelling, painting, crafting, reading, travelling, and trying out new things. Each year I aim to learn at least one new skill that is completely new to me. So far I have learnt ice skating, oil painting, resin arts, badminton, ukulele, piano, singing, Spanish and baking, among other things.

Sally: I'm Chetwood's Communications Manager, which means I work on all of Chetwood's brands to ensure that we communicate effectively with all of our audiences. We have such a diverse audience set - it includes everyone from our colleagues, customers, the media, investors - even people who haven't heard of us yet - and each of those audience types has different levels of understanding of the banking industry so need to be communicated with in different ways. One of the things I love about my job is that it's so varied - I can be writing content for our websites or apps one minute, and crafting editorial for the media in the next. I've only been here 6 weeks so there's still lots for me to learn, but the Chetwood team have made me feel so welcome I already feel like part of the furniture. Outside of work I'm still a word-nerd and always have at least one book on the go. I'm a fan of psychological thrillers, or anything that deals with the theme of equality - my favourite book of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird.

What does IWD mean to you?

Abi: IWD is a worldwide event that allows us to reflect on all the achievements that women have made in the past - those who strived for a better future for us - and to look ahead and see what else can be achieved for the benefit of future generations.

Luc: For me, it’s about recognising and celebrating the achievements of incredible women across all fields, but particularly in those that have less representation from women at senior levels, such as finance and tech. I personally get wrapped up in the day-to-day and unconsciously just move on to the next thing on my ‘to-do’ list. IWD always energises and inspires me to take the time to step back and reflect on what I have done but also where I want to make an impact next.

Soph: For me, it’s about taking a day to reflect on how far we have come and how much there is still to do to achieve gender equality. It’s a day to feel proud of the strides we're taking forward to achieve gender equality, but also a day to focus everyone on the fact we STILL live in a world where women are treated unfairly in so many ways. On IWD, I always feel a mixture of gratitude to those that trod the path to a more gender-equal world before me, angry about how much there still is to do, and proud of what we are accomplishing.

Lini: IWD is the day I remind myself how proud I am to be a woman and to be surrounded by so many amazing women in my life.

Sally: Personally, I think it’s a shame that we even need to have IWD - we should be celebrating both men's and women's achievements equally every day of the year! That said, I do think it's great that the world takes a pause and acknowledges all of the inspirational things that women do, whether that's getting through the day when dealing with a teething toddler (when you've had one you'll know exactly how much of a challenge that presents) or making life-changing discoveries a la Marie Curie or Prof. Sarah Gilbert.

Name a woman who has inspired you?

Abi: I come from a family of strong women and strong female friendships, all of whom have always strived to achieve their goals and pushed themselves forward in their careers, and seeing this has made me decide I want to do the exact same.

I also want to give a massive shout out to the women of Chetwood. I’ve had the pleasure of working with and getting to know a lot of inspirational women here. They’ve shown me, in their own ways, that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it, to keep going, keep pushing and believe in yourself.

Luc: I work alongside many brilliant women who inspire me to push myself every day. They are all incredibly smart, great at what they do/know, but most importantly, they help others progress, including myself. I think of the term 'we rise together’ when I think of them - Julia McColl, Sophia Sanders, Jenny Lomax, Emma Udi, Beth Gore, Emma Stephens, Kate Jones… Ok, I will stop before I list every woman at Chetwood!

Dr Sue Black is also someone I find incredibly inspiring. Her passion, tenacity and sheer will to save Bletchley Park is something I think about when facing something hard. She refused to just let such an important part of our history, and the remarkable men and women involved, be forgotten and awakened us to care (again) about such a special place.

Soph: My Grandma comes to mind first. She was never afraid to be different – even though she was born at a time when there were clear gender roles that society did not like to be crossed. She was hesitant to marry but did so because she knew it would offer freedom. She travelled extensively and read to become learned. She had a serious mind and worked hard to ensure my mother and aunt received strong educations so they could go on to support themselves – becoming a teacher and scientist respectively. She was born before her time – I like to think about what she would have accomplished if she was born now. I feel a responsibility to achieve those things on her behalf.

I’m thoughtful of the poem ‘Sacrifices’ by Rupi Kaur – "I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me thinking what can I do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see farther."

I know I stand on the sacrifices my Grandmother made and the example she gave, and I’m grateful for me, my sisters, our mother and our children being able to see further as a result.

Sally: Rosa Parks - that simple act of defiance to not give up her bus seat to a white man paved the way for change in the segregated US. Interestingly, there was a woman called Claudette Colvin who did exactly the same thing months before Rosa Parks. The difference? Rosa Parks defied a man, whereas Claudette wouldn't give up her seat for a white woman. Putting the race issue to one side, this illustrates exactly why IWD is so important - there aren’t many who know the name ‘Claudette Colvin’ but everyone knows who Rosa Parks was, for the simple fact that she stood up to the patriarchy.

What do you believe the financial industry can do to advance women’s issues and gender issues in general?

Abi: I feel that finance industries should start to inspire the next generation to look at a career in finance as something they’d want to do. Show a new generation of women that this is an area where they can be ambitious and lead.

Seeing women in leadership roles will motivate women as they progress, and they become advocates for other women rising through the ranks. One key thing that I feel women look for is support. More could be done, like providing mentorships and networks that allow women to grow, provide new ideas and perspectives.

Luc: Be committed to building diverse teams and recognising the value that women can bring through different attributes and ideas. In recruitment, think about how you are marketing the role and organisation, and whether you are appealing to a diverse range of applicants, including women. Focus on identifying and nurturing talent. For me, the real change in my mindset about what I could do came through mentoring, which started more organically with senior colleagues taking an interest to advocate and encourage me to push myself. I then sought out further and different mentors that I could work with for different purposes, including those that work in other firms.

Soph: First of all, we need to stop calling them ‘women’s issues’. The issues haven't been caused by women and can’t be solved by women alone. It requires men to accept and support women being at the table. I think the biggest issue is that when you look at leadership teams in organisations, they are predominantly made up of men, which creates unconscious bias. Companies need to work harder to understand why that is – it's not good enough just to say 'well the best candidate was male'. We need to ask ourselves why that was. Why aren’t there more women applying for senior roles? Why do women get stuck in middle management? And then solve those issues.

I think we need to also think about why there is still a motherhood penalty. It’s estimated that 54,000 women are still made redundant each year for getting pregnant. The gender pay gap is real and mostly only kicks in once women have children. We need to think about why this is. One of the reasons I joined Chetwood was because of the flexibility they offered me after having a child. It meant I could return to work much earlier when Lily was around 5 months old. I’m not saying that’s the right choice for everyone, but it was for me. They offered me flexible working when it came to hours and location – and this was all pre-covid. All of these things made it easier for me to push on with my career whilst also being focused on my family. I don’t feel like my career has slowed down as a result.

Sally: So many things! Advance more women into senior positions, fix the gender-parity issue for pay and pensions, and stop considering women on maternity leave as unemployed when they apply for credit!

In your opinion, why is it important that more women go into tech and finance?

Abi: I think many women feel that finance and tech industries are male-dominated worlds, but that’s not so much the case anymore. Women are entering these worlds and wanting to make changes - however, leadership roles for women are still lacking. The face of financial services is changing, and it’s up to us to keep leading this change forward.

Luc: In terms of getting more women to start their careers in tech and finance, I think there are loads that we could do!

I think we need to make more progress on the perceived - and in some cases actual - slow-down of careers for women in finance as they get more senior. I think women choose other sectors where there are more obviously women in leadership positions that they can aspire to, and where they don’t sense invisible barriers which put them off.

We also need to get girls interested in finance and tech and change their perceptions. I think this is a similar challenge to what I experienced with rugby, as when I started in 2003 there were very few girls' & women's teams. Now, rugby is available at most unis and starting to be offered in schools. We need to do something similar in finance and tech - Help girls understand qualities and attributes that are highly valued in STEM like empathy, creativity, teamwork, being people focussed. Provide role models and communities comprised of both women and men, like Dr Sue Black, Kristalina Georgieva, Jacqueline de Rojas, Anne Boden and last but by no means least Chetwood’s very own Julia McColl.

And we need to foster communities such as Women in FinTech and WeAreTechWomen, that celebrate women's achievements, like running an inspiring annual award event.

Lini: I think it is important to have more women in any industry, especially tech and finance which is dominated by men. The more women there are, the more sparks there will be in the industry.

Sally: Having a range of voices from across different genders, socio-economic and geographic backgrounds contributing to positive outcomes is the secret to success, regardless of the topic. It reduces bias (if all the people contributing to a project are white men, then you only have the opinions of white men to base your outcomes on) and promotes understanding, acceptance, collaboration and inclusion, which in my view is what we need more of in the world.

In 2022, the theme for IWD is #BreakTheBias and The UN focuses on Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” - How does that apply to financial services, and what does that mean to you?

Abi: The world is made up of biases, both conscious and unconscious. IWD encourages us to look at ways in which we can break all these biases whether it's gender bias, discrimination or stereotyping and have an inclusive world, where the differences that make us who we are all celebrated and not seen negatively.

Ways in which I can ‘break the bias’ is to educate myself, to look at the effect that biases have and to take action where I can to help break them down. We can’t change the way people think or behave, but we can lead by example and show the benefits of not having biases.

Luc: We create all of our propositions with our customers, and the fact is that 50% of our customers are women, so why wouldn’t you want your organisation to reflect the customers you are trying to serve. Gender equality today means you are designing and delivering solutions that are truly representative and balanced, which means they are more likely to be successful and sustainable.

Soph: We know that internationally women make up a larger proportion of the world's poor, so they're more reliant on natural resources, which are at greater and greater risk as a result of climate change. I know solving that is the focus that the UN has placed on IWD this year.

I think there is a link here with financial services too. We know that women on average have lower credit scores, have less access to finance when they need it and pay more for it when they do. We know women end up with pension pots half the size of men too, for a range of reasons. There is so much we can do in this space - I don’t just mean financial education. Financial services firms need to look for innovative new ways to credit decision women using new types of data to remove the gender bias often presented by using traditional bureaus. Fintechs especially are well placed to tackle issues like these.

Lini: I’m working as a Data Scientist, and if you look into the statistical data, you’ll find out how ridiculous the bias is genderwise. From abilities to incomes, from habits to positions, from dressing styles to attitudes. The bias is a double-edged sword, is hurting both men and women.

How do you embody Chetwood’s ‘be the change’?

Luc: I’ve worked at several great organisations, but Chetwood is the first that is truly customer-oriented. Insight from our customers drives everything we do and the first question we ask ourselves in any decision. I strive to find the ‘why’ and help the team hold onto the customer as we develop our new propositions so that we never lose focus on them. We want to create products for customers that meet their needs, not ours, that work for them in the real world. Nobody wants to get a loan or credit card for the sake of it. They are doing it because it helps them to do what they need, like buy a car, pay for an unexpected bill etc. I want to make it straightforward and clear for customers so that they can do this anywhere, at any time.

Soph: For me it’s about challenging if things make sense – and if you think they don’t then saying so. It's about not doing something a certain way because they have always been done that way and being brave to stand up for what you think is right. I love that Chetwood values that and demonstrates its own commitment through the innovative, fair and transparent products that we create to genuinely help make customers better off.

Sally: The two qualities that stand out for me are critical thinking and putting myself in the customers’ shoes on a daily basis. This means I never accept "this is the way we've always done it". If it's in the interests of the customer, it's worth changing.


Interested in joining the team and challenging the norm? Take a look at our career opportunities at https://chetwood.co/careers.