“Women are going to be key players in the Fintech space in Mauritius”
No more than 22% of women are in top management positions. Dikshita Awotarowa, the founder and president of women in finance & investment network, states that since covid-19, women have struggled in the labour market, the finance and investment management industry being globally undoubtedly a male-dominated industry. But this can be an opportunity to improve parity in the industry.
Today, women are heavily involved in finance and investment. To date, what is your assessment of the status of women in the investment and finance sector in Mauritius?
What we are seeing in Mauritius in respect of the status and level of female finance and investment professionals’ involvement, especially at the leadership level, is a reflection of a global phenomenon. Globally, the Finance and Investment Management Industry is undoubtedly a male-dominated industry. For decades now, financial institutions have been employing women in roles such as administrative staff, tellers, and secretaries. This doesn’t however translate into leadership roles and positions. This is where the crust of the conversation lies. Women are still unable to make it to the top management of institutions in the industry.
Statistics show that in the corporate world, women in executive roles make less than 20%, women occupy only 20% of executive committee roles, 22% of board positions – 9% of senior roles in venture capital and 6% of senior roles in private equity. While these statistics are the reality today, counter statistics showing women’s leading institutions show these firms perform better than those that are not women-led or those without women in their executive management level.
This is the conversation we are championing. We (Women in Finance and Investment Network – WIFIN) have been heavily involved in the Finance and Investment industry in Mauritius in the past sixteen months. We can see that the number of women leaders in the industry is increasing, but this is not as encouraging when compared to other economies with mature industries
Remember, Mauritius is one of the most developed, if not the most developed, finance and investment hubs in the African region, and thus should have revealed more about the gender gap in the finance and investment management industry.
Would you say that, despite recent developments in this sector, the gender gap remains an important issue to address? If so, how can Mauritius reduce the gender gap in this sector?
Women in the workforce have been disproportionately affected by the global pandemic. Now is the time for company executives to innovate in order to restore momentum and enhance gender diversity in the finance and investment management industry
According to a recent report by Deloitte, the percentage of women in leadership positions across financial services firms has barely improved from 22% to 24%, despite a recently increased focus on DEI efforts. By 2030, it is anticipated to increase to 28%. This percentage was predicted to be 31% in 2019. Women in senior leadership positions in the C-suite still face a disparity of 9 percent, which is expected to grow to 14 percent by 2030. Again, the case in Mauritius is no different. However, it can and must be tackled in a way that’s sustainable for firms and the industry as a whole
How can Mauritius reduce the gender gap?
This is what we have been advocating for as an organization. While we are building the capacity, and encouraging more women to pursue a rewarding career in the finance and investment industry, at the firm level, we are also engaging firms to improve the percentage of female representation in their finance and investment teams. We appreciate the longterm nature of this approach. Collaborations with all stakeholders will be very essential going forward. Encouraging firms in the industry to dedicate resources towards diversity. Build diverse teams, knowing that diverse firms perform better than those that are not.
What are the goals of Women in Finance & Investment Network?
The Women in Finance and Investment Network (WIFIN) is a non-profit organization committed to taking action to bridge a generational gap in the finance and investment industry. WIFIN exists to give women the opportunity to receive the highest level of professional education, build credibility, and tap into a global network to pursue a rewarding career in the finance and investment management industry. We aim to achieve this objective through a series of dialogues, correspondence, webinars, meetups, and conferences as well as special programs together with our partners.
We have had to devise several strategies, some of which include forming strategic relationships with stakeholders in both the public and private sectors to work towards this dream. We are essentially committed to accelerating the growth and promotion of female leaders in the finance and investment management industry globally. At WIFIN, we want to become a complementary voice to amplify and broaden conversations on diversity and inclusion as well as create opportunities for women in the finance and investment space.
“Women in the workforce have been disproportionately affected by the global pandemic”
What about your position and your developments in Ghana?
I had the opportunity to live and work in Ghana for some thirteen months, travelling between multiple countries, but Ghana was my base country. I believe this journey gave me and our organization (WIFIN) a better sense and appreciation of the enormous work that has to go into the conversation of women in the finance and investment industry. As a leader of WIFIN and a new organization as such, there are equally more markets to reach and more women need to hear about the work we are doing and get involved.
Our strategic vision for the next 3 to 5 years is to build and grow our membership across emerging markets, with a specific focus on Asia and Africa. We successfully hosted the 2nd Women in Finance and Investment Summit in Ghana and had breakthrough partnerships and relationships with some of the leading organizations in the industry, both public and private. We had the opportunity to collaborate with the Ghana Stock Exchange on the day of International Women’s Day.
I can say that we have one of the most vibrant and active chapters in Ghana, just as we have in Mauritius, to keep engaging, leading and building the capacity of more women in the finance and investment industry.
You strongly encourage women to choose the field of finance and investment. Why this choice? Would you say that the demand for jobs and opportunities is stronger in these sectors?
We are not encouraging more women to pursue a career in finance and investment because there are jobs available and waiting for them to take them. That’s not what we are advocating. Female professionals will apply for and compete with male professionals for those roles. However, the gender gap and the imbalance in female representation vis-à-vis male representation is unhealthy for the industry. So first, we are encouraging more women to take advantage of the gap and become competitive. This is why we are helping them to build their capacity, form the best networks and learn from leading female professionals in the industry.
On the other hand, we are working with firms and showing them the competitive advantage they will have if they build a diverse team and include more women. This is backed by several evidence-based research and reports, as I have earlier quoted.
Who speaks of employment also speaks of training. What about the training offered to Mauritians in the finance and investment sector? Is studying abroad better than locally?
I believe that Mauritius offers some of the most competitive training for finance and investment professionals across all levels. We have some of the leading educational institutions in the region and that can only come about due to the input and, of course, the output (people) in the industry. There’s always more room for improvement
Moreover, finance and investment management are two of the most disrupted industries in the 21st century. Technology is creating new industries, affecting the skills and knowledge required to stay competitive. This means that all professionals in the industry must continue to learn and relearn new skills as they are required to do their jobs.
Studying abroad or locally in Mauritius is an individual choice. Personally, I believe that a blend of both is not a bad idea, if one has the opportunity. It helps to give more perspective, especially on how things are done in other markets. WIFIN prioritizes training and capacity building as one of our core mandates and pillars. We are constantly creating training programs and opportunities for our members to build their capacity.
Several international studies have shown that women have been much more affected by the crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, how do you assess the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on professionals, in particular women in the sector of entrepreneurship, finance and investment in Mauritius?
This is a very important conversation. I made a statement earlier reflecting this point. Much has been debated about the potential impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women’s financial inclusion and the need for supportive policy actions. I believe we still need to encourage government and industry executives to innovate in order to restore momentum and enhance gender diversity in the finance and investment management industry. The economic empowerment of women has some important macroeconomic implications through its link to bridging the income inequality gap.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mauritius has implemented a wide range of policy measures. However, finding policy initiatives that are expressly intended to enhance women’s financial access is a difficult undertaking. It is important to note that some measures may have benefited women but may not necessarily have been tailored for them.
Even in the absence of any pandemic, it is imperative to help women continue to engage in financial transactions and alleviate credit constraints.
How important are women in the post-crisis economy?
Women play an equally important role as men in rebuilding an economy. Any action in the face of this could only lead to a more unequal society, which in itself is a ticking time bomb that could destroy all gains.
Globally, women are more vulnerable to these crises, be they financial or pandemic (Covid-19). Policy responses and measures put in place usually impact men and women differently, and yet the effects of austerity measures on women are rarely considered. No room should be given to further widen the global gender inequality gap as a result of a pandemic. Rebuilding an economy means requiring a more diverse approach. Women across all sectors, not just finance and investment, have an equally important role to play. We at WIFIN are doing our part to help women in our sector. I trust that other organizations are doing the same, and that’s how to rebuild an economy.
At the WIFIN conference, it was suggested that women entrepreneurs have a much harder time getting a loan. How to explain this behaviour? And how should banks act to enable more women to borrow?
At the annual Women in Finance and Investment Summit in Mauritius, it became evident that women’s economic empowerment is one of the most attractive investment areas, biggest rising markets, talent pools, and demographic rewards to be tapped around the world. The Women in Finance and Investment Network (WIFIN) was founded with the primary goal of accelerating the growth and promotion of female leaders in the finance and investment management industries worldwide
When women participate in economic activity and own and control productive assets, they help to alleviate poverty, reduce inequality, and improve children’s nutrition, health, and school attendance, all of which contribute to development.
Here are some of the ideas I would like to share in this respect:
- Campaign to increase the number of female fund managers and decision-makers in venture capital, private equity, and investment management firms. Venture capital firms with a female partner are three times more likely to invest in firms led by a woman. This is what WIFIN is working towards. Accelerating the increase in female investment professionals at the leadership of these firms.
- Invest with a gender lens, by creating dedicated funds and financial instruments to support women’s entrepreneurship. By this, I am charging both the government and private sectors firms to critically look at this. Here, the government has the opportunity to collaborate with donor agencies to set up some special financing schemes available to female led businesses.
- Showing them the way. Help women find the funds and technical advice needed to grow their business. Women entrepreneurs need to be encouraged to take more calculated risks – and this requires confidence and business skills. All stakeholders must collaborate to set up coaching and mentoring sessions for female entrepreneurs and help them to accelerate by tapping into existing financing schemes. I am happy to say that WIFIN in Mauritius is open to engage any stakeholder to champion this
As fintech is growing rapidly in Mauritius, what are the new development opportunities for the sector? And will women have a place in this development?
It’s without a doubt that women are going to be key players in the fintech space in Mauritius. Female participation has historically increased steadily; many milestones have been attained, and many more are to come. According to recent statistics, women’s contributions to the fintech space are growing, but there is still a long way to go before they are adequately represented in senior management and leadership positions.
A case in point is that fintech is a combination of two industries (finance and technology) that are both male-dominated. The momentum seen in the advocacy of women in tech and women in finance and investment, such as the one pursued by WIFIN, undoubtedly shows that women deserve a respected seat at the table and bring more value as such. One of the biggest difficulties facing the tech sector is dispelling myths to persuade women to seek STEM degrees and qualifications that will make them stay competitive.