One of the very basics of gender equality as we know and understand it today is financial independence. Throughout our collective history as humans, making money and handling finances have been deemed “a man’s job”, to the extent that even today, many educated and self-aware women still delegate money matters to their male relatives—whether they are fathers, brothers , husbands or sons—or choose to only invest in “safe” assets.
With more focus now on helping women get more financial awareness and literacy so that we can all take charge of our finances and feel self-sufficient, confident and independent, things are slowly but steadily changing. The best part is, women leaders and entrepreneurs are also recognizing the need to empower themselves and their fellow women financially—which is why we are now seeing a rise of many financial technology (fintech) and financial services (finserv) companies which are led by women, for women and other communities.
It’s important to note, however, that there is still a huge gap in women’s needs and their presence in financial leadership. A 2020 report by Deloitte, for example, shows that even in the current age of startups, the global fintech founder community is still dominated by men. Women, although quickly emerging to take their place in the market, still only make up seven per cent of the pool. This is even more reason why we should celebrate the women who are making their mark as entrepreneurs in the fintech and finserv market, and get inspired by them enough to at least claim our financial independence. Here are a few women and their entrepreneurial ventures you must know about.
Sallie Krawcheck, Co-founder & CEO, EllevestKrawcheck comes from a very sound financial background, and proved her mettle as the CEO of Citigroup’s Smith Barney unit and then as the head of Global Wealth and Investment Management division of the Bank of America. In 2016, she co-founded Ellevest, a digital platform that works as a financial advisor specifically for women. The platform not only offers digital investment opportunities for women, but also hopes to close the gender investing gap in the USA.
Shivani Siroya, Founder & CEO, TalaThe world doesn’t offer the same financial access to every country and region, and that’s the gap that Siroya set out to remedy when she founded the app, Tala in 2011. This smartphone lending app offers credit scores to people living in financial markets that are seriously underrepresented, like Kenya, Tanzania, India and the Philippines. As of 2018, the app has also granted more than $225 million worth of microloans. In the same year, Siroya secured more funding for the app from the Female Founders Fund, Lowercase Capital and Revolution Capital.
Priti Rathi Gupta, Founder, LXMEOne of the few Indian women serial entrepreneurs, Rathi Gupta has over 20 years of experience in the Indian financial market. An alumnus of Harvard Business School, she joined the Anand Rathi Group in 2004, and is currently the Managing Director & Promoter at the firm. Furthermore, she also started her own film company, Ishka Films, in 2013. Learning from all her experiences, Rathi Gupta launched the LXME app for women in 2020, in order to close the financial gap between Indian men and women. Her app not only focuses on financial literacy and empowerment, but also guides women on investment advice in order to help them shift from non-growth assets to growth assets like equity.
Annie Lim, Co-founder & CEO, HoneyBeeThis Malaysian-origin American entrepreneur had one of the toughest journeys to financial freedom herself—which in turn inspired Ennie Lim to start her venture. “Credit invisible” for most of her life, Lim learned to use her husband’s credit while her marriage lasted. Once it was over, she realized how difficult it must be for women like her to get loans without a stable credit score—or leave marriages because they are financially dependent. So, in 2016, she paired up with friends Benny Yiu and Max Zschoch to start HoneyBee, a financial solutions platform that offers microloans with zero annual costs or APR.
Upasana Taku, Co-founder & COO, MobiKwikA graduate from Stanford, Upasana Taku has almost 20 years of experience in payments and financial services. Having worked with PayPal and HSBC while in the US, she realized that the opportunities for growth in the emerging Indian financial market were exponential. And yet, at the end of the early 2000s, India did not have any financial tech company that ventured into the realm of digital payments and financial services. Taku, with partner Bipin Preet Singh, thus started MobiKwik in 2009—a company which has since come to dominate the Indian fintech market.
Lizzie Chapman, Co-founder & CEO, Zest MoneyThis British entrepreneur made the bold move of moving to India and starting her venture in the country because of the immense opportunities she believed the nation had to offer. Having worked with Goldman Sachs, the Wellcome Trust and Wonga, Lizzie Chapman was no stranger to the financial world. In 2015, she teamed up with Priya Sharma and Ashish Anantharaman to start ZestMoney, a startup that pioneered the Buy Now Pay Later concept in India. The company helps people without credit cards access loans which they couldn’t possibly get without credit scores.