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IWD 2024: Harmony & flexibility: A blueprint for female leadership in fintech
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

The fintech industry and the constituents which make it buzz are notorious as hard taskmasters. The underlying philosophy is “play hard, but work harder”. This has become a lifestyle where the end result is invariably a “burnout” of the bees in the hive. The COVID-19 pandemic enhanced this buzz where the industry was clocking insane hours to evolve with the need of the hour. The queens of the hive i.e. the women of the industry, to keep pace, invariably also suffered prolonged working hours, along with their daily household responsibilities, leading to a collapse of any possible work-life balance. However, now that the pandemic is over, the time has come to evolve and restore the equilibrium which is essential for both hives and the bees to sustain and thrive.

Fintech is a hive which thrives on fierce competitiveness and cutting-edge efficiency. To achieve both, the bees have to challenge their limits every day, throw out the box while thinking, and be innovative on their feet every three seconds. It is a thrilling and adrenaline-pumping industry, and definitely one which is not amenable to an early evening finish at the workplace. 

Where does this leave the queen bees? As mothers and primary caregivers at home, they often find themselves juggling their industry persona with essential duties at home; the lack of intertwining in both would sadly lead to chaos and dysfunction. It is this intertwining that is today leading to the attrition of women from the hive, where Hobson’s choice of achieving a semblance of balance collapses, and the queens are forced to put their family life in front, sacrificing their inherent talent and working careers. Today in 2024, the hive should be a functional social inclusive working machine, however, this attrition has unfortunately led to an overwhelming and maybe sometimes unhealthy male dominance.

However, this hive is now changing and the queens are now again emerging into the forefront. The Hobson’s choice is disappearing and the hive is evolving to a state of inclusion through, among others, adopting flexible working hours which are tailored to maintain the balance between the home and the job. The queens are driving this change by leading with empathy and understanding, and they have the best perspective on how to make their sisters thrive because they understand the exact needs and can uniquely bring out the best in their peers. 

This slow evolution also harmonizes the ecosystem. The hive can thrive because the queens are happy as their life has more balance due to empathy and flexibility. They can concentrate on unleashing their talent at work as they possibly do not have to worry about school drop-off(s) in the morning. 

Flexibility gives workers more autonomy, increases productivity and nurtures inclusivity. Advancements in collaboration tools and cloud technology have made it possible for fintech talent to work at home, in the office, or even from a beach. Mental health is being given supreme importance. A mother can take a break from the office and get breathing space while continuing to work on the cloud systems. The “tech” in “fintech” is harnessed, teams are connected, and deliverables and ideas are being executed with seamless precision. The concept of gluing a bee to its hive office is redundant, superfluous and has been deleted. The mother/queen bee can flourish, reach her potential and become the leader she can be without worrying about daily chores and consequences. 

The emergence of the queen bees has seen the advocacy of this greater flexibility in the hive to drive competitiveness. However, as always, there is individual responsibility. Time has to be managed effectively, delegation, and clear communication between team members is a must to share responsibility for deliverables. There are individual lines which should be respected and expectations set upfront. An all-round fostering of cooperative teamwork should be the norm, and applauding individual achievement breeds encouragement. This coupled with individual balance, as a whole, makes the achievement of work-life harmony easy to be achieved in the system. As a consequence, the hives thrive immensely in the industry, with the queens achieving prominence. 

Disengage to re-engage

The malady of burnout and/or overwork in the fintech hive is problematic not only for individuals but also for businesses as a whole. Burnt-out workers are fatigued and cannot function because they cannot disengage and are in a state of fugue. Mental fatigue due to work stress causes them to make mistakes in the workplace, harming their productivity and making the deliverable inefficient, which in turn makes the hive uncompetitive in the industry.

Once scientific responsibility/boundaries are in place and responsible flexibility in the workplace is implemented utilizing the available “tech”, it is important to learn to engage efficiently. As with switching off a plug, it is important to turn off the mind and conserve mental energy in order to once again be stimulated. The queen bee can now do that, take moments out in the workday, rest, rejuvenate and then again carry on in leading the hive into the cut-throat jungle of the industry. 

For me, conscious disengagement is a matter of self-care. This rewiring that happens in my subconscious helps me to come back more effectively. Once the necessary disengagement is achieved, the re-entry into the matrix is definitely more productive. The disengagement can happen in the form of cooking, baking and spending quality time with my daughter. The workplace’s flexibility helps me achieve this. On re-entry, the mind is fully charged to re-engage more efficiently. 

Looking ahead, my aspiration is that the fintech industry continues progressively on the path of inclusivity, equality, equal opportunities and increased representation. The voices of the queen bees are heard, and their perspectives are implemented. These, alongside education, skills and self-development, must be achieved in the hives across the industry through systemic changes to existing policy and adopting practices focussing on flexibility. The more empowered women are through autonomy given to manage their own time, the more focused they will be to succeed professionally and personally. With the right systems and culture in place, organizations will truly witness the powerful potential of queen bees of the hive, and the industry will thrive manifold in the matrix.