FINANCE PLUS TECHNOLOGY EQUALS ULTIMATE BOY’S CLUB? MAYBE NOT…
Both Lannquist and Driehorst don’t see the FinTech Club’s all-women leadership panel as happenstance. Generally speaking, Driehorst says, women bring a lot of cross-functional thinking and creativity to problem solving, which “makes women especially valuable in fintech.”
But that doesn’t mean the leadership in the business school bubble will translate to the real world. “It’s tricky because there is always your experience in business school and then at some point, you are re-entering the real world. And that real world still is a place where someone can say, ‘We think you’re really smart but we’re not sure you’re likable.’”
There’s also another very obvious issue specific to fintech. “Fintech is very much the intersection of two male-dominated, testosterone-fueled environments,” Driehorst points out. Indeed, both finance and technology have been notorious boy’s club industries. But fintech has also been seen as a path for women not wanting to go the traditional banking route.
“Fintech is absolutely an area where women are under-represented still,” she continues. “It’s not a rose pedal-laden path when there are fewer role models.”
Lannquist says at least once she has felt unconscious bias against her during a meeting at a Bay Area fintech firm. “It surprised me,” she says of the meeting. But it didn’t deter her. Growing up, Lannquist says, she was inspired by the work of her aunt, a pioneer for women managing pension funds. Leadership roles like that are what Lannquist believes the industry needs.
“The only way this is going to change is women getting into the industry and taking leadership positions,” she says.
A NEED FOR TOP TALENT AND INNOVATION
The establishment of the Haas FinTech Club is certainly a step in that direction. Over the past academic year, the club has visited the who’s-who of Bay Area fintech firms, including PayPal, NerdWallet, SoFi, Earnest, Ripple, Braintree, Adyen, Square, and Credit Karma. “Fintech is growing so much and there is so much competition for great talent,” Driehorst says. “I think any talent strategy that excludes a large part of the population can’t really succeed.”
Another point Driehorst makes: the innovation potential of fintech opens the doors to all sorts of people and passions.
“One thing that is so exciting about fintech is there is so much potential for growth in so many different areas,” she says. “And it really does create a culture where there is room for everyone to succeed.”
POTENTIAL COLLABORATION WITH OTHER B-SCHOOLS
As for collaborating with fintech clubs at other business schools, both Lannquist and Driehorst say it’s a possibility. Lannquist says she recently spoke with a woman from the University of Texas McCombs School of Business about starting a similar club there.
Either way, both co-presidents expect the Haas club to continue to grow next year.
“We talk like fintech is such a specialized field, but it’s actually a continuum,” Driehorst says, adding that they expect to add two more leadership positions next academic year. “There are so many different things that it is, and Haas student interest hits at many points along that continuum. We are providing an entry point for that interest.”