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QUONA PORTFOLIO INSIGHTS

How Fintech Companies in Latin America Can Prioritize Diversity

Research by Endeavor and Mastercard— coupled with on-the-ground efforts across Quona’s Latin America tech companies — shines a light on diversity.

What Diversity & Inclusion Means in Latin America

Latin America’s approach to diversity and inclusion has been complex and nuanced, driven by unique factors connected to particular geographies. What we’ve learned in our continuously evolving D&I conversations with companies in our portfolio is that there are some emergent themes while each geography faces its own unique challenges.

Practical Solution: Build a diverse pipeline

Bringing more diverse talent into tech companies is an effort that requires roots in early intervention and education. According to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 15-year-old boys are twice as likely to pursue a career as an engineer, scientist or architect than their female counterparts. In Mastercard and Endeavor’s survey of 160 female entrepreneurs across Bogota, Mexico City, and Buenos Aires, 27% of them came from a STEM training background, compared to 53% of men in similar positions. Developing training programs for girls and women in STEM is a crucial first step in expanding the pipeline of women both entering and moving up the ranks in tech leadership roles.

Practical Solution: Democratize access to capital

Lack of funding for female-run tech companies (and companies in general) is a huge obstacle in closing the gender gap. In Mexico alone, the Endeavor study found that 97% of the capital raised by tech companies was directed toward businesses founded by men. In order to repair this dramatic disparity, many companies have begun to take a deliberate approach to financing outreach for female entrepreneurs.

Practical Solution: Provide access to safe and supportive networks

Providing support networks and a sense of community is another crucial element to building a diverse and inclusive company ecosystem. Endeavor and Mastercard research found that 40% of surveyed female tech entrepreneurs had been subjected to some form of discrimination at work, with 97% of those cases having specifically to do with gender discrimination. For this reason, creating supportive and like-minded networks that allow women, as well as other underrepresented groups that experience similar discrimination, to feel safe and seen in their professional world is particularly important across the board at tech companies.

Practical Solution: Implement inclusive policies

Developing company-wide policies in areas including hiring, salary, and paid time off is also crucial in building an environment that fosters greater equity. The Endeavor and Mastercard research found that because most tech companies were founded by men and designed around the needs of male employees, they often have a blind spot to many of the issues unique to female employees — namely the need for paid time off and equal salaries for male and female employees.

Practical Solution: Measure progress and maintain momentum

Key to making progress in expanding diversity across technical roles is having some system in place to maintain an understanding of what’s happening. This was underscored by Contabilizei CEO Vitor Torres, who has worked with his team to develop a robust dashboard to measure diversity across functions and levels. “We’re a technology company. If something is important, it needs to be measured,” noted Torres. Emphasis on measuring diversity is mirrored throughout Quona’s Latin America portfolio, with companies consistently assessing the elements of diversity most relevant in their markets.

Looking ahead

As the Endeavor and Mastercard research found, making progress on this historically challenging issue requires effort across company ranks. Across Quona’s portfolio of companies in Latin America, we see this progress taking shape through ecosystem-wide efforts. It isn’t simply how businesses are operating independently but the important partnerships and relationships they develop with other organizations like Mastercard and Quona, that are fundamental to maintaining and moving the needle on progress.

Quona Capital is a venture firm specializing in financial technology for inclusion in emerging markets. Learn more at quona.com.