Treasury and Payments
“One of the biggest challenges is to break the tradition”: Women in Payments in LATAM
On one day, she’s the only woman in the room, and on the next, she’s meeting a bank run exclusively by women. Latin America’s payments landscape is as varied as the countries it’s comprised of. Understanding these complexities is key to progressing in what was a traditionally male-dominated industry, says Angelica Valencia.
Latin America is now the second-fastest growing market for e-commerce after Southeast Asia1, bolstered by multinationals entering the region. At the core of this, shaking up the landscape, are the women who are breaking the mold and bringing a new perspective to payments.
Meanwhile, regional infrastructure continues to evolve rapidly, providing the an ideal space for payments to flourish. With this mix of old and new comes challenges – it is the ultimate disruption.
But let’s step back for a moment. The region is a complex one, made up of very different countries and territories. For the most part, LATAM is highly regulated - although we are starting to see these regulations adapt to the new era. Brazil is a great example of this as it opens up and becomes more flexible. Crucially, we are starting to see a transition to new solutions, with new participants in the market; it’s a great opportunity for those who take a full advantage of these trends.
As well as a regulatory mind shift, there is a cultural one. Traditionally a male-dominated industry, women who are entering into payments as a career are facing a lot of work to overcome bias and change that mindset. Some countries are already far along that path. For others, there is a longer road ahead as more and more women aspire to climb the corporate ladder.
The growth of the diversity mindset
Many countries in Latin America are taking this very seriously and starting to create a voice for all. This is why organizations such as Women in Payments are important – providing a global network to connect, inspire and champion women in the Payments industry. I still have meetings where I am the only woman in the room. Unbelievable as it seems, it still happens. That can be intimidating for some women as they look to payments as a career; one of the biggest challenges is to face that fear and break the traditions. According to the World Economic Forum the global gender gap is not expected to close for another 136 years2.
But let’s be clear: it won’t just happen because you are a woman. It’s constant learning, hard work, and networking. From my own perspective, seeing colleagues, friends and managers succeed has inspired me to think what could be possible. At every level, you can look to other women who have already achieved what you want, and the inspiration is there. Fears will always exist, but you have to fight past them - if they can do it, so can I.
We can drive that change as women and through tapping into men who are allies. It’s a ‘whole community’ effort, and if you are already senior, then it’s your time to start connecting and helping others to get there. I don’t focus on the gender imbalance that I see as a senior woman, but take heart from inspiring real life examples: The all-women board of a Uruguayan bank, the phenomenal women I have learned from, and the passionate leaders-in-waiting of the next generation.
I firmly believe that future generations will have powerful young women flourish in traditionally male-dominated industries such as finance, math, engineering, and I hope they feel empowered and can help to shrink the gender gap of 136 years. It is my ambition that my contributions will narrow the gender gap and encourage many women and men to join the movement.
Angelica is part of the Women in Payments LATAM Advisory Board. For more information on Women in Payments, see https://latam.womeninpayments.org/home
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