Culture and Talent

The need for male allies in financial services with US Bank’s Doug Nielson and MX’s Jane Barratt

  • Venture funding data and the gender pay gap show there's still a big issue in financial services and fintech.
  • But more conversations are happening around gender parity as men get more involved in the changes.

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The need for male allies in financial services with US Bank’s Doug Nielson and MX’s Jane Barratt

Today's episode is kind of a special one. We have Doug Nielson, svp innovation R&D at US Bank and Jane Barratt, chief advocacy officer at MX, joining us from yesterday’s Fearless in Fintech conference.

The pair discuss the importance of creating and maintaining male allies in financial services, the workplace, and the world, really. In an industry that is lopsided in terms of gender parity, financial services definitely has an opportunity to do better. Doug and Jane explain how individuals and organizations can do better.

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

Male allies, financial services, and fintech

Jane Barratt, MX: It's a truth pretty much universally acknowledged that women haven't been all that welcome in finance or technology. The overlap of those two in the Venn Diagram can be a tricky place for women to be. There have been countless column inches, webinars, and podcasts about women in finance. The key issue is that it tends to be women talking to other women. Men need to become part of the conversation, understanding some of the broader implications, and determine how to become an ally.

It's great that Doug Nielson is here with us because he's such a public ally. He's extremely good at being a genuine networker -- someone who forges opportunities for others. It's not just women but it's also for people of color. It's about making financial services more inclusive generally. To be a male ally means bringing others along who aren't exactly like you.

Becoming a male ally

Doug Nielson, US Bank: My story wasn't like all of a sudden there was a boom and I was on the front lines. Really, I started early on in my life. My dad was a professor. I was used to seeing men and women in equal roles. I went from graduating college to teaching and I was used to seeing fellow teachers, assistant principals and principals of all genders, sexes, creeds, and colors. Frankly, it came as somewhat of a shock when I came into the corporate world and it wasn't the same scenario.

I think I was fortunate that the first 20 years of my professional career was at American Express. I had some really good role models, including men, but also really good women bosses in the US and Europe. I realized that not everyone thought the way I do. I've been on a gradual journey to make sure that I keep my eyes and ears open by not getting caught in the boys club echo chamber. I make sure I understand what the issues are by talking with female employees. When I'm at events, I don't stick with the old gang, consciously networking. It's been a gradual evolution.

Working to be more inclusive

DN: Internally, I try to make sure to attend as many business resource groups at US Bank that cover a lot of different types of people. This helps to ensure that I hear a lot of different voices. From a mentorship perspective, I try to make sure that I can help women in fintech if they reach out to me for that type of relationship. This may sound basic but whenever I look for a new member for my staff or someone to promote, I make sure to look at a diverse slate of candidates.

Setting visible examples

JB: It helps the more natural it is for a person like Doug with his stature and reputation to intervene at the right moments and say, "Actually, why don't we bring Alice into this team? She's amazing." Or, "Maybe Katy hasn't had so much experience with this, but I think she has great potential."

The idea is that it's intentional inclusiveness that others can see and follow. It has to be normalized, too -- it isn't like Doug gets a cookie for this because he's awesome. It doesn't have to be things with giant implication like changing someone's career. It can be small things like heaping praise or interjecting if someone's been interrupted. For people like Doug, it's just natural. It's not about gender -- it's about being professional.

Formalizing male ally behavior

DN: The first step for any guy in this scenario is to go to places that they're sure to hear other opinions and perspectives. If you haven't walked in your counterparts' shoes, it should become more natural.

Financial services still lagging

JB: If you look at the numbers like venture funding and the gender pay gap, I don't think things have improved much. Where things have improved is that conversations have shifted to admitting there is a problem. Having more visible conversations and specifics around what people can do is helping. There's an appreciation of the manel -- an all-male panel -- and more people are refusing to speak on them. If you look at financial services and fintech conferences, it's noticeable when a manel happens versus it being the norm.

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