Innovate Finance, a not-for-profit organisation representing the UK fintech community, has published a booklet to celebrate and highlight the work of the 21 women who are founders or CEO of its member organisations – 8% of the total.

Much like finance and technology, the fintech industry is often reprimanded for its lack of women and diversity, particularly at top management level. In Europe’s top 50 fintech firms, just 5% of top executive roles are filled by women, with only one woman CEO.

The reasons for this gap are many, and they include cultural attitudes, education access and financial opportunities. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Innovate Finance organised a mini-conference to discuss both challenges and opportunities for women in fintech. “The promise of fintech gives us all an opportunity, the power to solve problems affecting the most disenfranchised individuals. It’s the greatest enabler I’ve ever experienced,” said Viola Llewellyn in her keynote speech. She is co-founder and chief operations officer at Ovamba, an Africa-focused platform assisting banks in determining the creditworthiness of potential borrowers, and small and medium enterprises in accessing funding through peer-to-peer marketplace lending.

The opportunity is clear: an increasing number of studies show that a more diverse management board brings better results for companies. In developing countries especially, supporting female entrepreneurship brings more development to communities. “Fintech is a bridge,” said Llewellyn, “but women are an island.”

Getting closer to the bridge needs effort every step of the way, from supporting girls in accessing education, to encouraging a career in scientific or economic fields, to then providing mentorship to grow into that career and finally reaching management levels.

Particularly in the fintech space, supporting female entrepreneurship means providing access to funding and mentorship. While, on one hand, only a small percentage of venture capital goes towards female-led start-ups, accelerator programmes such as Startupbootcamp also do not see enough applications from them. “The numbers are awful, they’re embarrassing,” said Liz Lumley, managing director and head of ecosystem at Startupbootcamp, adding that the next application round for the London fintech accelerator programme will have an unapologetic bias towards women.

According to Anna Ravanona, founder and CEO of Global Invest Her, a platform dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs get ready for funding and investment, programmes looking to receive more applications from women would see an improvement already by writing explicitly that “women are encouraged to apply”. She also encouraged more women to join the venture capital ranks, as 86% of VCs in the UK are men. But it is her last words of advice that women seeking funding should really put into practice: “Ask for more money!” she said, to the audience’s applause.