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Friday, March 5, 2021

GS interviews Paysafe's Paulette Rowe

In honor of International Women's Day coming up March 8, 2021, Paysafe kicked off the month with a virtual roundtable with female leaders that explored gender equality in the modern workplace. Given that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found women accounted for most job losses in December 2020, with net losses of about 156,000 jobs, while men lost only about 16,000, the topic was ripe for examination.

Panelists at the March 1 event titled The Impact of COVID-19 on gender equality in fintech included Valera Wilson, author of You're Absolutely Worth it; Martha Mghendi-Fisher, founder of the European Women's Payment Network; Debbie Crawford, vice president of business development at Mastercard; Amanda Mesler, CEO of CashFlows; and Paulette Rowe, CEO of Integrated Solutions at Paysafe Group.

Following is The Green Sheet's interview with Paulette Rowe conducted shortly after the panel concluded. Rowe had suggested during the discussion that women appear to be carrying a disproportionate share of responsibility for homeschooling during the pandemic, which led to the first question.

You recommended flexible hours as a possible remedy for balancing work and family responsibilities. What other steps can be taken to promote gender equality in the workplace?

As a single parent of a teenager, I have experienced firsthand some of the challenges of remote working at home. As a recent example, I had the opportunity to attend a one-week intensive leadership course that required my undivided attention. I realized that finding a place at home where I could guarantee I would not be disturbed was going to be difficult. Instead, Paysafe agreed that I could book a room in a nearby hotel for the week. This allowed me to fully commit to the training whilst being able to return home in the evenings.

Amidst our new normal of working from home, a flexible approach is important. At Paysafe, offering flexible hours to all employees—men as well as women—has certainly been key to addressing this issue. We introduced wellbeing afternoons off work in January and February, ongoing no-internal meeting days, and have also recently unveiled shorter hours in the summer months and dedicated family months with ideas on activities for the kids. Our goal is to give both male and female employees the space to juggle their family commitments equitably, so there is less imbalance.

Work during the pandemic with its heavier burden on female employees is, of course, a top-down issue. And so we've instilled in our leadership the need to think differently about how they manage their teams, and we've put on a lot of internal training to help with this. We also assess people man-agers through a further manager effectiveness survey, which is also ongoing.

It's also about ensuring that men, too, feel comfortable asking for time to do their bit at home. And our leadership team has provided a model for this behavior. They share examples of how they too have had to take time out to support with homeschooling, making the family dinner or cleaning—and this has helped create another new normal for the company.

Beyond the pandemic, better gender representation at senior levels should be a priority for all companies. At Paysafe, we're still working to improve gender representation with the full support of our board and executive team.

We have seen positive progress in the recruitment of women for senior roles, and we are consciously trying to build in more practices to improve the gender balance throughout the whole employee lifecycle, including promotion, retention and mentoring. This last month, we announced a new mentoring program, which will allow senior women leaders to assume mentor roles beyond their teams and direct reports to support the development of all employees, both women and men.

Overall, gender equality will not be achieved overnight. However, when companies adopt a mindset to improve representation and build a more inclusive workspace, significant progress can be made—and we've certainly seen that at Paysafe over the last couple of years.

What positive indications are you seeing in today's workplace environments that suggest we have made strides in advancing gender equality?

I think the most visible indication is that we're seeing a greater number of companies led by female CEOs. Last May, the number of women running the boardrooms of America's 500 largest companies reached a record high: 37. Of course, that is still less than 10 percent of the Fortune 500, but it does suggest progress is being made.

On the March 1st webinar, I mentioned that Blackstone, one of our private equity sponsors, had recently launched a new target to achieve diverse representation of one-third of each company board across its portfolio. This is a really significant step. As one of three female non-executive directors (NEDs) on a FTSE-100 company board, I have seen firsthand how having women on the board has brought an even greater focus to the D&I agenda.

The payments and fintech space, in particular, has long struggled with a comparatively smaller proportion of women employees, especially in senior and executive roles. While women are breaking through the glass ceiling every day, we need to ensure that companies maintain their focus on developing women leaders throughout the year and not just for International Women's Day each March.

As an industry, there is a great deal more for us to do to ensure we are creating a level playing field for all of our colleagues. And we need to track whether women are making as much progress in the key finance, technology and P&L roles as they are in other functions. These are the positions that will support women leaders' rise into CEO positions in the future.

How is Paysafe modeling the way to workplace diversity and inclusion?

At Paysafe, we consider diversity and inclusion (D&I) a top-down priority. The D&I ethos is ingrained across all levels of our company. It drives how we recruit and retain our talent—from senior leaders to more junior team members.

Our CEO, Philip McHugh, has surrounded himself with a diverse executive team in terms of gender and race. He appreciates that great leaders come in all sorts of packages and that a team that is more diverse is going to be more creative, more resilient and better able to serve the global community that we serve.

Following his arrival in 2019, Paysafe established D&I teams and, more recently, these have been expanded to create employee networks—from Women@Paysafe, Black@Paysafe to LGBTQ+@Paysafe and Families@Paysafe. Connected to this, we recognize and celebrate events and historic milestones that invite everyone to celebrate and educate, such as Black History Month, International Women's Day, and Pride. At Paysafe, we want to create a safe space for all employees, where they can bring their full and authentic selves to work.

In terms of specific targets, we are looking at diversity KPIs across the business, starting at the board level and moving across the teams. We have a workforce that is almost 50:50 male-to-female, but our senior leadership team is not reflective of that balance, so we are putting plans in place to solve this. It's not just about gender, though; we also need better representation of ethnic minorities and other diverse characteristics at the leadership level, and so we are also looking at how we do this.

Beyond the company, we donate to multiple organizations to support positive change in the world, including within the payments industry. For instance, we sponsor women's payments groups such as Wnet in the U.S. and the European Women Payments Network (EWPN).

You mentioned that companies that have women in senior leadership positions tend to do better with diversity and inclusion. What are some examples?

Even before you look at the impact on diversity and inclusion, companies with a significant proportion of female leaders tend to do better financially. Research last July from gender diversity firm The Pipeline revealed that London-listed companies with at least one in three women executives had more than 10 times the profit margins of firms with no women in their executive teams.

Also last year, McKinsey published its latest report on D&I called Diversity Wins. After tracking data since 2014 across 15 countries, McKinsey concluded that "the business case remains robust but also that the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial outperformance has strengthened over time."

The correlation between a company's female senior leadership and a strong D&I culture across the broader organization is also clear. In Fortune's survey of the 100 Best Workplaces for Diversity, the top company of all, Stryker, had over a quarter (27 percent) of women on its executive team.

Why is this? First of all, I think we can all agree that leadership comes in all sorts of packages and is not the prerogative of a single demographic. Companies whose leadership better represents the societies they serve and operate in are better able to recruit and retain talent, understand their customers and consumers (ensuring their products and services are tailored to meet their specific needs), and manage risk.

It should not be a surprise that having greater diversity of experience and thought around the executive table ensures a company is better prepared for whatever the future holds.

You mentioned you'd like to see women play a more active role in product design, as women and men may have different behaviors around payment products. What other areas would be better served by having more diverse representation?

My point was more: Are we even asking the question? It could be that the payment sector is an area where gender doesn't drive behavior, but there are examples of industries that have failed to ask the question and, as a result, have not reflected the needs of their female customers in the design of their products or services.

Consider that test dummies in the auto industry were based on a 50th percentile man. Or the fact that U.S. office temperature regulations were based on an average-sized man. Isn't it probable that with more diverse teams, this kind of bias would be less likely to occur?

To flip the question, I feel that diverse representation better serves all aspects of a payment company and, indeed, companies per se. To effectively do business, an organization needs to hire the best. We also need to be attuned to the society in which our organization operates and the consumers and businesses we serve. Are companies achieving either of these objectives by recruiting from the same narrow pool of talent?

At Paysafe, we're strongly focused on improving the customer and employee experience, but we can only do so by being able to empathize and relate to our customers, colleagues and their communities— in short, by representing who they are. end of article

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