By Dale S. Laszig
PayTech Women has grown exponentially since its inception in 2005. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, formerly known as Women's Network in Electronic Transactions (Wnet), credits its success to sponsors and volunteers who support its mission to create a more vital and diverse payments industry. In this story, PTW founders and leaders reflect on a 20-year journey that began with a few payment professionals and grew to more than 5,400 members.
PayTech Women has remained true to its original goal of helping women in payments connect, share resources and support each other, noted founding members Diane Faro, CEO and partner at Savify; Holli Targan, a partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP; and Linda Perry, a retired executive who held leadership roles at Visa and major financial institutions.
For Faro, the goal was more than a mission statement; it was letting women know that their voices mattered and providing a place where they could connect and learn from each other.
"The payments industry is a great industry that is ever changing," she said. "We needed a place for women to talk with other women and know they are not alone. So Wnet, now PayTech Women, provided that opportunity for women to meet other women in the industry, to discuss careers, families and/or raising children."
Targan agreed that networking is crucial to career success. "Women network and learn differently than men do," she said. "We wanted to give back to the industry that had supported us and provide a platform to meet women's unique requirements for career development."
Targan went on to say that PTW's mission has resonated within the industry in ways that the founders could have only dreamed about over the previous 20 years, and she continues to hear from women about how PTW events and connections have enhanced their careers.
Perry affirmed that PTW has remained true to its core principles. "The key for our members is still to form a network outside their company, and even outside the US," she said. "It broadens their view of the payments industry, provides education outside their field of expertise and brings a more diverse group of women to their network. That is the essence of PayTech Women."
Wendy Holliday, CEO for PayTech Women, pointed out that the organization continues to empower and invest in women and has grown by 1,122 percent since 2017.
"We have focused on the broken rung in advancement for women and have expanded our services to include new membership categories for young professionals and retirees; exclusive programming for our senior-most members; a renewed mentorship program; vetted career coaching program; a world-class, custom content Leadership Academy; and in 2024, a new ConneX Cohort program allowing every member to connect and engage with others in the industry, gain valuable skills and the opportunity to shine."
Holliday additionally noted that PTW's 13 chapters offered 42 programs in 2023, engaging with nearly 1,400 people across the nation. In addition, the organization expanded its annual Leadership Summit, which attracted 631 registrants in October. Other live events throughout the year featured industry leaders, including Stephanie Ferris, CEO and president of FIS, and Elizabeth Krear, vice president of J.D. Power.
"As a foundation for our evolution, PTW has re-prioritized diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives for internal and member purposes as well as partner, sponsor and industry objectives," she said. "When we better understand our members' differences and issues, better programs can be developed to meet their needs and to address the diversity of the payments and fintech industries, helping all ambitious women rise."
In October 2022, the organization officially rebranded to become PayTech Women, a fresh new image inspired by the organization's membership and partnership growth and expanded focus. Anne Mendenhall, vice president, marketing and communications for PayTech Women, recalled working on the brand refresh throughout 2021 and 2022 with Wnet volunteers and public relations specialists at The Fletcher Group.
"The transformation involved a new name, an evolved logo and fresh colors that better represent the dynamic nature of the payments industry," she said. "The choice of bold and energetic colors, modern fonts and inclusive imagery aimed to connect with our influential and priority audiences: professional women—from emerging stars to senior leaders—in the payments and fintech ecosystem."
Mendenhall described the logo's circles and summit peak as symbols of connectivity, inclusivity and a shared goal of reaching personal summits within dedicated, career-focused networks. The organization's new tagline condenses its mission of "creating a stronger and more diverse industry by empowering and investing in women," into "We help all women in paytech rise, thrive and connect." These dynamic verbs are the focal point of our new tagline, she added.
PayTech Women's 2023 Leadership Summit, held at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead, also embodied PayTech Women's fresh new energy. Mendenhall said the summit's tagline, "Amplify Your Voice," was designed to convey empowerment and encouragement by enhancing the influence, visibility and impact of each attendee's voice.
"The tagline was used at our annual conference to inspire participants to speak up, share their insights and play an active role in shaping their careers and the industry as a whole," she said. "The strong statement reflects PayTech Women's commitment to fostering a supportive environment where women's voices are not only heard but also celebrated and strengthened."
PTW Board President Polly Van Duser, SPHR is vice president of talent acquisition at One Inc. She co-chaired PTW's 2023 Thrive Priority and Summit Leadership planning committees and said she expects to see an even bigger turnout at the 2024 Leadership Summit, to be held Sept. 24 to 25 at the Atlanta Marriott Airport Gateway Complex.
"As we gear up for 2024, we're not just continuing the journey; we're amplifying our success," she said. "We're all about fostering relationships, strengthening our chapters, and expanding opportunities for our members. Our rise, thrive and connect theme isn't just a slogan; it's what we do every day. We're here for you, whether you're just starting out or a seasoned leader in the payments industry."
PayTech Women membership is now open to men and women, Mendenhall noted, adding that she was pleased to see a larger cohort of male advocate members at the 2023 Summit. Among them was Austin Mac Nab, CEO and founder of VizyPay, who spoke highly of the organization.
"Our team, which is new to the payments space, has leveled up by attending the last couple of PayTech Women events in Atlanta," he said. "It has provided us with access to individuals who share similar experiences. We believe that it's not just about VizyPay, but also about enabling others to make an impact on the payment space from a different perspective."
Noting that VizyPay is made up of 64 percent minorities and 27 percent women, Mac Nab encouraged men to prioritize diversity in an industry where it has been lacking for years. He noted that PayTech Women opened his eyes and is educating and promoting change. He also mentioned watching his mother, who came from Vietnam during the war and had limited opportunities. This, he said, motivated him to do more for change, starting within the walls of VizyPay.
Holliday thanked PTW corporate partners for investing in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and for encouraging male allies. PayTech Women has doubled its male advocate membership and has seen more men engaging in local chapters.
"As much as we empower and support women, women cannot do it alone," she said. "We need allies throughout the industry to sponsor and support diversity, equity and inclusion. Research has shown companies with more diverse senior leadership and board members endure trying times more effectively and are stronger overall."
More companies are embracing DEI, Holliday added, not only because it's the right thing to do but because it's a fiscally responsible and company-centric leading indicator for success.
When asked how companies can support PTW's mission to help create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive payments industry, Holliday framed the process as a long game.
"I see the opportunity to improve diversity, equity and inclusion as a journey," she said. "No organization has a magic solution and each organization will have employee and situational differences that must be taken into consideration. So, give yourself and your organization a bit of grace and consider what can be done now, what can be done in the near term and what is next?"
Holliday encouraged industry organizations to look ahead to improve approaches to DEI and to foster environments that support authenticity and transparency. There must be buy-in from the top, she added, with true authentic outreach and access to organizational metrics that provide real data about the organization. This data can be used to track successes and failures and report back to the team while resisting the urge to sugarcoat any setbacks.
Noting that people support what they help to create, she encouraged companies to get team members engaged in the following initiatives:
Holliday noted it's also important to set goals and build for success by getting team members' perspectives on organizational goals for implementing DEI. She suggested asking colleagues what leading indicators will impact their goal attainment. Also consider a multilevel leadership opportunity, and allow people at all levels in the organization to lead initiatives that address each goal, she added. Most importantly, she emphasized, decentralize the implementation to ensure it is part of everyone's responsibilities—then reflect and repeat annually.
Targan stated that PayTech Women has come a long way and there is more work to be done. "We started out with an initial gathering of maybe 30 women at an industry conference," she said. "The focus has always been on networking and leadership development—that has not changed. But the offerings have become more sophisticated over time."
Society has become more attuned to DEI in corporate settings, but it appears the numbers haven't moved significantly in the past 20 years, Targan noted. Thus, we are constantly polling our members and corporate sponsors, she said, to see how we can help women meet their career objectives, and this has led to the robust organization we have today, with local chapters, insightful webinars, a mentoring program, and the resoundingly successful annual Leadership Summit.
Perry agreed that PayTech Women has enriched many professional careers, including her own. PTW founders came from different areas of the payments industry, she noted, but became more than customers to each other and formed lasting bonds in the process. Out of this experience, it seemed only natural to want to help other women in their careers, she added.
"I had a wonderful career in payments, working for three banks and finally Visa for 17 years," she said. "My position at Visa, senior vice president, acquirer relations, enabled me to interact with women in all sectors of the business. I felt and still feel those relationships and the network the job provided were very valuable to me as a person, and to enhancing my industry education and job skills."
Dale S. Laszig, senior staff writer at The Green Sheet and founder and CEO at DSL Direct LLC, is a payments industry journalist and content strategist. Connect via email ,firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/dalelaszig/ and Twitter https://twitter.com/DSLdirect.
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