Irish start-up pulls out of European FinTech Awards due to all-male panels (update)

18 Jul 2017

Image: romantitov/Shutterstock

Fund Recs has ignited the all-male panels debate once again after pulling out of this year’s European FinTech Awards.

For organisers of any event in the 21st century, a key priority for arranging panels of speakers or judges should be having an equal representation of both men and women.

That has been the increasingly vocal opinion of many people who feel that the days of all-male panels should not only be discontinued indefinitely, but should be pointed out and criticised openly, as seen in the Tumblr blog, All Male Panels.

Now, Irish fintech start-up Fund Recs has made its own statement by pulling out of this year’s September European FinTech Awards, with CEO and co-founder Alan Meaney criticising the organisers for having no women on its judging panels.

“On 1 June, I queried why 57 of the 62 judges in 2016 were male. Could it be that hard to find female judges for fintech awards?” Meaney wrote on LinkedIn.

“At that point, 11 of the 11 2017 judges were male. Since highlighting the issue and providing a list of 200 women in fintech, the awards have gone on to add a further eight male judges, making the list a mind-boggling 19 for 19 men!”

‘People are even reluctant to put their name forward’

Since Meaney’s post, the list has increased to 20 judges with the addition of one woman, but the full list is expected to grow to 60 judges ahead of the event this autumn.

Speaking with, Meaney reiterated his stance on the lack of women represented in the list of judges at the event, both this year and in previous years.

“You’d almost have to proactively try to be that lopsided,” he said before going on to add that as an organiser of similar events, he has experienced the struggle of creating gender-diverse panels.

“We’ve always made the extra effort to get balanced panels and we do know it takes a lot of work to do it. Because of the way things are, people are even reluctant to put their name forward.”

He did, however, add this is not just an indictment of the European FinTech Awards, but many fintech events in general.

“[The lack of women judges] can be very noticeable,” he said. “Definitely a trend that needs to be reset.”

A ‘wake-up call’

In response to Meaney’s open criticism of the event, the director of the European FinTech Awards, Melle Eijckelhoff, said he and his team of four are very grateful for the “wake-up call”, but added that it would be premature to judge the selection so far, based on the fact that the panel is only one-third filled.

In response to claims that they have been purposefully ignoring women in the industry, Eijckelhoff gave a flat denial.

“No, that is not the case,” he said. “We do not actively discourage women participation for the panel of judges of the European FinTech Awards.

“Nor do we have the luxury to pass up on any good judge that is available to join us in Brussels. We need them all and we reach out to everybody we know. Can we do better to get more female judges? Absolutely!”

He continued: “Starting today, we will work hard to create a more diverse panel of judges. [We will] dedicate time to make it happen, make more phone calls, find more names and ask for more help. We are not a big team – just two women and two men – but we will make finding and reaching out to more female judges a priority.”

However, Eijckelhoff cautioned that they cannot promise to have an exact 50/50 split come this September as “no one can ignore the fact that the numbers are lopsided for the financial industry and the tech industry as a whole”.

Update, 3.25pm, 21 July 2017: Following his original LinkedIn post, Meaney has since given an update on his conversations with the European FinTech Awards organisers.

It read: “Melle, Maud and the rest of the team at the [European FinTech Awards] have reacted very positively to below being raised and have added four fantastic new female judges to the panel.

“I’m working with them to get more involved and appreciate any suggestions anyone has. Looking for female fintech leaders with a background in innovation, investing, banking or technology.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic