Women in cross-border payments: What share of leadership is female?

Women in cross-border payments: What share of leadership is female?

Despite women in payments initiatives, cross-border payments has traditionally been dominated by male leadership. But how many of the current senior leadership positions at major companies are held by female executives?

Traditionally, the worlds of finance, fintech and payments have not been the strongest when it comes to female representation. Movement towards greater representation has been generally regarded as slow, despite excellent work from many in the industry on women in payments initiatives and other related campaigns.

Cross-border payments in particular is no different. Previous analysis of the chief executives in FXC Intelligence’s Top 100 Cross-Border Payment Companies – the leading measure of the most impactful companies in the space – found that just 4% of the top companies in the space are led by women. This number has also never gone above 5% in the six years we have been running the Top 100. 

However, just measuring the sole positions at the top of organisations does not provide a full picture of cross-border payments’ efforts to improve opportunities for women in the industry, particularly given that CEO roles are often held by the same person for years, if not decades.

As a result, this report is designed to provide a fuller sense of the industry’s performance on moves to increase women’s representation by taking the most complete look to-date at female leadership across the entire C-suite of cross-border payments. Intended as the first in a multi-year assessment of the space, this is designed to provide measurable data for the industry to benchmark itself against and work to improve on. 

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Benchmarking female leadership in cross-border payments: Methodology

For this report, we used the companies in the 2024 Cross-Border Payments 100 as a representative dataset of the wider space. We chose to use these 100 companies as they are not only the most impactful players in the industry, making their performance in this area highly important to the industry as a whole, but are fairly diverse in terms of their size, areas of focus, markets and headquarters. As a result, this provides an extensive picture of the space across businesses of multiple countries, segments and maturity levels.

In order to ensure we provided a fair assessment of each company, we took senior leadership to mean the people listed on each company’s website under ‘executive leadership’ or similar. In all cases, we noted the names, job titles and genders of every person listed in this way for each company. 

In a minority of cases – 22 – such information was not publicly available on the company’s website or in other materials published elsewhere by the company. While some external sites do claim to list organisational details for such companies’ senior leadership we did not find this to be reliably exhaustive for use in this research.

For these 22 companies, we reached out directly to ask them to provide us with the full details of their executives for use in this research. Four out of the 22 provided us with this information, resulting in a final count of 82 companies that we had sufficient information on to assess as part of this research, with a combined total of 1,074 roles captured in May 2024.

In order to assemble the results below, we calculated the average share of leadership positions held by women both overall and by a number of specific sub-categories, including company size, age, location and business focus. We also calculated the share by each individual company in order to identify the companies who are performing best when it comes to the representation of women in senior leadership positions within cross-border payments.

Women’s share of leadership positions in cross-border payments

Across the 1,074 senior leadership roles assessed from the 82 cross-border payments companies, 791 were held by men, while 283 were held by women. This means that men account for 74% of the current senior leadership positions in the industry, while women account for 26% – just above a quarter.

When reviewed on a by-company basis (therefore weighted by the number of roles at the company), this performance was slightly lower, with the 82 companies averaging 25% of senior leadership roles occupied by women, versus 75% held by men.

Of the 82 companies reviewed, seven (8.5%) had no women in senior leadership roles, while 10 (12.2%) had only one woman. This means that one in five of the cross-border payments companies looked at for this report had one or less women in their senior leadership positions.

While these results are significantly better than the share for those holding CEO positions in the space, it is below some other industry measures. For example, the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter, a UK government initiative that tracks more than 400 companies that have signed up to improve gender balance in senior management within the finance sector, reported that its signatories averaged 35% female representation in 2024, up from 34% in 2022. 

It is also well below targets set by many players in the wider finance industry, which vary by company but generally sit between 35% and 50%.

Women hold a quarter of cross-border payments leadership roles
Share of senior leadership positions by gender across industry's top companies

Which senior leadership roles have the most women in cross-border payments?

While job titles varied significantly among the different companies, most positions fit into one of several broad categories, within which there was significant variation in the number of women represented.

People and HR-related roles, which include positions such as Chief People Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer, saw by far the highest representation of women and were the only role type with 30 or more people where women accounted for more than half of those in the category, at 73%.

Among women in senior leadership positions across cross-border payments, HR-related positions accounted for 15% of all roles held by women and so are key to the overall share of positions. Without HR-related positions, women account for just 23% of all leadership positions in the space.

Beyond HR, legal was the second most common area for female representation among positions held by 30 or more people in the study, with 47% of senior leadership positions held by women. Meanwhile, compliance and marketing/communications roles came in third and fourth, with shares of 39% and 38% respectively.

By contrast, the President role was the worst major role for female representation, with just 10% of positions held by women. Technology, which includes positions such as Chief Technology Officer, came in second at 12%, while CEO, which covers both overall CEOs and CEOs of specific sub-brands or business units, came in third worst at 13%.

HR roles lead on women at cross-border payments companies
Share of senior leadership positions by gender, split by role type

Which cross-border payments companies perform best on female leadership representation?

While there were a broad range of shares of women in senior leadership positions at cross-border payments companies, just 10 of the 82 companies (12%) had 40% or above of such roles filled by women. 

This was led by French banking major Société Générale, which was the only company on the list to have more women than men in senior leadership positions, at 54%. This was followed by Standard Chartered and Sunrate, the only two companies to have equal numbers of men and women in such roles. Other companies that also had 40% or higher female leadership were JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lloyds Bank, PingPong, PayPal, Remitly, Payoneer and Onafriq, which until recently was known as MFS Africa.

This group includes companies with headquarters across six different countries: the UK, the US, France, China, Singapore and South Africa. While the US had the largest number of companies within this group, it had a lower relative share of the companies and roles than it has on the list overall. 

US companies accounted for 49.8% of all roles considered in the research but accounted for 38.7% of all the roles of companies within this top 10. By contrast, the UK, France, Singapore and South Africa all had a greater share of roles in the top 10 than they did in the research overall.

Cross-border payments players with 40%+ female leadership
Share of senior leadership positions by gender at leading cross-border players

Does the location of company headquarters impact the level of female leadership?

While the group of companies leans more towards Western players, and in particular those located in the US, we did see some trends in terms of how the location of company headquarters impacts the share of senior leadership held by women in cross-border payments companies. 

On a country basis, France, Canada, Uruguay, South Africa and Switzerland had the highest female averages, at 39%, 35%, 33%, 33% and 31% respectively. It is interesting to note that French is a national language in three of these countries and so this may speak to common sociocultural practices. But it is also important to note that these are countries with lower-than average representation in the sample set overall, so in most of these cases a single company is representing the country as a whole.

However, grouping the companies into continental groups highlights some interesting geographic trends. On this basis, North America and the Middle East & Africa have the highest share of female leadership, at 28.6% and 28.3% respectively. This is followed by Latin America (26.1%) and Europe (23.9%), with Asia-Pacific having the lowest share at 22.1%.

France, Canada lead on cross-border payments female leadership
Share of senior leadership positions by gender, split by company headquarters

Company age’s impact on women in leadership positions

Reviewing the share of roles by the age of each company highlighted some interesting trends. While companies that were founded either in the 1900s or after 2010 were likely to have a lower-than-average female share, those that were founded before 1900 or in the 2000s were more likely to have an above-average share of women in senior leadership positions. 

This suggests a number of things. First, long-established payments-related companies, many of whom are tier 1 banks, do appear to be making concerted efforts to ensure representation of women in leadership positions. This reflects long-standing initiatives to improve diversity in the finance industry despite historical under-representation and speaks to the commitment companies have at this level. 

Second, companies founded fairly recently – i.e. between 25 and 15 years ago – are generally hiring women into senior leadership positions, suggesting that younger companies are taking a more diverse approach to hiring at this level. This may indicate that among newer companies, there are less structural factors – be it availability of suitable talent, bias or something else – that prevent women from getting senior roles than there are for older companies.

However, companies founded in the 1990s performed worst on average on their share of female leadership, indicating historical bias and structural factors are still having an impact on these companies today, possibly in part because they are yet to reach an age or scale where they can fully address such issues. 

Perhaps more of an issue is that companies founded after 2010 are performing below average. This suggests that there are still issues with female leadership representation at the founding and early development stages of companies in cross-border payments, and that women are generally being brought on when a company reaches a certain scale.

Women have more roles in oldest cross-border payments players
Share of senior leadership positions by gender, split by company founding year

We also saw similar trends in the size of companies, with the highest representation of women in leadership positions among cross-border payments companies with either under 200 employees or over 10,000. 

This follows the trend that newer companies and those that are very long-established are generally better in terms of female leadership than those founded in the 90s or earlier in the 1900s, suggesting that if the industry is to address this issue further, it is the mid-sized companies where attention needs to be most focused.

Cross-border payments leadership is split by company size
Share of senior leadership positions by gender, split by number of employees

The role of business focus

Looking at the primary focus or focuses of the business reviewed also highlighted some trends in the space, with significant variation in the levels of women in senior leadership positions depending on the precise area(s) of payments a company focuses on.

Correlating with our findings on company age, banks were the highest in terms of share of women in senior leadership positions (29.6%), closely followed by card issuers (29.4%) and ecommerce companies (28.5%).

Payments processors and infrastructure/platform players were also slightly above average, as well providers of remittances and consumer money transfers. However, B2B payments players, as well as providers of mobile wallets and related services were below average, at 24.0% and 20.6% respectively. 

These payments sectors’ relatively low share of women in leadership positions are likely to be for different reasons. Mobile wallets companies are generally newer, so may correlate with our findings about companies founded after 2010. B2B payments companies, however, are likely to be older and may speak to the more traditional ties in this space and generally slower pace of innovation that B2B payments has historically seen relative to the consumer side of the industry.

Cross-border payments sector focus impacts leadership diversity
Share of senior leadership positions by gender, split by core business area

Does the number of roles impact diversity?

Mapping all the companies in the report’s share of female leadership against the number of senior roles at each organisation suggests that there is a loose trend between the two. This reflects the fact that the oldest, largest companies tend to have above-average female diversity in senior leadership positions. 

However, the range is significant, with numerous outliers, and both the companies with the biggest and smallest shares of women in such roles are below average in terms of the number of leadership roles.

Diversity and senior role numbers in cross-border payments
Share of senior leadership positions by gender and number of roles at company

Future implications

This research not only provides a sense of the current state of the industry, but also offers a benchmark for companies both within cross-border payments and the wider fintech space. However, it only presents a picture of the industry as it is now. If we are to truly get a sense of how the industry is performing, we will need to repeat this research regularly and look for changes and improvements – something that we plan to do on a yearly basis.

Nevertheless, what the research does show is that while there are some good performers in cross-border payments, there is still some way to go when it comes to the industry’s representation of women in senior leadership positions.

There are numerous initiatives focusing on this, including the Global Association of Women in Payments and Money20/20’s RiseUp programme, which champions women and non-binary people within fintech. However, there is still space for further development and much of this needs to come from the individual companies that form part of the industry.

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