How to empower women to be at the helm of fast-growth fintech journeys

Happy Female Business Leader in the Fintech sector


Özge Çelik delves into the critical role of women in the fintech sector's rapid expansion. With over two decades of experience in payments and financial services, Özge shares insights as the Head of Product at Papara.

Özge has over 20 years of experience in the payments and financial services industry.


She started her career at Akbank. In 2007, she joined BKM – Interbank Card Center, and in the following 14 years, she held various positions in business development.

She is currently working as Head of Product at Papara. She and her team oversees the entire product life cycle, from defining product strategy to orchestrating product launches. She is passionate about payment systems and the newest technologies.

The past decade has seen companies in the fintech sector undergo rapid expansion on an international scale.

And, despite a turbulent period amidst varying market pressures, it is still expected to become a $1.5 trillion industry by 2030. This kind of fast-growth environment has many benefits for the workplace: it encourages high performance, offers exciting learning opportunities and generates continuous technological innovation in the field. However, it is essential that with this kind of evolution, an inclusive working environment remains a top priority so that women are equally as empowered to drive forward this growth.

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It is undeniable that there continues to be a gender discrepancy in STEM related fields with women still only making up a third of the workforce. This figure reduces significantly when looking at computer sciences and engineering roles, where women account for only 26% and 16% of employees respectively. The imbalance means that companies are potentially inhibiting the gains in development and growth that could be achieved with a workforce in which with all genders are encouraged and enabled to succeed.

As the Head of Product at a fast-growth fintech, I have seen firsthand the impact that ensuring all voices are heard has on sustainable growth. What’s more, through leading a tech team that has now reached an equal split in gender as we have grown over the years, I have identified key learnings to achieve this kind of representation.

Ultimately, empowering women in the fintech sector requires a holistic approach at all stages of employment. This needs to be from recruitment through to onboarding, and then continued into supporting progression within the company. Importantly, this needs to be achieved in partnership with the people and HR teams. In cultivating and upholding an inclusive and representative environment, female talent will not only be attracted to the company, but retained long-term, therefore allowing them to be central in driving ongoing innovation.

To go into more detail on the recruitment aspect, a key strategy for empowering women in tech is through proactivity and specialised training programmes. Again, I’ve seen this work with our own approach through our ‘student bootcamp’ tailored for female students. This initiative equips participants with vital skills needed to succeed in our company specifically, but also prioritises their transition into entry-level roles more broadly. Not only are these kinds of programmes crucial in building a pipeline of female talent, ready to contribute fresh perspectives to an industry that traditionally overlooks them, but they illustrate how businesses are actively investing in the future generation of women in tech, preparing them to be an integral part of their growth.

Beyond recruitment and training, fintech companies must also nurture an employee-focused company culture that values and supports its workforce. ‘Buddy’ schemes are an effective tool in this regard, especially as a way for women to successfully assimilate into teams, something we again utilise in our business and within my product team. These programmes can pair newcomers with seasoned professionals, offering a support network that encourages mentorship and career development.

The fintech industry remains a sector of vast growth and opportunity. In empowering women and ensuring their representation at all levels, we not only champion equality but also unlock the full potential of our organisations. As we exemplify, demonstrating that when women are enabled to be at the helm of technological developments in the workplace, the path to innovation and international success is not just inclusive, but also successful.


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