By Karisse Hendrick, Founder and Principal Consultant of Chargelytics Consulting
When I attended my first online fraud and payments conference, less than 10 percent of attendees were women. I recently asked other women who attended the event if my memory was correct, and between four of us, we couldn’t think of more than 15 women at a 250-person event in 2009. Fast forward a decade, and a lot has changed! Female representation at conferences is now more like 30-to-40 percent. More women have attained leadership positions in fraud and payments than ever before, and most conferences and groups focused on supporting women in online fraud and payments have at least one event dedicated to the females in attendance.
But, while progress has been made and continues, are the female and male experiences in this industry equivalent? As a longtime observer (and active participant) in this space, I would argue that it is not. I am a female that has seen rapid changes and adjustments in this industry. But I speak with hundreds of men and women in this field regularly and know that there are still challenges to overcome.
I’m reminded of episodes recounted to me by female supervisors who feel like there’s something wrong with them because they don’t get the same respect or autonomy that some male supervisors at their company do. Or the female director of a large Fortune 500 retailer who recently took her team to a fraud conference, only to see countless solution providers pitch their products to her male subordinates. Or the female analyst that is paid significantly less than a male analyst with half as much experience. Or the time shortly after I presented a keynote presentation at an industry conference and was patted on the shoulder and told “good job on your little presentation, sweetheart.”
For CNP Expo 2019, I proposed a new conference session for the agenda. My intent was to better understand the experience of being a woman in online fraud and payments, to share this with the industry as a whole so we might take action together, and to demonstrate to women entering the space that they’re not alone in facing these challenges—though it might seem that way given the relative silence around the issue.
I created a short survey and asked everyone to circle the statements that were true for them. I collected the responses, shuffled them and handed them back out to the group. When I read a statement out loud from the list, the audience was asked to stand up if the paper in front of them has that statement circled. The point was to see how many others experienced things you may have experienced, without anyone having to disclose it happened to them personally. I wasn’t prepared for the response. I had two more activities planned for the session, but we spent the entire time discussing the outcomes, sharing personal experiences and receiving sound advice from veterans.
As you read through the list below, I would encourage you to first answer the question for yourself, regardless of your gender. Is this something you have experienced in your career as a fraud or payments professional? How would it impact your career trajectory or morale if you did experience that? Then, look at the percentage of women that attended this workshop who could identify with the statement.
“In my career... I have experienced:
- Derogatory comments based on my gender (44%)
- Being passed up for a promotion that was given to a man (44%)
- Overheard sexist or extremely inappropriate jokes or statements about females (63%)
- Been sexually harassed by a co-worker/colleague (38%)
- Been sexually harassed by someone in a higher position (31%)
- Have had a direct supervisor favor or assign more challenging/visible projects or tasks to a male colleague (44%)
- Confirmed I was making less than a male counterpart, in a similar position/experience (63%)
- Have shared an idea or statement in a meeting with no response; but a male co-worker repeated my statement and was praised/given credit for the statement (75%)
- Been hit on at an industry conference/event (38%)
- Have cried in public at work, usually out of frustration/anger (63%)
- I don’t feel like I’m qualified enough to…
- Speak at a conference (44%)
- Call myself a leader in my organization (56%)
- Apply for a promotion (19%)
- Ask for a raise (31%)
- Mentor another female in my industry (38%)
- Speak up against gender issues in my workplace (31%)
It should be said that some of these experiences may have been unrelated to gender. But, just like in fraud prevention, if there’s a strong pattern of behavior and only one commonality, the outcome is less likely to be a coincidence. I have experienced almost every one of these in my career in some way, so I choose to believe gender is a factor. Additional research that controls for things like where a company is based, how many years of experience the person has, position in the company, etc., would be instructive and could affect these results. But for now, this is a start.
I’m a firm believer that a problem can’t be solved until it’s better understood. As you think about the 75 percent of women that have had credit for their ideas stolen from them or the 38 percent that have been hit on at a fraud or payments conference, consider how your behavior, as a man or woman or an event organizer could change things. That’s how we as an industry will continue on a path of growth and becoming better. Because we’re only as good at fighting bad guys as the sum of our parts.