For International Women’s Day, Mutahara Gofur spoke to Michelle Chivunga, founder and CEO of Global Policy House, about her career and how to support women in banking and finance.
What inspired your career in banking and finance?
I worked in government policy for seven years and loved it. But I’d always been fascinated by capital markets and money, particularly how it flows. I wanted a career change and to work somewhere where I could gain a better understanding of finance. This spurred me into the sector.
From a personal perspective, I was always curious about where to start financially if I started my own business. I was also keen to help minority-owned and women-led businesses get better funding and finance themselves.
Why is International Women’s Day important to you?
As a woman who’s worked in corporate banking as well as fintech, I’ve gained insights from both perspectives. The industry has really shaped me and influenced how I’ve designed things in my own business. In the process, I’ve discovered myself.
Now working in the blockchain space, I’m so excited because the future lies within innovation.
We’ve found many women find it difficult to access finance – especially black women and ethnic minority women, who get such a small percentage of financing.
At Global Policy House, we’re bringing in new digital financing services to support women.
How do you think the sector can support women, particularly women of colour?
Gender diversity has improved over the years, but there’s still progress to be made – especially for black and ethnic minority women. More can be done in terms of onboarding processes and sector accessibility.
Organisations need to have genuine conversations with black and ethnic minority women about the barriers they face and make changes to resolve them. We must understand how to engage with diverse communities and make them feel more welcome.
I want women to be open about their struggles – whether it’s about starting out or lack of funding for their projects. Hopefully, the landscape will change with these new platforms and decentralised applications that many of us are developing.
That’s what’s exciting about fintech! We’re providing services to communities who haven’t received proper support and help them more. The finance industry is critical to boost women’s productivity and economic input.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
I wish I’d been more confident. I was quite shy when I first entered the industry – something I think a lot of women struggle with. I had to teach myself that what I had to offer was valuable. Don’t be afraid to present your views, challenge the status quo, and go for what you deem appropriate.
I’d have liked to have founded Global Policy House much earlier and I think I could have if I’d been more confident. Because I absolutely had the ability to do it, I just needed more of a push. I turned to decentralised financing after facing significant barriers accessing traditional finance – an issue many women of colour face.
What helped you develop that confidence?
I’ve had some brilliant role models.
It’s important to find people whose vision and goals align with yours. Even during very difficult moments in my career, I had people championing me. I can still turn to them for support and guidance now.
I also realised how strong I am. I was determined to not give up and even when I struggled, I kept pushing myself. When you realise your value, your confidence builds, and you can communicate this to others.
As a black woman, there’s no doubt I’ve had to work much harder. I’ve had to put in the shifts and constantly justify my positions and decisions. This should not be the case. But once you’re clear about your vision and value – and are determined to achieve it – very little can stand in your way.
What advice would you give to women beginning a career in banking and finance?
Networking is important. Attending networking events and engaging with others helped develop my confidence, networks and build my knowledge on key topics.
But my main advice to women – especially women of colour – is please don’t keep to yourselves.
Present your ideas. I know a lot of women still struggle, with entering the industry but also with funding for their ideas. But you’ve got to tell yourself “this is what I want to achieve” and push yourself to pursue your goals even when faced with rejection. Rejection means another door will open.
Ignore comments that tell you it’s impossible because we’ve seen the possibilities.
Especially recently, I’ve seen black women and ethnic minority women who I’m in awe of doing phenomenal things. The glass ceiling might be there, but you can crush it.
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