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The the largest fintech community in the world. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest in news opinions, and all things financial technology.

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Beyond Two Percent: Pride, featuring Rhea Fofana and Evan Dawson

"I do wish sometimes that companies would not just be entirely focused on the fun parts of Pride, the party part of Pride, but also the advocacy work that's so important, and drawing attention to just the constant like legislation and issues that are coming up." -Evan Dawson

Beyond Two Percent: Pride, featuring Rhea Fofana and Evan Dawson
"Whenever I talk about Pride, dancing comes to mind. And the reason I say this is like my story, it's been a journey to get to the happy place that I am with my identity and my experience right now. And one time when I always felt like most connected to the community and to myself was when expressing myself with others and through dancing." -Rhea Fofana

In celebration of Pride Month, Helen and Julie were joined by two incredible guests:

  • Rhea Fofana, Portfolio Manager at UnLtd
  • Evan Dawson, Staff UX Researcher at Stripe

Rhea and Evan give us a glimpse into what Pride means to them, and how companies and employees alike can further Pride initiates year round.

‎Beyond Two Percent: Beyond Two Percent: Pride, featuring Rhea Fofana and Evan Dawson on Apple Podcasts
‎Show Beyond Two Percent, Ep Beyond Two Percent: Pride, featuring Rhea Fofana and Evan Dawson - Jun 21, 2023


Julie 2:08

Hi, guys, so obviously it's June, so we're talking all things Pride this month. I guess to kick off the conversation, I would just love to know, what does Pride mean to you? Rhea, if you want to start?

Rhea 2:22

I think whenever I talk about Pride, dancing comes to mind. And the reason I say this is like my story, it's been a journey to get to like, my happy place that I am with my identity and my experience right now. And one time when I always felt like most connected to the community and to myself was when expressing myself with others and through dancing. And it's still a huge part of the way that I connect to the LGBTQ+ communities that I'm part of. And I really hope that everyone can have that space where they can feel just an outpouring of love and connection. So although that means dancing, to me, it can be many things to other people. And that's I see Pride.

Evan 3:02

I love that I also think about dancing. When I think about Pride. What also comes to mind is just like marching in the streets. I think a lot about the advocacy work, the long journey to get to Pride personally, and to deal with, you know, all the shame that can come along that journey, and that you share with other people. So Pride feels like community. It feels like purpose, it feels like freedom.

Julie 3:31

Going off of that, I guess, you know, we're all in the fintech community in some sort of capacity. And I know a lot of companies, you know, celebrate Pride Month, they might change their company logo to have a rainbow on it, or different things like that, maybe internal things that they do with their employees. But what do you think fintech more broadly, so not from an employee perspective, but from like helping the LGBTQ+ community. What do you think that fintech can do in that place?

Rhea 4:00

For me, it's not necessarily from an employee perspective, but just the organizations in the fintech space and beyond can really think about their own embedded equality, diversity and inclusion. And it can also be like, in this month, they really celebrate it and they can do the logo and also do the events. But let's make that throughout the year. Let's make the training behind that throughout the year and across their team members. And make sure that those people feel that belonging no matter what time of day is, because although we've made so much progress in this area, there's still a lot of people that don't feel like they can come out at work. I think there was a statistic recently that said 25% of young people go back into the closet when they enter employment. And that just makes me so sad. And we are amazing organizations that can really shape the culture and the experience of these young people from the start and it means making sure there's mentoring accessible, making sure that there are points of community and connection and then they can give feedback about their experience throughout. And that they can see the leadership teams and the boards or governance that are involved, like really caring about and pushing forward inclusivity for them and, and being representative of them as well. So, I know that's very organization specific. But I'd love to continue to see more of that.

Evan 5:20

Yeah, I echo everything that Rhea just said. You know, it can't just be in June.

It feels really good when your company does things to be inclusive to celebrate Pride, whether that's, you know, flags and events and things like that in the office are all helpful. I do wish sometimes that companies would not just be entirely focused on the fun parts of Pride, the party part of Pride, but also the advocacy work that's so important, and drawing attention to just the constant like legislation and issues that are coming up.

And then with that, you know, sort of similarly, there's a lot of very symbolic demonstrations, there's a lot of giving to charities that I think is absolutely crucial. I'd also like to see some more meaningful effort to, you know, build financial inclusive products, for example, to provide lending to LGBTQ owned businesses, things like that, sort of going beyond the giving to charity, and like really starting to infuse it into your business model, your product offerings, and things like that.

Julie 6:29

Yeah, one thing I remember talking to Billie Simmons before, who was a co-founder at Daylight, a bank that was focused on the community. And she's the one that she has done a gender change and has changed her name and everything. And she's like, you don't realize even just changing your name with your bank accounts. And everything is really, really difficult. And that's something like, I guess I got married and changing my last name is a huge pain. So I haven't really gone through that whole process yet. But I can't imagine, like, there's no option to take like, I change genders and that's why I changed my name. It's like, oh, I got married, okay, bringing your marriage certificate, you can change it, things like that. So there's so many different things I feel like a lot of us don't think about since we never have that experience ourselves. And Helen, something else on a somewhat different note that I realized when we're researching for this is that in the US Pride Month started, but it was 2011 or something President Obama put into place. It's been going on a lot longer in the UK, if I'm not mistaken, which I had no idea when it started at various points in the world. But it sounds like it started like decades before it did in the US. Is that right?

Helen 7:41

I think so. I mean, I guess I think in the UK, in a lot of ways, certain social issues are not necessarily seen as a left or right issue. So you know, it's more seen as just oh, yeah, this is just an issue. So for instance, when you look at gay marriage, it was actually the Conservative Party, which would be in to some extent, the equivalent of the Republican Party that put that through. That doesn't mean that, you know, it's any better. But it just means that I think social issues in this country are separated from the economics of a political party. So these things are put through. But I mean, I think when it comes to Pride, I think something that Rhea and Evan have kind of made quite clear is there's this kind of like doing it because we have to do it, because it's June and so like everything has a rainbow. But there's nothing, maybe in a lot of ways, it just feels like there's not much behind it. So I kind of want to kind of delve into that a bit more, because certain things that you guys have said, as you've said, community, you've said identity you said kind of like marching. So how do you think fintech companies and beyond like, you know, startups, companies that are being built right now. What are the things that they should do? What are the things that should be put in place? Because Julie's kind of talks about the identity issue of changing your name. Are there other issues that you guys have seen? Where fintechs or like I said, other startups should be thinking about this in their product offering?

Rhea 9:04

I think I touched on sort of training, mentoring before in terms of the support and really thinking about your governance team and who's on that board and who's going to be backing that and driving it forward. Some other things that I didn't mention before and I guess specifically with an investor lens is about understanding what opportunities are open to like LGBTQ+ led organizations in terms of funding early on, especially with friends and family rounds, but also with crowdfunding and community funding and making sure the products can adapt to provide what they need and investment and it may be coming in with equity earlier on to make sure they have access to that. I'm really saying that we have experience of LGBTQ+ lived experience on the team, but also we've done the work internally. We're learning about this. We are constantly thinking about how to improve our products to make sure that those people feel like they are what they need in the market and that they are going to continue to support them, not just with this fundraise, but like how are we going to connect them to other investors and other types of investment that are going to really understand the impact that they want to make on the world and support them as individuals. One thing that my team and I talk about quite a lot is wellbeing support and mental health support. And it's not really talked about too much and other spaces, but if there are ways that we can fund that, and really rigorously support those individuals that have might experienced lots of different sort of barriers, and in certain areas, or unfortunately, some were exposed to abuse in different spaces as well want to make sure those people have that the resource and backing to look after themselves and take time away. And if they're a founder that's really been pushing, especially, or not especially but I'm thinking of those with intersectional experience of like, for instance, myself I have from a community that is racially marginalized, but also queer.

I want to make sure that founders who are working through a lot and really trying to push for a change in our society can take time off and take sabbaticals as well when need be, and that they feel like they have the support wrapped around them.

It's not just many for many sake to get a return on investment. And I have quite a specific experience, because I work in social investment.

Helen 11:19

Founders coming through need kind of more support, not just necessarily on the practical elements of things, but also kind of, you know, their mental well being and stuff. And also think like you said, if your intersection or if you're, you know, if you're a woman, if you're queer, if if you're from, you know, all these different elements of your background that essentially make you marginalized or different, is coming and asking for X amount of money, just just in general, it is a very daunting experience, because for a lot of people it can be it's not necessarily something that you you've seen other people in your background do even like, what was your experience in that area? What do you think companies can do in from, like, a product perspective and stuff?

Evan 11:58

I think that, you know, inclusive healthcare is one thing, right? Inclusive benefits, fertility treatments, for example, more access to mental health care, as well as like, you know, just things like mental health days, can go a long way and helping when it comes to and then with founders, like I thought, that's a really interesting point, I've read that LGBTQ owned businesses have less access to capital in London, they received less from PPP loans during COVID. So you know, just being aware that there is a lot of discrimination and like credit and lending against and not only like businesses, but individuals and families as well. But yeah, I think, I think the benefits really matter. I think having Employee Resource Groups matters a lot. I think also just like when it comes to, like income and salaries, being very transparent about salaries. So you know, as we just mentioned, like, it's, it's not easy for marginalized groups to ask for higher salaries to negotiate raises, something that I learned when I was working at Robinhood was there's a very, very deep relationship between your like, financial worth and your self worth. And if you're told your whole life that you're worth less, it's going to be a lot harder for you to, like, translate that into financial negotiation. And so I think, you know, transparency in brackets and pay and pay and wages like can probably go a long way. But yeah, in terms of product, I think it's really about building products that provide financial access. So things like, you know, in banking, like no account minimums, getting rid of fees, offering like commission free investing, offering things like fractional shares, investing where people can get started with just $1, you know, starts to make things like, you know, starts to make that access, like, very realistic and can really change somebody's entire financial trajectory. So those are some of the things that I think about in terms of like product that can that can really, yeah, help individuals and, and obviously, also with businesses and lending and capital,

Julie 14:30

As you're building these products, fintech companies, does the fintech community in general. So now switching to an employee standpoint, does it feel inclusive or do you think there's still work that we need to do on that point, Evan?

Evan 14:46

So it feels inclusive in a very broad way. It feels inclusive, as far as just access to historically underserved groups. hopes to beginners, but I don't think a lot of fintechs go, you know, much deeper than that. And always try to in terms of research and participant recruitment and my own work. But a lot of fintechs are startups and they don't necessarily have the resources to, you know, build for like accessibility, for example. And it and it isn't, it isn't that focused on like very specific communities needs, it's more just sort of broadly underserved communities. So I think it gets there in a in a large and meaningful way. But I think there's a lot more to do in terms of product and research and education, and coaching and access to advice that that fintechs could improve upon

Rhea 15:58

I'm agreeing with so much that you're saying. And I would also just add to that, especially when we're working with earlier stage organizations that are shaping the research and development of their product is like data, but in a really safeguarded and thoughtful way, like the way that they're tracking who's using their products, and how and how they're including those people in developing those products and pushing them forward can be such a big, a great grounding for building that accessibility and time even just to know like, what they need to improve on when they get that fundraise or when x happens. That yeah, I fully agree with you,

Julie 16:34

I guess to you know, go a little bit deeper on there. And there may or may not be examples of this too. But do you guys have any like notable, I guess, collaborations between fintech companies and the LGBTQ community?

Helen 16:48

Or startups in general.

Evan 16:51

Specifically with the LGBTQ community. I'm actually struggling to think of in my personal experience, actually, like, strong, deep, long term partnerships between fintechs and LGBT groups, we do see some in terms of like, I don't know, like college campus recruiting efforts, maybe, or going to conferences, like, you know, sponsored by out in tech or lesbians who tech but and those do, you know, they are long term in the sense that they're like, repeated annually, or, you know, but but a really like, strong, tight, long term partnership, I haven't seen a whole lot of that.

Rhea 17:38

I'm thinking of very UK specific communities, maybe. Lastly, partnerships. But definitely, in terms of spaces for LGBTQ+ founders. There's a community called series Q, they bring people together, there's been some amazing work, which is coming together called proud ventures, their research came out in early 2023. And that was VCs, angels, founders that exited. And then they really worked to create that groundwork of data and the sector to start to do year on year to track sort of how much LGBTQ+ led organizations fundraising, and break that down in terms of demographics, or experiences. And it really brought so much depth to what I think people have been talking about, but it hadn't been brought together in that way. And then in terms of supporting organizations, there's Consortium for LGBTQ+ org, so they will come together. And that's a great community as well. And out Britain, which is LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, but less of a partnership, as you were talking about.

Helen 18:38

That's awesome that there are so many different organizations that exists. And I guess I sort of have a question, actually, because I think when I think of when people talk about like, offerings or products or communities being built, a lot of the time all the issues are lumped in together. So like, whether there's not enough like black people in an organization, whether there's not a lot of females, whether there's not a lot of queer people, like it all kind of, like gets lumped into like one massive, like, we need to change because all these groups and communities are, you know, are kind of out of the knee financial inclusion, basically. And so I guess I have a sort of question, I don't know if a spicy or not, but like, is there a need for something specific to the queer community? Or is it okay that like, in a lot of ways, this is kind of lumped in with like, all the other issues when it comes to financial inclusion.

Rhea 19:29

I think I am a proponent of abundance. I think you can have something that brings things all together but also have more than just that you can have times when people can be up from like certain intersectional experiences or you can have projects that are focused on the very specific experience of people from the LGBTQ+ community. But let's have it all let's just not have sort of one or the other in that area. And I think to do that well there you need to include a lot of people from with those experiences to make sure that whatever it is being developed is sort of seize everyone involved and everyone invited. And I think oftentimes we see people, like an individual asked to speak for our community, so long as that's not happening and that they're being built with sort of all the stakeholders in mind. Then the more the merrier, and then instantly,

Evan 20:19

I agree with that. I do think that well, it's well, it's known that there are unique financial needs of LGBTQ populations. And I think that has to be taken into consideration with financial planning, financial advice, financial coaching, because the goals are very different. The trajectories are very different. LGBTQ people are less likely to be married or have children, especially gay men. So that changes, you know, the focus of their financial goals. And lower incomes, lower savings, higher debt, using fewer financial products, potentially less reliance on your family, more likely to be under banked the non LGBTQ people like have less access to financial advice that feels trustworthy and inclusive. You know, these are all really important, unique needs in terms of financial planning and wellness. And so I think that it there has to be a clear lens offered through fintechs and financial advisors.

Julie 21:27

Both of you, it sounds like you've done a decent amount of consumer research and whatnot for building products at your companies. Does it feel like younger generations? Like I'm a millennial? Does it feel like Gen Z? Or one of the other ones that are younger than what I am? Does it feel like they're demanding more of these products? And you know, coming to expect more things for them? Or does it feel similar to what maybe some previous generations have?

Evan 21:52

Definitely younger people's investing behaviors, preferences are different from older generations, I'm thinking like, the first thing that comes to mind is the importance of ESG investing to millennials and Gen Z, they care about major themes around climate change they care about so you know, social themes. It's all they're all the social, the political, the economic, they're all interwoven, right. But I think younger people are much more mindful about how they're investing, they're more likely to want to not be invested to have sort of blacklisted companies and whatever funds are in their portfolio, like oil companies, for example, tobacco companies, so yeah, I think that these all, you know, more socially conscious investing is really important to younger generations than, than it has been to boomers and older generations.

Julie 22:45

Rhea, what about having, you know, helping companies and using companies that have, you know, LGBTQ+, not only like, you know, that they're out there doing things for the community, but maybe they have an executive or leadership team that has those, you know, that group represented on there, does that make an impact for younger generations? Or is that still something that they might not take into account as much as climate change, for instance.

Rhea 23:12

That's really interesting, I think I don't have the exposure to sort of direct to customer in terms of what the younger generations are looking for. But I can see and like the wave of the organizations that we are helping, there are far more, as Evans said, thinking about sort of climate, and tracking data around payouts or representation and their leadership team and on their board and wanting to do this equality, diversity and inclusion work at the start of their journey, rather than like retrospectively, and that's really positive to see, but I'm not sure I can answer your question about sort of like young people that are asking for that.

Julie Greenberg 23:47

Evan, do you have anything to add on that front? Or no?

Evan 23:49

Yeah, I actually have done research on thematic investing, like preferences. And the the findings are pretty interesting. So younger people do care much more about climate change, they care about, like health care and medical, like health care, like innovation, and research. Those were very top of mind. They care about like a quality themed funds, but less so than those bigger themes around also like electric vehicles and the future of transportation was also a very important theme. And some of the reasoning around why these more like quality oriented themes were less investable, I guess, or less preferred as an investment option was one. They're not necessarily like trustworthy funds, like when you kind of look under the hood, and you see the companies that are in that fund. It's sort of like a way like, this company just had this huge, like sexual harassment scandal or something right. Like why are they one of the major companies in this like ESG fund, but I think they're also thinking that, just because a company's board is comprised of, let's say, more women, they don't necessarily see that as, you know, more likely to provide a return or a more important sort of, you know, theme than a company that's, that's working actively to, you know, fight climate change and things like that. So there is a relative importance factor, it's very important to be investing in ESG. But when it comes to the specific kind of issues around that, there are some different preferences and some skepticism as well. super interesting.

Julie 25:41

One last thing as we wrap up, if you guys could email me and Helen any resources or things like that, that might be good to include in the show notes for this episode. I'd really appreciate that as well, just so people listening want to, you know, get more involved or continue the conversation that they have the option as well. But thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it.