A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. Invest in Women.

Ms. Josephine Olok is a well-known figure in Uganda's Fintech industry for her ability to empower businesses and embody the true spirit of financial Inclusion. With over 25 years of experience in IT, she has worked as a consultant and leader in various sectors, including Oil & Gas, Banking, and Technology.

As a Director and Co-founder of Lumjo Consultants, Josephine is passionate about building solutions that lead to success. She provides affordable, custom-crafted Fintech solutions that are tailored to meet the needs of Ugandan businesses. This helps to boost efficiency, productivity, and gives them a competitive edge. 

Josephine's dedication goes beyond just her company. She also chairs the Board at FITSPA and actively champions the cause of #InvestingInWomen in Fintech as a member of the FITSPA Women committee. With her passion and expertise, she is accelerating progress to a brighter, more tech-savvy future for Ugandan businesses and women. 

Given her incredible contributions to the industry, we decided to interview Josephine to highlight the important role women are playing in Fintech and to advocate for increased investment and support. She graciously accepted the interview and shared her insights with us. Here’s how it went;

Celebrating Achievements and Impact:

What motivated you to pursue a career in FinTech, a traditionally male-dominated field?

I was drawn to STEM from a young age because I loved maths and sciences and I had a fascination with technology and problem-solving. Though my father hoped I would pursue a traditional engineering degree, I wanted to follow my passion for computer science, driven by a desire to work with machines and to create and innovate. My father's support ultimately empowered me to join STEM.

I was excited and full of confidence when I joined the University of London, Imperial College of Science and Technology, a very prestigious college. It was only when I joined my first class for my computer science and engineering degree that I realized how male dominated this class and the college was. In my class, out of about 100 students, there were only 10 women and that was a representation of the population of women at the college. I was the only black girl in my class, a double minority and I stood out.

I have always been curious and was never afraid to ask questions, even the seemingly silly ones, but in college, I always got funny looks, even notes passed to me that I was asking things which were ignorant, basic, embarrassing or which had already been covered. That knocked my confidence but I did not have the option of quitting because there was no way I was going to let myself or my parents down.

My degree confirmed my passion for technology and I knew that however difficult the field, that I was going to do my best to succeed. After graduating I immediately started working as a computer programmer and after 6 years working with organizations in the Software, Banking, Communications and NGO sectors I co-founded a software development company. That company started in traditional software but has gone on to develop FinTech solutions for clients mostly within the banking sector.

While being a woman in a male-dominated field presented and continues to present challenges, I was determined to make a meaningful contribution and that ultimately fuelled my passion to pursue a career in technology. Reflecting on my career, working in the industry became an opportunity to not only participate in innovation but also to advocate for a more diverse and inclusive industry where everyone has the chance to thrive.

Share a defining moment in your career journey that solidified your passion for FinTech.

There wasn't one single, defining moment that solidified my passion for FinTech, but rather a combination of experiences that solidified my belief in its potential to create positive change.

One such experience involved working on a project that aimed to leverage mobile technology to provide banking services to customers. In the early days access to banking was the preserve of the corporate and the privileged few but mobile banking made it more accessible. Witnessing the direct impact this has made to the previously underserved was incredibly rewarding. It provided a tangible example of how FinTech can address real-world challenges and empower individuals.

Another key moment was meeting and collaborating with others in the FinTech community especially under FITSPA and in particular FITSPA Women who have been breaking barriers and forging their own paths. Their stories of resilience, innovation, and dedication have been truly inspiring and reaffirmed my belief in the importance of diversity and inclusion within the industry.

These experiences, combined with the constant evolution and potential of FinTech, solidified my passion and commitment to being part of this dynamic and impactful field. I believe FinTech has the power to revolutionize how we manage our finances, access financial services, and ultimately, shape a more inclusive and equitable financial landscape for everyone.

How do you navigate and overcome challenges unique to women in the FinTech industry?

As a woman in the male-dominated FinTech industry, I've faced my share of challenges. It can be an uphill battle to prove yourself and establish credibility. As a woman you have to work almost twice as hard. Some of the strategies that have helped me navigate and overcome the obstacles include:

Building a Supportive Network:

Working in Technology is not easy when you have to balance that with your role as a mother and wife. I am fortunate that I had the support at home with my family that enabled me to work long hours. It was not always possible to have a balance between work and home but I was able to prioritize work when at work and home when at home.

Throughout my career I have met people who have been mentors, sponsors, and allies and who have been able to offer guidance, support, and advocate for me. Keeping these people within my network has been helpful. Also networking within both the FinTech industry and with other women leaders have helped to provide me with valuable insights and opportunities for collaboration.

Continuous Learning: Because of the need to be better than my male peers, I have prioritized continuous learning by attending courses, events and workshops to stay ahead and to demonstrate my commitment to professional growth. I also believe it is important to step outside of my comfort zone and take on challenging projects which allows me to showcase my abilities and build a strong track record.

Advocating for Myself and Others: I have never been afraid to advocate for myself and for my career advancement. This has involved seeking out opportunities for training, skill development, or leadership roles, and actively communicating my achievements and ambitions to stakeholders. As a leader I have also not been afraid to advocate for those within my teams and those within my network. Supporting and mentoring other women has played an important role in this.

Addressing Bias and Stereotypes: I have learned to challenge bias and stereotypes whenever I encounter them, whether it's in hiring decisions, project assignments, or everyday interactions like in meetings. For example if a female colleague is interrupted in a meeting I will jump in to say that she should be allowed to finish what she was saying. I think it is important to highlight to colleagues and leaders their biases which can sometimes be unconscious by standing up for other women. Diversity and inclusion is crucial in driving business success.

Being Persistent and Resilient: I recognize that challenges and setbacks are part of the journey but I think it is important to stay resilient in the face of adversity, and view challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Keep getting up.

By taking a proactive approach to navigating challenges, advocating for myself and others, and building a supportive network, I have been able to overcome some of the obstacles as a women in the FinTech industry.


Investment and Empowerment:

What initiatives or policies do you believe are crucial to attract more investment in women-led FinTech businesses?

Initiatives and policies can include awareness and access to female targeted investment funds and programs, mentorship and support networks. By encouraging investors to consider gender diversity in their investment criteria, including initiatives like tax incentives and providing targeted support to women entrepreneurs, a more inclusive ecosystem for FinTech innovation can be created.

Unfortunately, there is not much comprehensive and reliable data on the percentage of women-led FinTech businesses that attract investment compared to male-led businesses across various regions but the little that there is shows:

  • In emerging markets, a 2019 study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) indicates that only about 7% of private equity and venture capital in emerging markets go to female-led firms.
  • In Africa, research by Briter Bridges shows that from 2013 to 2021, less than 5% of the total $12.6 billion in funding to Africa's tech startups went to all-female founding teams compared to 82% going to all-male ones. While the percentage of female-led businesses in Africa is higher than the global average, the investment gap persists.
  • In the developed works there is evidence that suggests a similar trend with women-led businesses receiving a smaller share of investments.

It is clear from the data that women-led businesses attract and obtain little investment compared to male-led businesses. More has to be done to increase visibility and access to networks for women, address unconscious biases in investors and provide investment-readiness support. Women often have great ideas but may not be able to articulate them well - training in this can help them pitch to investors while still remaining authentic to their visions.

How can established players in the FinTech space actively support and empower women entrepreneurs?

Established players in the FinTech space can offer mentorship and guidance, partnership opportunities, access to resources and networks and inclusive investment opportunities. In FITSPA Women we have created an environment that gives opportunities for mentorship, coaching and training, which are all so important for women to feel safe to engage in dialogue and gain access to initiatives such as support to pitch innovation and business ideas, financial management etc.

What advice would you give to aspiring women looking to break into the FinTech industry?

My advice would be to be bold, persistent, and proactive. Seek out opportunities to develop strong technical and business skills, build a supportive network, and don't be afraid to advocate for yourself and your ideas. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and never underestimate the value of your unique perspective and contributions. The industry is fast-changing and an exciting place to be in, don’t be intimidated, you can be part of it.

Share your thoughts on the importance of mentorship and sponsorship for women in FinTech.

Mentorship and sponsorship are important because they provide guidance and support, access to networks and opportunities, and role models who inspire and empower others. I have personally learned so much from my mentors especially when I have been facing difficulties. There is nothing more assuring and encouraging than being given advice by someone who has done it before.

 

Personal Inspiration and Vision:

Who are your role models or mentors, and how have they influenced your path?

My parents are my role models. My father supported my decision to pursue computer science even though he did not agree with it. My mother is the most courageous woman I know. When I think about how she led us into exile when our lives were in danger I ask myself why I should be afraid of anything and why I should not do what I set my mind to do. I have had many mentors along my career journey. My cofounder stands out. He has been central to the innovations in our company. He is absolutely brilliant and I believe that his expertise in the development of solutions is unmatched. The teams I have worked with at the FITSPA Board and Secretariat have been instrumental in driving my passion for impact and financial inclusion in FinTech to another level and I consider them my role models and mentors as well.

What qualities do you believe are essential for success in the ever-evolving FinTech landscape?

Adaptability, innovation, collaboration, and resilience. It is also important to keep learning, develop strong analytical and problem solving skills and to have a passion to make an impact in the lives of the financially excluded by being innovative and creative in solving real-world problems. Having a strong sense of purpose and commitment to driving positive change can also be a great motivator for success.

Describe your vision for the future of FinTech and the role women will play in shaping it.

I see women play a central role in shaping innovation, driving inclusion, and creating impact.  I believe that women bring diversity and experience especially when it comes to creating solutions which address the challenges that women face. I see a future where FinTech is inclusive and accessible for everyone, I see more empowered and well supported women entrepreneurs, and more collaboration across the ecosystem.

What personal values or principles guide your work and decision-making processes?

My work is guided by a dedication to continuous learning and growth, integrity and ethical conduct, a passion for innovation, a passion for being able to create a positive impact, collaboration and a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

 

Call to Action:

What message do you have for young girls and women considering a career in technology or finance?

For young girls and women considering a career in technology or finance, my message is simple: believe in yourself, pursue your passions, and never let anyone else define your worth or potential. Technology and finance need diverse voices. Your unique perspective and contributions matter, you have every right to belong.

How can individuals and organizations contribute to accelerating progress towards gender equality in the FinTech space?

Organisations must promote diversity at all levels. Mentorship programs, unbiased recruitment, and pay equity are steps forward.

 Share a quote or piece of advice that inspires you and keeps you motivated on your journey.

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” James Keller

That's all for now! We would like to express our gratitude to Ms. Josephine for taking the time to provide us with these insightful details. And to our valued readers, we appreciate your support in commencing the FITSPA Women Leaders' series with us. Keep following the hashtag to uncover more fascinating articles from FITSPA Women Leaders.