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Catherine Dahl, a Finalist for Person of the Year in 2020 BC Technology Impact Awards

May 28, 2020

Catherine Dahl

Catherine Dahl was recently named a finalist in the 2020 BC Tech Association’s Technology Impact Awards’ Person of the Year category. In her decade long journey in fintech, Dahl has made significant strides in taking action to make it a diverse and inclusive landscape.

2019 was a historic year for female-founded companies with 21 startups becoming unicorns in the US. In numbers, this translated to a record amount of USD $17.2 billion venture capital raised by female-founded startups. Jennifer Neundorfer, venture capitalist, and founding partner at Jane VC, captured the sentiment when she said, “We’re going to invest in an under-looked asset class that is over-performing.”

That’s one side of the story. Here’s another one. In 2018, companies founded by women received only 2.2 percent of venture capital in the US, down from 2.5 percent in 2017, according to Fortune magazine. In Canada, that number stands at 4 percent. It would be interesting to see how the figure is distributed amongst different industries but in a general sense, we know that tech and especially fintech have a history of gender diversity problems. Largely this is because too few women work in fintech, these companies don’t have female founders or leaders, and women form an under-represented user base within the sector.

So while there is no silver bullet to the problem, the solution lies in understanding how the industry will evolve during COVID, what opportunities and skills would emerge in the future, and how companies and leaders have addressed this in the past.

Catherine Dahl, CEO, and co-founder of Beanworks, an AP automation company, is one female leader within the fintech space that has actively been speaking about the issue. From the days of its birth, diversity has remained a strong focus. “I go to a lot of panels and speak about diversity and female participation. It’s always great to interact with and encourage talented individuals who are genuinely interested in getting into the industry.” Dahl says diversity and inclusion have always been one of the success measurement metrics at Beanworks.

This year Dahl has been nominated as a 2020 finalist in the BC Technology Impact Awards’ Person of the Year category. The award celebrates leaders that have demonstrated business success in multiple settings, are mentors and role models, and actively engage with the community to build a stronger tech landscape in BC. While the nomination is an acknowledgment of Dahl’s decade-long contribution to fintech innovation, it is also a celebration of a success story for young females that often lack motivation without real-life role models.

In a recent SAP Canada study, 43 percent of female students and young professionals said they don’t believe tech companies really want to hire women. “It is important that leaders and specifically female leaders go out and speak within communities about the challenges, solutions, opportunities, skillset, and the future of the industry. I have been doing this right from the early days. I would say yes to any speaking event that came my way because generally I would be the only female speaker from fintech on the panel and it was important to have that representation. Let’s not forget the networking opportunities that come through these events.” In fact, Dahl met her current VP of Engineering at one such event. “She was looking for an opportunity, and I was looking for someone in that position.”

The future of fintech goes beyond software coding and development. Soft skills such as emotional intelligence (EQ) will become an asset for fintech companies in the current and future work-from-home-management models. This is reflective in the foundation of Beanworks where connecting with customers with an EQ positive mindset helped build a loyal customer base. Dahl explains this by saying “In the early days, we loved our customers into loyalty, and that essence of our approach to customer success and service has continued on in the department and continued on in our core values. It just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” This substantiates the popular discussion in the industry that the future of fintech is customer-centric and organizations are leaning into technology that provides an optimal digital experience. With a crisis-hit economy, companies leading with empathy and focus on customers will be ones winning loyalty points.

It will most certainly be interesting to see what steps decision-makers will adopt to incorporate diversity into their growth trajectory as they try to find balance and direction in a post-COVID future. Leaders like Dahl will be at the forefront in paving the way for a diversity-fueled future.

Speaking about her nomination in BC TIA 2020 Person of the Year category, Dahl says, “Congratulations to everyone nominated. It is such an honor to share the space with an excellent set of leaders. At the end of the day, we are all working towards the same goal – driving innovation for the demands of the future. I wish everyone the very best.”

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