VISA

Visa Everywhere, With An Eye On Empowerment

Today is International Women’s Day, and it’s worth stepping back and looking at trends that might be gelling to empower women in business this year and beyond.

In one recent announcement, Visa has said that it has entered a strategic partnership with Girl Starter, a multiple disciplinary company that seeks to help fund and develop the next generation of female business leaders. As part of that joint effort, a competition slated for this weekend in Austin, Texas, will award $25,000 to the winner of a female-focused entrepreneurship competition, along with advancement to the Everywhere Initiative finals.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Visa Senior VP of Digital and Marketing Transformation Shiv Singh said that the Everywhere Initiative is entering its third year and has an anchor in the company’s developer platform, with a global reach and 1,000 firms that have gone through the program cumulatively, raising $1.7 billion in financing to date.

“Something that we’d seen in the last two years,” said Singh, “was that we really struggled to have women-led [businesses] or women-led startups [get funded]…and at first we’d fallen into that trap of ‘oh, maybe there really aren’t that many women-led startups in payments.’”

“But as we spoke to more and more people,” continued Singh, the firm found that in the Silicon Valley ecosystem, “especially in the fundraising ecosystem, there is a lot of unconscious bias that happens.” Thus, oftentimes women-led enterprises do not get funding (he noted that venture capital is historically a male-led segment) or are not visible in competitions.

When Visa got to the current year, said Singh, the firm was determined “to lead from the front and make a concerted effort to recruit women-led startups and also to encourage women who are thinking about payments and entrepreneurial events…to step forward.”

Equally as important as that initiative, said the executive, is the belief that “through diversity you get better business outcomes. We aren’t thinking of it just through the lens of ‘it is the right thing to do,’ but we will have a better crop of startups, better finalists, better winners with a more diverse base and move the needle further on innovation.”

As Webster noted, the core nuts and bolts of payments processing and infrastructure can be daunting, with expanded use cases and focus on other problems possibly serving as an impetus for “more female entrepreneurs to solve these problems first…and blow the lid off what was once a very difficult part of the ecosystem to enter.” Singh concurred, stating that “hopefully it is all starting to change.”

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