Jacqueline Jumah: As a Woman, it is You, not your Work that will Get You to the Top

Jacqueline Jumah
Jacqueline Jumah MD, Intermarc Consulting

In this exclusive interview, the Digital Financial Services Markets Specialist and Managing Director of Intermarc Consulting, Jacqueline Jumah, shared how her work has impacted the world and urged women to step in front of their work. Excerpt.

 How crucial is your role in the growth and development of FinTech in Nigeria?

I am responsible for supporting Fintech industry developments around the deployment of financial services, leveraging technology, within and outside Nigeria. I am actually very passionate about what I do. I support a myriad of stakeholders including the commercial banks, microfinance banks, mobile money operators, third party (Fintech) players, the Central Banks, government digitization projects and DFS for social impact partners, among others.

Key intervention areas that I have been involved include product and channel innovations, merchant payments, regtech, social impact payments, government and social digitization initiatives, financial inclusion initiatives, the gender finclusion focus among others. My specific role can be summarized into three main deliberation areas that are critical in the development of the Fintech space.

My research intervention is the first. I cover scoping and assessments in the form of country-level scoping exercises, payments diagnostics, creation of digitization roadmaps, conducting institutional readiness assessments in the deployment of DFS, project design, among others.

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My second intervention category is capacity building. I am involved in developing curricula and conducting training for different stakeholder groups, about different Fintech components as described above. This is to equip the stakeholders with different skills and knowledge to strengthen their implementations.

I also provide consultancy services (technical assistance) to varied Fintech industry stakeholders, helping them to achieve certain goals and objectives. This intervention is mostly carried out on-premise and involves co-innovating and the co-creation of viable and scalable digital ecosystems.

Specific activities include inter alia, innovative product and channel strategy development, financial modelling, customer segmentation, business process re-engineering, project pilot planning, project monitoring and evaluation.

 What is your relationship with the FinTech industry?

I am well known in the Fintech industry both in Nigeria and internationally because of my interactions and engagements with industry stakeholders through conferences and other events, participating in online thematic webinars, training and consulting projects and my publications. I like to document my experience and, so I put together some thematic blogs for the benefit of the industry.

Do you consider yourself a FemTech in FinTech?

Well, I am a FemTech in Fintech. I support different initiatives geared to providing financial services that are leveraging technology. I enjoy the space and think it has a lot to do with promoting development in emerging countries, which make up an increasing share of the world.

Would you say working for a bank is different from working for a Fintech firm or a startup?

True. The character and atmosphere for the banks and start-ups are very much different. They can be summarized in this table:

Banks Start-ups
Character Docile Self-willed
Passive Aggressive
Risk averse Risk taking
Structured and detail oriented Unstructured and flexible

 Kindly share the biggest issues women are facing in the workplace?

Today’s professional women face several leading issues. These include having fewer leadership roles. The next is the glass ceiling, which find expression in not being able to move into growth positions over time. The other is sexual harassment at work places and maternity leave challenges.

 Would you say women are underrepresented at the top of the corporate ladder?

Yes. Women lag far behind their male peers and that is unlikely to change in the short-run, since women also make up only a small fraction of the corporate positions. It is still very much a man’s world. In many places across the globe, women are not paid as much or promoted as often as men.  In India, women’s participation in the workforce is still shockingly low. And in the United States, despite consistent activism in equality and higher wages, women may never make up half of the total workforce.

However, in many countries across the world, there’s some hope. According to a recent Pew Research Centre analysis of labour statistics in 114 countries, women make up 40% of the workforce in more than 80 countries globally. But more surprisingly, the top five countries with the highest female representation in the workforce are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Zimbabwe and Malawi lead the list with more than 52% of female share in the labour force, followed by The Gambia (50.8%), Liberia (50.6%) and Tanzania (50.5%).

How have you faced any gender-related obstacles in your career?

I have faced quite some ‘glass ceiling’ challenges, but I never intend to dwell on that. I prefer encouraging other women to overcome these challenges. One thing every woman should know about climbing the corporate ladder is that it is always you, not your work that will get you to the top. Of course, the work must be stellar. But the journey doesn’t begin and end there. You need to step in front of the work and show the world who you are. You need to advocate for it and convince others that it’s good and important. By so doing, you’ll get to know and believe in yourself more, and you’ll build the relationships that will help you ascend higher.

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 Managing work-life balance is a big deal now. How do you create a balance?

In my kind of world, as a consultant, work-life balancing can be impossible at times. It is not a typical 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. affair. So sacrifices must be made. For instance, there is a lot of travelling and staying away from my family and friends. You can only develop coping mechanisms and learn to quickly juggle life and work instead of trying to achieve a balance. Some coping mechanisms involve proper time management, learning to say no, taking advantage of work implementation options, shortening commitments and minimizing interruptions.

 How would you mentor women who are in your present position?

I believe in making sacrifices to make things work. Finding a way to enjoy your work and learning to live your work. That way you get to advocate for your work and make necessary connections in the industry that will always propel you to your desired move or position.

 What is the best advice you ever received?

Keep keeping on, as you do it for yourself! It is aligned with self-love before loving others (smiles).

 Who do you admire most in the FemTech in FinTech space?

I admire women with empathy that goes into impactful innovation in Fintech. Farida Bedwei is one of the women I admire in Fintech. She has impressive footprints in the space including developing a cloud software platform that allows companies to send loan codes to customers via text, which can be exchanged for money at the bank branches immediately.This is a solution that is being used by 130 microfinance companies across Africa. Inspiringly, Bedwei has achieved all this while living with cerebral palsy.