A report done by Power In Diversity examined 70 Venture Capital funds and 424 private and VC-backed startups that are active in Israel. It revealed that the average percentage of women represented in companies is 33%. Though there is a more substantial presence of women in large companies (36%) than in smaller companies (30.8%), women in tech jobs represent a mere 27%. When it comes to management roles, being a C-level executive, a VP, or a director, only 23.4% of these positions are filled by women. That is to say, less than a quarter of the decision-makers in the ecosystem are women. When looking at VCs, only 14.8% of the partners are women and 9% are investing partners. This piece of data correlates with the percentage of companies that are founded by women in the tech industry which is 12%. These statistics reflect not only the Israeli tech ecosystem but also the global one, as the universal technology industry has only 31% overall female representation.

In order for the startup nation to continue to thrive, there needs to be more diversity within tech; there is no reason why the human makeup of the ecosystem should not represent the number of women in the general population, and the number of qualified women for these roles. Though there has been a significant increase in the number of women that are represented in the tech ecosystem in Israel, it is far from being enough. This series will focus on those women who have made it in tech and tell the stories of their journeys within the tech ecosystem– where they are now, and how they got there. We hope that this series will inspire other women to go after their tech-driven goals and not let gender biases, prejudices, and stereotypes get in their way; we hope to motivate companies to allocate considerable resources to the implementation of diversity programs and focus on expanding the pool of candidates that are underrepresented in the workforce; we hope to encourage government and educational institutions to take measures in providing the tools, support, and means necessary to enable a more diversified tech workforce.

Keren Levy is the President of Payoneer and General Manager of Merchant Services. Payoneer is the world’s go-to partner for digital commerce, everywhere. From borderless payments to boundless growth, Payoneer promises any business, in any market, the technology, connections and confidence to participate and flourish in the new global economy. Powering growth for customers ranging from aspiring entrepreneurs in emerging markets to the world’s leading digital brands, Payoneer offers access to a universe of opportunities.

In a conversation with Geektime, Keren Levy opened up to us about her journey through tech, and how she got to where she is today: the President of a fintech startup.

Keren started her Payoneer career 13 years ago when they were a small startup of only 60 people. She was introduced to Yuval Tal, Payoneer’s founder, who presented her with the vision he had for Payoneer. Keren thought the whole idea was very “forward-thinking” and extremely impressive, but also a bit scary; for these reasons, she thought it would be a great place for her to grow and contribute to. Little did she know the company would grow to what it is today: a massive corporation with over 2000 employees from Buenos Aires to Sydney. What she loves about Payoneer is that there is never a typical day at work– every day brings a new challenge and with it, new opportunities. Moreover, since Payoneer is so international, Keren gets to meet people from all over the globe– people with different cultures, and different mindsets, which is not only interesting on a personal level but also contributes to her overall success in tech as it allows her to constantly be learning. After all this time working for Payoneer, Keren looks back and realizes that it was a career-defining moment for her to join their team; still to this day, she is proud to be a part of a company whose team is motivated by a common vision: to connect the world and create opportunities for everyone to participate in the global economy.

Keren attributes her success to being a people person. Even if you're working in tech, it is people that are behind the work being done; it is people we mustn't forget. Unfortunately, that personal aspect often gets lost– we focus too much on technical issues and forget the human element of the work. After all, the personal aspect behind startups is what makes the Startup Nation so unique and successful. Moreover, it allows us to remain leaders not just during the good times, but through the tough times as well. Focusing on the people behind the product allows us to approach any situation with a can-do attitude, and see the opportunities within the challenge, not its possible repercussions. This mindset can really come a long way, especially when considering the complicated nature of the projects tech companies face.

When it comes to women in tech, Keren is not oblivious to the biases many women still face in the industry. She explained to us that biases still exist in the market, and they have consequences. “For example, the global group Women in Tech has noted that over the past four decades, the gender gap in tech has widened, rather than narrowed, with only one in five women working in the industry today. So, any different perception of me that comes from being a woman isn’t personal, it’s systemic, and we must work to change that. I’m encouraged by research such as that from Deloitte, which found that in the financial services industry, while only 22 percent of leadership roles are filled by women, for every additional woman in the C-suite in any company, the number of women in senior leadership roles triples. By changing the numbers, we will make progress in changing the bias.”

Keren doesn't just say what needs to be done for the industry to make such changes, she puts her money where her mouth is at Payoneer. “Payoneer has never tolerated bias. It’s reflected in our practice: 50% of our employees worldwide, 44% of our management team and 3 out of 8 senior executives are women. This is the core principle behind how Payoneer works. In the fintech industry today, less than 25% of senior positions are held by women. I was always mindful of this and saw it as Payoneer’s mission to change this statistic. However, it is important to remind ourselves that it is not about shifting power to favour one side over another, but instead creating a level playing field by identifying, acknowledging, and rejecting your preconceived notions and biases. Diverse management hires diverse teams. Luckily, Payoneer is a company filled with entrepreneurs who value determination and talent above preconceived notions of gender. Hopefully, more and more companies understand this, and work to make their gender representation in line with what is seen in the population; if women were to make up half of the tech scene just as they do half the global population, deterrents to women succeeding in the workplace and any other gender-related issues would cease to exist.” Keren makes it clear that if the industry is more inclusive, it would make the lives of the women within it much easier; if men and women are treated the same and appear in the same leadership roles, that will go a long way to making individual women feel like they don’t have to try harder than men or be better than men to succeed in the same way (and this is true for women at any level of an organization). “You can’t be what you can’t see. I am not saying I want the industry to try to make our lives easier per se. I think we want the tech industry to be more inclusive—which means not only being more welcoming to women once we’re there but also helping train and develop more women to join the industry.”

Keren prides herself on the fact that when she is at work, she is setting examples for all those around her, especially as a woman. That isn't only seen in the office, but rather in every aspect of her life, including her personal one. “The idea that women need to ‘do it all’ is a complete myth; you cannot do it all. You cannot do all the housework at your 100% while also giving your career 100%. And trying to achieve this impossible task puts incredible pressure on women. They feel that they are either failing in their work life or failing in their home life. This is a universal problem for women regardless of the industry. And what's more, men are rarely faced with this dilemma; they are rarely asked about their work-life balance. My advice to women facing this sort of problem is you must reach out to your loved ones and ask for help; the only way to cope with it all is to get help. And there is nothing wrong with that. Too many women are beating themselves up for not being able to do everything by themselves.”

And with that, Keren leaves us, women, with three pieces of advice. The first is to “sit in the front row”; show your motivation and your willingness to be a leader. If we know that there’s bias in the industry, we must take positive action to remove a lens through which others might see us. Second, “be yourself”; fintech is very relevant for women because we are very well versed in complex issues. Use the uniqueness of the female style of work, which is very powerful, to your advantage. The third piece of advice is to “choose an environment that encourages inclusion and can help you grow”; do your research on an organization and see how it has addressed inclusion in the past. But, if you’re already in a workplace that is not doing its best in terms of supporting women, try to do something about it. Start discussions, and create a women’s mentor network— “you can do a lot as an internal champion.”