TL;DR: Kahina Van Dyke, Peggy Alford, Olayinka Odeniran, Sheena Allen, and Charlene Fadirepo. These are five of the top black female leaders actively paving the way in the fintech space. These women are dominating the finance industries and setting room for more black female leaders to follow their steps. 

Black female leaders have powerfully and constantly led the way. Despite being repeatedly silenced, undervalued, and invisibilized, black leaders have resiliently made impactful differences of value. They’ve also laid foundations across countless cultures and locations for centuries. In the United States alone, women have been at the forefront of social undertakings. Those range from the underground railroad and the suffrage movement to today’s Black Lives Matter.

Today, we’re seizing Black History Month’s opportunity to recognize 5 of the top and greatest black female leaders in fintech. From women at the top of famous corporations to those carving the way towards equality for underserved communities, we’re presenting a mix of 5 of the top black female leaders who are opening up gateways for more black women in the fintech space to follow their footsteps. 

1. Kahina Van Dyke

With more than two decades of experience, Kahina Van Dyke went from Senior Management at MasterCard and Citibank and Global Director and running Commerce & Payment Partnerships at Facebook to formerly acting as Senior VP in the Business and Corporate Development at Ripple. 

She’s currently the Global Head of Digital Channels and Client Data Analytics in corporate, commercial & institutional Banking at Standard Chartered Bank. And she’s still the Corporate Director at Progressive Insurance. Her life sounds anything but ordinary. 

While at Citibank, Standard Chartered Bank says Kahina “launched the [bank’s] first mobile wallet with national and international roll-out.” By those same means we know that, for MasterCard, “she led the go-to-market strategies for globally scalable payment solutions,” including diverse efforts in bringing new payment options to Africa. This passionate woman was also the “Board Observer of MoneyGram International after leading the successful minority stake investment of that company in 2019.”

The trail-blazer’s avant-garde vision precedes her. It’s definitely no surprise that Kahina is number 1 on The Financial Technology Report’s Top 25 Women Leaders In Financial Technology of 2019. She is credited with great experience “convincing banks to adopt innovative and once-radical technologies”. And she was also “instrumental to the upswing in banking apps and SMS communication”. 

For a feel of what it’s like to hear Kahina speak, here’s a quick video of her interview on Disruptive forces in fintech for KPMG US in 2020. 

2. Peggy Alford

Kahina doesn’t sit in that Top 25 Women Leaders list alone, however. Peggy Alford, the first black woman to ever take a seat on Facebook’s board of directors, was also acting as Senior VP of core markets for PayPal as she held that role. Talk about powerful and balanced multitasking! 

In the Top 25 Women Leaders article, Peggy’s honored as a key player. She was vital “to the company’s global sales operations and merchant support teams”. She also led “PayPal’s commercial teams in their largest and most established markets across North America, UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Australia.”

Facebook’s board is not the only one Alford knows, of course. 

She has also been a part of the board for a real estate investment trust called The Macerich Co. Thanks to this role, she’s also listed on the Black Enterprise 2018 Registry of Corporate Directors. In an interview Peggy gave Black Enterprise in 2020, she recognized her big break as the time when eBay bought Rent.com and she was asked to be their CFO.

Here’s Peggy’s opening keynote address at the Women In Product Conference 2019 titled Life Lessons and Leadership.

3. Olayinka Odeniran

The third position in our list of powerful black female leaders is taken up by founder and Chairwoman of the Black Women Blockchain Council (BWBC), Olayinka Odeniran. Here, we introduce a “highly respected compliance and risk management expert” featured in Fortune’s 2021 article titled These 8 Black women are using technology to combat financial inequities. The reading presents Olayinka’s relation to the BWMC. It’s “a platform she uses to increase the number of young girls and Black women involved in blockchain, fintech, and other emerging technologies”. That may precisely be one of the most groundbreaking ways to lead the way forward. 

In an interview Olayinka gives Bronze, an online resource focused on celebrating women of color, she clarifies how the platform’s “mission is to provide educational events, resources to train Black women in the technological understanding of the distributed ledger technology, and promote Black-women-led Blockchain projects.” 

Making sure no one is left behind in the future of crypto, Olayinka professes the BWMC’s ultimate goal. It is “to look back and be fulfilled with the fact that we, the Black community, were part of the revolution”. With women on a par with Olayinka, they have been, indeed. 

For Olayinka, we’re sharing an interview on Top Security Mistakes In Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Space she gave Smartereum

4. Sheena Allen

Moving on from big corporations to a tech startup, from millions made in financial services to making financial products available to people who wouldn’t normally have access to any, we now present what Fortune calls “the youngest woman in America to own and operate a digital bank.” The neobank of which Fortune speaks refers to CapWay, a company of which Sheena is founder and CEO. 

Inspired by her life in Mississippi, CapWay focuses on servicing all those who don’t have access to mainstream financial services. Allen also leads a mobile app company titled Sheena Allen Apps and she has a non-tech founder’s first book in print called The Starting Guide in which she tells of her journey in tech. 

As Forbes highlights, “Allen saw the opportunity the unbanked and underbanked represented for mobile digital services” when she materialized CapWay. She had to prove investors the worth of bringing cashless economies closer to US territory. Doing so meant refusing to leave these opportunities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. 

For Sheena, we’re pointing you to her TedTalk on How to bring humanity back to finance at TEDxSanFrancisco. 

5. Charlene Fadirepo

Charlene Fadirepo is the founder and CEO of a fintech platform named Guidefi. Her company set out to “connect women of color with financial experts and wealth education courses”. Over Guidefi Academy, Charlene focuses on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency education. She has even published a children’s book on Bitcoin titled Sade’s Satoshis. It isn’t her only publication of the sort. 

Prior to above, as a former regulator, this exemplary woman also led bank supervision audit teams at the Federal Reserve. Her own words out of her LinkedIn profile present her as having “spent several years as a management consultant with PwC, advising Wall Street banks on Dodd Frank compliance following the financial crisis.” 

Now, her focus is helping small businesses and nonprofits integrate crypto and Bitcoin, with a special devotion to revolutions of this nature in Nigeria. 

Hear Charlene speak about Bitcoin in her interview to Yahoo! Finance about a month ago. 

By the way, and now that we’re on it, we also want to highlight and mention Susan M. Collins, the “first Black woman to lead a Fed bank,” as a bonus to this list. She became the next chief of The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston two weeks ago. 

Leading without fear despite the odds

The first black woman elected to Congress in the United States celebrated so back in 1968. She was also “the first black woman candidate to run for the presidential nomination of a major party,” as A Seat at the Table describes her. Her name was Shirley Chisholm, and she’s the mother of what we can call the “folding chair inspiration.” Because for her, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, [you] bring a folding chair.”

It’s with that spirit that we support all  powerful black female leaders. Especially those making a difference in the fintech industry today. May all of these strong women’s personal stories pave the way for more like them in this field. And outside of it. 

We’re also working our way to an even more women-filled month as we enter March.

We hope these efforts drive top-notch equality. Even more so as we make the best of all the latest technologies have to offer. 

Author

  • Birthed by a writer, grown and formed as one. Literature and theater are my playing fields while business is my vision.