Kristy Dawson

Kristy Duncan

Founder & CEO at Women in Payments

Toronto, Canada

@WomeninPayments  |  LinkedIn Profile

Women in Payments is an initiative designed to facilitate and promote learning, career building, and networking for women working across the payments ecosystem.  Our mandate is global, and covers all aspects of the payments ecosystem, from financial institutions to payments networks, from payment processors to payment system users and regulators, and financial technology players, all the way from consumer payments through to commercial and corporate payments.

What motivated you to implement the Women in Payments events and organization?

I saw a huge void for women in the payments industry to connect, learn, and build a community of like-minded payments professionals.  A network of women in the payments industry can be hugely beneficial to help each other learn, communicate career development opportunities, and celebrate the accomplishments of women leaders, innovators, and rising stars in our field.

What has surprised you the most in your efforts establishing this program?

I think what has surprised me the most is the enthusiasm and broad industry support we have enjoyed, in every market we have entered.  I always knew that women were in the minority when it came to leadership positions in the Canadian payments industry, and suspected it was the same in the US.  But I was quite shocked at  how far advanced North America is, in comparison to other global payments markets.  It just emphasizes the importance of our initiative, and motivates me to go and connect with the women in these markets.

You’ve established the Women in Payments Awards as part of the Women in Payments events.  What awards do these include and how what process do you go through to identify nominees and recipients?

The awards are a very important part of our mandate to recognize and celebrate the female talent we enjoy across the payments ecosystem.  This year we will be presenting six awards in Canada, and two in the US.  The six in Canada include three Rising Star awards, an Award for Innovation, an Award for Inspiration (a combination of leadership and mentorship), as well as a Distinguished Payments Professional award.  We presented just two awards this year in the US, as it was our first year, but we will be expanding the program in the US next year.

We have an Awards Committee in each market, which reviews the nominations and selects the winners.  Nominations can be submitted online at  Each nomination requires background information on the nominee, a number of references,  a photo, a bio, and an explanation as to why the nominee is deserving of the award.

What do you believe are the inhibitors driving the lack of women engineers in Canada and the U.S.?

That is a great question, which unfortunately has no easy answers.  Engineers Canada reported that in 2013, 12.3% of registered engineers in Canada were women and I see similar numbers in the US.  This is indeed disappointing, despite the huge efforts of schools and industry to encourage young women to enter the field, and the dire need for industry to include women as part of the teams who design new products for use by the women in our population.  I’ll never forget my grandmother’s comment when I first told her I was going into engineering.  She said “Good.  Now somebody can design a stove with the controls at the front, so you don`t burn yourself reaching to the back of the stove, when you turn down the pot that is boiling over.”

I think the shortage of women engineers is a result of a combination of lack of understanding on the part of women high school students about what an engineering career is all about, as well as a lack of role models who can pave the way for young women engineers in the workplace.  The latter reason is why I founded a mentoring group at my alma mater, called WEMS- Women Engineers Mentoring Students, but we really need to start at the high school level.

What steps do you believe Financial Services institutions can adopt to encourage and drive an increase in the number of women leaders?

I believe the efforts need to come from both men and women at senior levels of these organizations. There was a great article in the Wall Street Journal last year outlining a number of things that men can do in the workplace to recognize and help support women in the workplace.  Simple things like  how women present recommendations- often as a question, rather than a mandate.  Or how men are automatically perceived as being competent, where women need to earn it.  I think these differences put women in the workplace at a disadvantage, compared to their male peers, making it more difficult to advance in their careers.

Reflecting on your career, what would be the one or two key messages or advice you’d provide to your 21 year old self?

One of my favourite sayings is “Too soon old.  Too late smart.”  We learn so much through our careers and our experiences.  I would tell my 21 year old self a few things, and I would tell her many times until it finally sinks in:

You don’t need all the answers before you start on a project.  Answers often become apparent, or  you can research options and decide as you get more understanding and information about your project.

Don’t be afraid to ask others for help.  People really do like to help!

The last one, I have often used in many aspects of my life:  What’s the worst that can happen?  If you use a measured, well-thought out plan, you can manage the risks and challenges as you progress through the project, so don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams.

Who(m) do you believe has had the most influencing with respect to influencing your own career?  

I would say that both Jan Estep of NACHA, and Carolyn Homberger of ACI have been great teachers and supporters for me.  They are both positive and thoughtful people who are not afraid of trying new ideas, asking others for input, leading by example, and sharing their experience and expertise to empower others.

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