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25.02.2020

Women in Finance – or not?

Irene Brunner, BNP Paribas (Suisse) SA

Numerous studies have examined the matter and reach the same conclusion: Companies with a well-diversified workforce and balance between men and women are on average more innovative and also achieve better results when compared to their less diversified peers.  This topic was made eligible for investment several years ago. Structured products focusing on companies that perform well in terms of diversity criteria are already available from some issuers. But what about market participants themselves?

A precise analysis of the status quo of many Swiss banks and financial service providers is sobering. Women in middle and senior management are few and far between. This does not mean, however, that nothing is being done to tackle the problem. While many companies have indeed recognised the topic of diversity as strategically important, there is still often a lack of practical implementation. Even with a comprehensive diversity programme, the measures will not have the desired effect overnight. The goal is usually to establish a higher proportion of women in lower management, which over time will then spread through middle to senior and top management. According to the Advance & HSG Gender Intelligence Report of 2019, an important criterion for success here is to eliminate “unconscious bias”, i.e. the unconscious bias that ensures that men are better rated for promotions and staff appraisals.

You only know how big a problem is once you have quantified it, in other words when you stop talking about it and start measuring it. The BNP Paribas Group, for example, has set itself a target of 25% women on its Executive Committees and over 30% in senior management positions The Bank is also partnering the UN campaign “HeForShe”, which promotes gender equality around the world by endeavouring to mobilise men to work for this cause.

Two out of six members of the Board of the SSPA are women. This suggests we should be more innovative and achieve better results than other associations that are worse positioned in this respect. I personally hope, above all, that we can set an example and show young (female) talent within the industry that anything is possible!

Further information about HeForShe is available under https://www.heforshe.org/en.

A self-test on the topic of “unconscious bias” can be retrieved under the following link: http://genderiq.pwc.com/story_html5.html

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