The bank for a changing world

BNP Paribas supports women entrepreneurship

Women entrepreneurs

Over the years, BNP Paribas has played an active role in setting up a favorable environment for women entrepreneurship with the will to inspire boldness and ambition in every woman with a business project in mind. Supporting women entrepreneurship is not just about solving inequality. It’s also a powerful way to boost global economic growth.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), 224 million women are now running or starting a business—and that sample only includes 67 of the 188 countries recognized by the World Bank. In fact, many studies have shown that women entrepreneurs consistently outperform their male counterparts. 

And yet, women still only start 20-30% of new businesses throughout industrialized and developed countries. That’s why BNP Paribas is standing with women entrepreneurs to help them shatter the glass ceiling, making it easier to start a business and unleash their enormous potential.

Women entrepreneurs: the history of institutional setbacks

In France, as in most European countries, fewer than one third of entrepreneurs are women. Same goes in the United States, a so-called paradise of female entrepreneurship where this figure barely reaches over 30% (according to the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute, or GEDI, index). This situation is all the more puzzling since entrepreneurship is highly valued by women, 69% of whom see it as “more fulfilling than salaried work.”

But the roots of this situation run deep: societal perceptions and social norms still present a major obstacle. Reasons also include a lack of self-confidence and a feeling of illegitimacy, which are sometimes ingrained early in childhood for young girls. 

In addition, other more concrete setbacks have also been identified, such as the more difficult time women have convincing bankers and investors.

Difficulty securing funding is further exacerbated by excessive prudence, or even self-censure among female entrepreneurs: “in 2016, just 7% of capital raised went to women,” underlines Marie-Claire Capobianco, Head of BNP Paribas French Retail Banking and Member of the BNP Paribas Executive Committee. 

in 2016, just 7% of capital raised went to women

Our mission: encourage the success of women entrepreneurs

Over the years, BNP Paribas has played an active role in setting up a favorable environment for female entrepreneurship by: 

  • Supporting women entrepreneurs by training hundreds of employees to advise women in the process of starting a business.
  • Informing and guiding women entrepreneurs through educational workshops and mentoring programs.
  • Developing support content dedicated to women entrepreneurs, including lists of the various aid programs available to them, as done by BNL, the Group’s retail banking network in Italy, on its website. BNP Paribas Fortis, the Group’s retail banking network in Belgium, publishes educational and informative content for the general public on its site bizcover, dedicated to women entrepreneurs. 
  • Connecting women entrepreneurs with the bank’s network of national or international partners: incubator Les Pionnières, Femmes Business Angels, Women Business Mentoring Initiative, etc. 
  • Forming strong partnerships, as in Turkey with the extension of cooperation between TEB and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), as well as the first partnership dedicated to supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) led by women.
  • Offering high-level support services, like the Woman Initiative Foundation, founded by Martine Liautaud, in partnership with Stanford University, which recognizes bold and talented female business owners worldwide. “Participants will receive excellent university teaching through a program adapted to the specific issues faced by entrepreneurs. They can also share their ambitions in terms of international development, innovation and leadership, while even identifying business opportunities together. The innovative program undertaken with the prestigious Stanford campus illustrates BNP Paribas Wealth Management’s commitment to female entrepreneurship," tells Sofia Merlo, Co-CEO of BNP Paribas Wealth Management.
  • Supporting strong initiatives: BNP Paribas notably sponsors the Women Initiative Foundation. Created in early 2016, the Endowment Fund aims to boost the role of women in the economy, both in France and worldwide.
  • Raising awareness among younger generations alongside the association 100,000 Entrepreneurs, which organizes seminars and meetings at schools, colleges and high schools to promote a culture of entrepreneurship among young women between 13 and 25 years old.  

Inspiring confidence and ambition in women entrepreneurs

In 2017, BNP Paribas renewed its commitment in France with a new program: #ConnectHers. This ambitious operation aims to consolidate and expand the bank’s various initiatives to help women at every step in starting a business.

support women so they have the drive to start a business and think big in terms of its development.

The goal is to "support women so they have the drive to start a business and think big in terms of its development,” says Marie-Claire Capobianco. Because even when they embark on the entrepreneurial path, women settle all too often for small businesses with little growth potential. In the United States, only 8% of innovative businesses are started by women. In France as well, the startup world still offers a poor example of gender parity: just 13% of French "digital" startups that raised capital in 2016 were run by women. 

BNP Paribas hopes to inspire boldness and ambition in every woman with a business project in mind. That is the motivation behind the  Female Entrepreneurship Trophies (Trophées de L’Entrepreneuriat au Féminin) and Woman Equity for Growth: these annual operations aim to identify, support and promote the most stunning examples of successful female entrepreneurship from around the world.

The Group also partnered with the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society. The purpose of this international event is to improve female representation and gender parity among society’s leading bodies.  

Fueling growth with women entrepreneurship

Supporting women entrepreneurship is not just about solving inequality. It’s also a powerful way to boost global economic growth. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 50% of female worker productivity remains untapped worldwide (22% for men). In France, the OECD has calculated additional growth of 0.4% simply from ensuring gender parity in the entrepreneurial sector alone.

“ BNP Paribas is convinced that women entrepreneurship constitutes one of the 21st century’s main engines of economic growth, especially in France ”

Marie-Claire Capobianco

Head of BNP Paribas French Retail Banking

And stimulating economic growth is the bank’s core business. For that reason, BNP Paribas supported the French government’s target of having women representing 40% of French entrepreneurs by 2017. It’s an ambitious goal, but together we can reach it!  

Key figures for women entrepreneurship 

30% of entrepreneurs in France are women 

37% of entrepreneurs in the 67 countries included in the GEM survey are women

5 million potential women entrepreneurs in France

9.4% of potential additional growth over 20 years if gender parity is achieved in France 

72 million jobs created by women entrepreneurs in the 67 countries included in the GEM survey

5th GDP worldwide: the economic output of business managed by women in the US 

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