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 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), 274 million women are running a business and that sample only includes 74 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 in 2019. 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), despite an unprecedented dynamic over the past 20 years. 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. Researchers at Columbia University in the United States have shown that questions asked by investors to male entrepreneurs are more easily oriented towards promotion (67%), while questions asked to female entrepreneurs are more often preventive in nature, with negative connotations (66%).

Difficulty securing funding is further exacerbated by excessive prudence, or even self-censure among female entrepreneurs: “in 2017, just 7% of capital raised went to women,” underlines Marie-Claire Capobianco, Director of Growth Development and Corporate Coverage and Member of the BNP Paribas Executive Committee. 

in 2017, just 7% of capital raised went to women

However, it is possible to break down these psychological barriers and outdated representations. And the bank also has its role to play. For example in Ukraine, Ukrsibbank is a partner of the #GirlsSTEM project, that aims to encourage young women to pursue scientific careers and develop female leadership in these fields. The bank also offers women mentorship to assist female students and high school students in carrying out an innovative scientific or technological project.

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.
  • By launching concrete programmes, such as BICICI in Côte d'Ivoire, which is funding with its partner Empow'Her, a 10-month incubation programme for 5 women with social business projects. Or the ‘Women in Business’ financing and technical assistance programme carried out in Morocco by BMCI and the EBRD to support Moroccan women entrepreneurs and Moroccan SMEs run by women.  
  • 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 (unavailable link), dedicated to women entrepreneurs. Bank of the West, BNP Paribas' North American subsidiary, launched WEsource, a website dedicated to women entrepreneurs that offers articles, interviews as well as, useful information to help women finance their business, expand their network and advance their entrepreneurial adventure.
  • Connecting women entrepreneurs with the bank’s network of national or international partners: incubator Willa, Les Prem1eres, 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 Women Entrepreneur Program, created with the Woman Initiative Foundation, which gathers every year bold and talented female business owners from various countries at Stanford Graduate School of Business
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.
  • Facilitating access to microcredit in developing regions. 81% of our subscribers worldwide are women. This rate reaches 98% in Asia.
  • 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

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 14.5% of French "digital" startups that raised capital in 2017 were run by women. Yet, 80% of millennial women would like to be their own boss.

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.  Events are a powerful lever to empower women entrepreneurs : BNP Paribas Bank Polska in Poland was the official sponsor of WSC (Women Startup Competition) in 2018. This international competition aims to promote women's startups and help them meet investors. 

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

Director of Growth Development and Corporate Coverage 

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. It’s an ambitious goal, but together we can reach it!  

Key figures for women entrepreneurship

30% of entrepreneurs in France are women

5 million potential women entrepreneurs in France

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