Why is it so important to feminise the tech sector further?
Increasing the number of women in the IT sector is a twofold challenge: a challenge in terms of collective performance for BNP Paribas and its clients, and more broadly a challenge for society in general. Because the evidence is clear: the average percentage of female IT experts worldwide, all sectors combined, is only 22% (*1)! An unbalanced gender mix is even more problematic in the technology sector, which increasingly governs our daily lives and uses an increasing number of algorithms. Technological solutions designed almost exclusively by men risk having gender biases and not being in line with the needs and ways of thinking of users who are both women and men. Not to mention the sociological biases such as origin or social class, equally crucial. Balanced teams in their composition produce more efficient solutions that better meet the needs of users in their diversity. The tech sector is also a major provider of well-paid jobs in the world. At the level of civil society, encouraging women to pursue IT careers and supporting them along this path seems essential to us as a major IT employer: both so as not to deprive half the population of labour and skills, and so that women, who are more marginalised than men in several parts of the world, can access professions that will promote their financial independence.
What are the challenges of your feminisation programme?
Our programme to increase the number of women in our IT is one of the Group's strategic priorities, along with its technological and business priorities. Bernard Gavgani, Chief Information Officer, and Sofia Merlo, Group Head of Human Resources, are the two sponsors. Our action is part of the Group's Diversity and Inclusion policy.
At the end of 2020, 31.6% of the Group’s IT staff worldwide were women and 68.4% were men. This is more than the 20% recorded in France in a study conducted in early 2021 among 1000 IT professionals by Michael Page Technology -in partnership with Choose Your Boss-, but it is not enough to meet the ambitions of the BNP Paribas Group on the subject and the challenges facing society. Our target? 37% women in our IT jobs by the end of 2024. This represents 1000 more women, both through external and internal recruitment: 45% of them in technical IT professions, 55% in those who do not require initial tech training. This is an ambitious and realistic first step.
How did you define your global action plan?
The realities on the ground are very different, depending on the country and the local culture.
In North America, for example, only 22% of our IT employees are women, compared with 37% in Africa, 32% in Asia and 30% in Europe. It is in Turkey and Morocco that we are closest to parity, with 40% women. The studies carried out for the Women's Forum in 2019 show very well that the share of women graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM2) is inversely proportional to the level of gender equality in their country.
The higher the level of gender equality, as in Finland for example, the less women choose to go into tech jobs. They opt more for studies of philosophy, law, communication, psychology, history, art, etc. Conversely, in those parts of the world where women have to fight the most for their financial independence and equality, choosing to study and work in IT, which hires heavily and pays well, is a valuable gateway to their independence. This is the case in India and the Maghreb countries for example.
the higher the gender equlity rate, the less women choose tech.
Women in IT
What are the broad outlines of your programme?
Our consolidated action plan is based on 6 main areas: step up the external recruitment of tech women; encourage the mobility of our non-IT female employees towards IT, strengthen women's skills development; develop an inclusive work environment and fight against sexism; identify and grow our future women IT leaders; and highlight our tech women at internal or external events to raise awareness of these vocations.
In concrete terms, what actions have you initiated?
As far as external recruitment is concerned, we are working in partnership with training organisations to recruit more female students on internships and work-study programmes and thus to feed our pool for recruitment on permanent contracts. To do this, we are strengthening our campus management actions, targeting schools and universities with a higher ratio of female profiles, in order to showcase the wealth of our available tech jobs; female IT employees are also coming to talk about their career within the Group. In addition, we have put in place a wide range of actions depending on the country. In France, we have defined ultra-targeted sourcing plans on social networks and rely on our 41 female IT ambassadors to promote our IT professions and the opportunities offered.
helping women to find their place in tech through events
Several of our IT entities have decided to take part in recruitment events dedicated to women. Like BNP Paribas Personal Investors in Europe (Consorsbank, etc.) which will participate alongside BNP Paribas Germany in those organised by Womenhack. Womenhack is a San Francisco-based company working on a global scale, which helps women find their place in tech by proposing events, job offers and analysis of companies that are strongly committed to diversity. In October, our recruitment teams in France will virtually meet with 2,000 female engineers during the job dating organised each year by the Seekube platform. Others, such as BNP Paribas Fortis, rely on its internal networks of women and managers to promote vacancies and will make agreements with their IT recruitment partners to source more female candidates.
In terms of the recruitment process, whenever possible -depending on the applications received- we also pay close attention to share shortlists of female and male profiles with managers. Even more so for job offers in the less feminised technical professions: production, architecture and development.
Some countries, such as India, go further when local legislation allows it: BNP Paribas India Solutions encourages its IT service and engineering providers to offer more female profiles. And, where possible, plans to replace any female employee who leaves, whether on mobility or elsewhere, with a woman. Recruitment campaigns to target women returning to the labour market after a career break will also be carried out. In order to build a value proposition as an employer that ensures work/life balance, BNP Paribas India Solutions is evaluating flexibility and remote work models to retain its employees, especially women, and attract market talent.
In terms of internal mobility, how do you encourage female employees to take up an IT position?
The idea is to invite female employees currently occupying functional positions, with no IT background, to take positions in IT, particularly as project managers and business analysts, by supporting their development through upskilling & reskilling training. We are publicising these perspectives within the Group by leading career managers communities, raising awareness among managers, organising information events on opportunities in IT, or approaching female employees directly.
How do you promote the skills development of your female employees?
We have many levers! To name a few, we are working on both coaching and mentoring to help women grow. We also ask managers to ensure in particular that our female employees update their specific skills and development plans in our internal tool. In addition, for technical and methodological training, we have developed a very rich offering that covers all the IT, Tech, Data and Agile skills, which are accessible via platforms such as Pluralsight and our Digital & Data Academy, for example.
Specific actions are also launched in each IT entity for women. One example is BNL in Italy, which has allocated 50% of its budget for IT certification training to female employees, and BNP Paribas Securities Services France, which has decided to strengthen the skills of its female IT employees in two priority areas: project management and management.
We also ensure that women are fairly represented in our global Group IT Leadership Talent development programme, which aims to identify and prepare our next generation of IT leaders. There are 522 Leadership Talents in total, and we strive to get as close as possible to the gender parity targets set by the Group in 2020: 50% women among Emerging Talent, 40% among Advanced Talent and 30% in Top Talent.
What levers do you use to encourage women?
To help women take the leap, our best asset is the ones that have already done so!
To help women take the leap, our best asset is the ones that have already done so! We are therefore putting forward female IT role models who can inspire others by sharing their career paths and professions, such as BNP Paribas' IT women who recently spoke at the French ‘Women & Girls in Tech’ event co-organised with our partner Simplon, which was broadcast to Vivatech's general public day.
we highlight women it employees who can inspire other women.
BNP Paribas Partners for Innovation, our joint subsidiary with IBM which manages part of our IT production in Europe, is also working on an action plan to promote their female employees via social networks and dedicated events.
We encourage the development of internal networks of women in IT, such as Women in Cyber or our more general communities through our associations like BNP Paribas Mix City or BNP Paribas Personal Finance in Féminin France. They are essential to encourage and facilitate the movement of female employees within the various IT professions.
(*1) Source : Women’s Forum 2019
(*2) Source : Global Gender Gap Index 2018
Photos : ©BNP Paribas / christina / Yustinus Tjiuwansda / Lagos Techie