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Meet with Billie Jean King, an iconic figure in the battle for gender equality and a tennis legend

  • 18.09.2020

To mark the 50th anniversary of the “Original 9”, the founding movement for equality in tennis led by Billie Jean King, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has decided to rename the Fed Cup as the “Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas”. A strong tribute to this American tennis champion who has worked throughout her career for the recognition of the place of women in sport and in society.

In this exclusive interview, Billie Jean King shares her vision of how she influenced reaching gender equality in tennis. How did it all begin? What motivated her? What message would she like to convey? Finally, how does she view Group BNP Paribas’ commitment to gender equality? 

Equal rights in all spaces

A true icon in the United States and an emblematic figure of feminism, Billie Jean King is considered to be one of the greatest players of all time. 

Committed for many years to gender equality, the recognition of women’s sport and LGBT rights, she has left her mark on the history of world tennis.

Feminist and LGBT activist, she became the first sports personality in the world (among both women and men) to reveal her homosexuality, in 1981. 

The former world number one has received several awards for her commitment, and in 2009 she received the highest American distinction “The Presidential Medal of Freedom” from President Barack Obama.

1973: a turning point in the history of women’s tennis

Billie Jean King founds the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) and obtains equal prize-money for the first time at the US Open. That same year, she won a historic and symbolic match dubbed “The Battle of the sexes”, defeating player Bobby Riggs. 

BNP Paribas, a player committed to gender equality

To pay tribute to the tennis legend and her commitment to gender equality in sport and society, the “Fed Cup by BNP Paribas” has now become the “Billie Jean Cup by BNP Paribas”.

This name change resonates particularly well with BNP Paribas’ commitment to gender equality and its history with tennis, notably through the Fed Cup, which in 2019 became the women’s competition with the largest prize-money in the world (all sports combined), matching that of the Davis Cup.

In line with Billie Jean King’s commitment, the Group is doing everything possible to promote gender equality and relentlessly fight against all forms of exclusion. Alongside us, employees who are committed on a daily basis to diversity and social inclusion contribute to a fairer world", affirms Caroline Courtin, Group Head of Diversity and Inclusion BNP Paribas.

In line with Billie Jean King’s commitment, the Group is doing everything possible to promote gender equality and relentlessly fight against all forms of exclusion.

Furthermore, BNP Paribas has been committed to gender equality in the workplace for more than 15 years through its Diversity policy, as one of the first signatories of the UN’s Women Empowerment Principles (WEP), and since 2015, through its support for the HeForShe movement launched by UN Women, a global solidarity and gender equality awareness campaign. As part of this initiative, Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, the Group’s Chief Executive Officer, became a “Thematic Champion” in 2018 and has committed to improving gender diversity in banking roles that have historically been dominated by either women or men. 

In 2019, the BNP Paribas’ Executive Committee also signed the #JamaisSansElles charter, marking a new stage in the Group’s actions in favour of gender mix and equality. 

As a partner of the Women’s Forum Global Meeting, the Group supports women’s entrepreneurship through numerous programs in France and abroad. 

With the creation 15 years ago of a Social Action Unit within the Human Resources Department, and the signature in 2018 of the OneInThreeWomen network’s charter of commitment to combat violence against women, the Group is also committed to helping victims of domestic and intra-family violence.

In 2018, BNP Paribas signed an agreement with UNI Global Union to set up a global social base in seven areas, including gender equality.

The Group is also highly committed to the bank’s internal networks: MixCity (an exchange network for men and women who wish to advance professional equality) and BNP Paribas Pride (a professional network made up of employees directly or indirectly involved in, or simply supporting, LGBT people). In 2015, BNP Paribas also signed the LGBT+ Commitment Charter drawn up by Autre Cercle, thus reaffirming the company’s commitment to an inclusive work environment for all and the creation of the Pride France network.

Finally, with the signing of the Diversity Agreement, BNP Paribas committed, as of 2013, to step up actions to combat all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

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