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Women's Forum 2020: BNP Paribas renews its support for women entrepreneurs

Supporting women business leaders in their projects is all the more crucial as they are bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis. A partner of the Women's Forum since 2016, BNP Paribas is strengthening its support for women's entrepreneurship.

Women entrepreneurs have a harder time finding support for their projects than men, and this holds unfortunately all the more true during the current health crisis. What solutions are available to restore the balance? BNP Paribas, which has been committed to supporting women entrepreneurs since 2009, is undertaking several concrete initiatives.

Only 30% of businesses are led by women

Within industrialized and developed countries, only 20-30% of companies are managed by women – 30% in France – and "the larger the company, the lower the proportion", deplores Laure-Emmanuelle Filly, Head of Women Entrepreneurship at BNP Paribas France since 2019. In the world of startups, although it is driven by younger people, only 5% of companies were founded by a 100% female team and only 10% by a mixed-gender team*. That figure contrasts significantly with the 80% of women who want to be their own boss. Female entrepreneurship remains far too marginal, as it suffers from educational, financial and also cultural obstacles: "Women are three times more likely than men to cite a lack of confidence as a setback," notes Filly.

*Source: BCG barometer for SISTA

Boosting confidence and supporting women

To overcome these obstacles, BNP Paribas has embarked on a wide-ranging program called #ConnectHers, which was launched in 2017 to foster the development of women-led start-ups and accelerate the growth of women-led SMEs. This support program ranges from funding to mentoring and tutoring (workshops and educational content).

Faced with cultural prejudices, "it is absolutely necessary for women to realize their value and allow themselves to be themselves", says Laure-Emmanuelle Filly. For this reason, "the bank for a changing world" is working to strengthen the relationship between women entrepreneurs and its network of national and international partners (Les Premières, Willa, Bouge Ta Boite, Femmes Chefs d'Entreprises, Femmes Business Angels, Women Initiative Foundation, etc.). The bank also promotes exchange between women entrepreneurs, managers and future leaders. This strategy helps to change behaviors and reduce the difficulties encountered by women.

The Women’s Forum

The Women's Forum was created in 2005 to bring together opinion leaders of both sexes with the aim of strengthening the contribution women make to the global economy and society. It covers five main fields (tech, artificial intelligence, health, environment and women's entrepreneurship), and focuses on a new theme each year. This year, from Nov 17-19, an all-digital edition focused on the following theme: "Beyond recovery: designing an inclusive world". With this theme, the Women's Forum aims to position itself as a key player in the recovery: a challenge supported by BNP Paribas, a partner of the Women's Forum.

Financial support and economic growth

Although bank financing has increased from 10% in 2018 to 19% in 2019, 73% of women entrepreneurs self-finance their business launch and have trouble finding bankers and investors to support their plans. In France, since 2018, BNP Paribas has allocated €2 billion a year in bank loans to women's entrepreneurship projects and 10% of its equity investments to women-led businesses, a figure it aims to raise to 25% by 2025.

Proof that financing is a major issue: the Group has signed two charters to promote gender diversity within its investment teams and in its equity investments: the SISTA and France INVEST charters.

The SISTA charter aims to provide equity financing for 25% of women-led start-ups by 2025, 30% by 2030 and 50% by 2050.

"Women need to become aware of their worth"

View the interview of Laure-Emmanuelle Filly

Support benefiting all women and men

Supporting women's entrepreneurship is good for everyone around the world because it contributes to global growth. According to the International Labour Organization, 50% of the productive potential of women is underutilized worldwide. Stimulating economic growth is a key aspect of the bank's business. This is the reason behind the bank's strategy to reach the 40% of female entrepreneurs in France and "to go further by developing career paths for women business leaders", as Laure-Emmanuelle Filly promises.

Photos: © BullRun / Jacob Lund / JenoErasmus

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