“The financial sector and women’s empowerment in a decade of action” by Cecilia Boned, President of the BNP Paribas Group in Spain

March 15, 2022

Last Thursday, March 3rd, in the framework of the 5th International Conference on Women and Diplomacy in Madrid, the 148th issue of the magazine Diplomacia XXI Century in a special edition dedicated to the event, collected the article written by Cecilia Boned: “The Financial Sector and Women’s Empowerment in a Decade of Action: The Perspective of a European Leading Bank”, a reflection on the SDG 8 “Decent Work and Economic Growth”, from which we give an abstract below.

Since its publication in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals have laid the foundations for a universal roadmap so that all those economic and social actors who proposed it, could identify specifically with any of the 17, if not also and above all to the achievement of its 169 goals, somewhat less known, but more concrete and specific than the famous grid or multicolored wheel.

Today we have changed the focus from the objective nº5 (gender equality), putting it in the nº8 ‘Decent work and economic growth’, thread of the “IVª International Conference Women and Diplomacy”. Focusing on this angle has important implications.

Although during the last decade the progress in equality has been remarkable, especially in developed countries, with the progressive incorporation of women into the labour market and advances in conciliation policies and parental leave, among many other aspects […] There is still a long way to go to effective equity, long-term projection and sustainability, including in the developed world, largely in relation to universal access to financial and professional independence. At this point of clear interdependence between SDGs nº5 and nº8, gaps such as wage and digital are still perpetuated, and new gaps are identified in areas such as entrepreneurship and innovation or the management of impact funds, characterized by their great transformative and employability potential [1].

In the case of the BNP Paribas Group, which I chair in Spain, a leader of European finance with a long tradition in establishing policies and public positions in favor of diversity and inclusion. As signatories to the WEP (2011), we have been working on the effective incorporation of women into the main governing bodies for more than a decade, and each year new appointments of executive officers are made not only in areas that they have traditionally led such as people management, but also spaces such as technology and operations directorates or general management.

More recently, we have also made specific commitments on sexism and harassment, as well as on conciliation and shared parenthood.

But beyond the aspects of governance that we scrupulously take care of from an ethical rigour found in our humanist DNA, I would also like to highlight the business opportunity and economic growth that sustainable finance currently represents. As the framework within which they operate is defined (future social taxonomy), the gender issue is increasingly incorporated not only into sustainable and thematic investment funds, not only profitable but also less reputationally exposed, but also to the structuring of loans and other financial tools that link indicators of positive impact. One of the main operations in recent months in which we have acted as sustainability coordinator, it was precisely linked to the achievement of objectives of female representation in the management bodies of the client company and we are sure that it will be a trend with exponential growth in the coming years.

In addition to the above, the BNP Paribas Group is committed to the development of the communities in which we operate. Through inclusion and financial education (UN Women programs), we help ensure access to basic financial services and develop the necessary capacities on the use of those services.

In conclusion, the financial sector has an important role as an agent of change for women’s empowerment on the road to achieving the SDGs, sustainable finance development will be key to redirecting financial flows towards transformation projects that promote gender equality while generating value and sustainable growth.

[1] Women’s Digital Entrepreneurship in Spain: Situation and Prospecting. https://www.igualdadenlaempresa.es/actualidad/en-destacado/docs/El_emprendimiento_digital_femenino_Situacion_y_prospeccion.pdf