#Entrepreneurs — 17.01.2017

Understand, Serve and Celebrate Women Entrepreneurs: Break The Glass Ceiling!

by Sofia Merlo Co-CEO of BNP Paribas Wealth Management

Why do corporations owned by women represent only 37% of companies globally (1)? Why are firms founded by women four times less likely to raise equity financing from angels and venture capital (2)?

"I strongly believe that banks and even private banks have a role to play in changing the status quo."
Sofia Merlo Co-CEO of BNP Paribas Wealth Management

At BNP Paribas Wealth Management our belief, and indeed my personal belief, is that an effective strategy supporting women entrepreneurship development should cover three areas:

Understand women entrepreneurs:
Our understanding of women entrepreneurs begins with targeted research. By doing so, we better understand the challenges facing women entrepreneurs and we can identify the strengths they use in facing those same challenges.

Our latest research on Elite Entrepreneurs revealed that two thirds of women entrepreneurs feel the challenges they face are greater than those of their male counterparts. The Report also concluded that the 1,000 interviewed women entrepreneurs were actually more successful than their male counterparts—higher revenue, higher number of companies, and higher personal wealth.

Serve women entrepreneurs as clients and offer them business networking opportunities

Our research shows that investment preferences between women and men are very similar—although with a slight preference for responsible investment by women.

However, men and women have very different motivation in their business. Women engage to achieve positive results in their business and to have an impact on society as a whole. Men are mainly driven by more competitive factors, wishing to be more successful than their peers.
We go beyond these two constats in our support of women entrepreneurs. An excellent example is our Women Entrepreneur Program at Stanford.

Each year, BNP Paribas Wealth Management and the Women Initiative Foundation send 40 talented women entrepreneurs to the Stanford Palo Alto campus to attend a one-week leadership and growth programme. The participants get to know one of the world’s most prestigious universities, have a chance to explore Silicon Valley, and create a valuable network that has already produced business partnerships amongst the participants.

With a 95% satisfaction rate amongst the women participating, the programme seems set for a long tenure. In a more general sense, BNP Paribas is a key player in the innovation ecosystem. This allows us to on-board women, connecting them to start-ups, SMEs, and indeed the expertise of the BNP Paribas Group. Whether it is through our business angels events in Italy, Turkey, Luxembourg, or France, our Innov&Connect programme, or our new Open-up international platform, we can involve women at every step of the business creation and nurturing process.

Celebrate women entrepreneurs’ success

We also feel we have a qualitative goal: celebrating women entrepreneurs and providing a public forum where these role models can inspire us all—and young women in particular. This objective is of particular personal importance to me, thus we have engaged in long-term partnerships to this effect. The Women Equity for Growth Index, for example, ranks the performance of women-led companies in France, producing a listing of the top 50 examples of excellence in entrepreneurship.

My personal commitment extends to my participation in many entrepreneur-related events, including the launch of a transatlantic mentoring initiative, an introductory speech at the french BFM Awards or being a jury member honouring Martine Clavet from Horus Pharma for her dedication to CSR.

And the icing on the cake? We have extended for three more years our partnership with the Women Initiative Foundation, the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Women Equity for Growth. Allow me to conclude by saying that our dedication to women entrepreneurs, our dedication to breaking the glass ceiling, is long term. Society as a whole may wish to move slowly, but at BNP Paribas Wealth Management we are accelerating women entrepreneurship at turbo speed.

1 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor - 2016
2 National Women's Business Concil - 2014