For the first time in France, the largest French financial institutions are publicly committing to accelerate the financing of women entrepreneurs.
On 17 October 2019, in the presence of French Secretaries of State Marlène Schiappa and Cédric O, more than fifty French financial organisations signed the SISTAxCNNum charter. The charter is an initiative co-created by the SISTA collective and the Conseil National du Numérique (CNNum), including the SME lending platform October.
Female startup teams have a 30% lower chance of raising funds than male teams. Also, female founders and co-founders only raise 5% of the funds allocated each year to young innovative companies by French venture capital funds. Moreover, women represent only 9% of startup founders (SISTA/BCG 2018 study). However, startups founded or co-founded by women yield 2.5 times more to their investors than male startups.
In response to this worrying situation, the SISTA collective, in partnership with the CNNum, has developed a charter of best practices for investment funds to make their recruitment and investment processes more gender-sensitive.
“In less than 6 months, we have succeeded in mobilizing the entire ecosystem and co-created a roadmap with a common objective: 25% of all financed startups should be founded or co-founded by women entrepreneurs by 2025. It was essential to have quantified and achievable objectives so that these commitments were not cosmetic ambitions. Thanks to our progress, France will become the first country where financial organisations publicly commit themselves to doubling the percentage of funds allocated to women”, explains Tatiana Jama, co-founder of Levia.ai, President of the SISTA collective and leader of the dedicated working group within the CNNum.
The SISTA charter was drawn up as part of a referral to the National Digital Council by the Secretary of State for Gender Equality and the Fight Against Discrimination and the Secretary of State for Digitalisation.
Salwa Toko, President of the CNNum: “I brought the fight against discrimination and inclusion to the forefront at the Council. We have seen a glaring lack of parity between women and men in the world of technology. This charter is a strong commitment from the financing ecosystem, which will change the face of technology in France.”
This charter was co-created with the financial ecosystem, including several venture capital funds such as IRIS Capital and Elaia.
- Financiers commit to measure the gender balance in their portfolios and to report their data annually in order to raise collective awareness.
- Financiers commit to adopt inclusive recruitment practices by rethinking existing processes such as the language of job descriptions, interview questions and the assessment of applications.
- Financiers commit to adopt inclusive investment practices by rethinking existing procedures such as questions asked to women and setting up “office hours” (or reserved meeting slots for women entrepreneurs) to enable them to develop their investor network.
These measures aim to reach 25% of startups founded or co-founded by women by 2025, compared to 12.5% today (SISTA/BCG study).
The initiative has been supported since the beginning by the Secretary of State for Digitalisation, Cédric O: “We will not succeed in making France a technological world leader by depriving ourselves of half of our talents. It is obviously a question of equality and parity, as well as a question of competitiveness. Today, thanks to our collective involvement, particularly from SISTA and CNNum, we are moving from awareness to mobilization, from declarations of intent to action!”
The first signatories, such as Bpifrance, Elaia, Idinvest, ISAI, IRIS, Kima, 360 Partners, expressed their satisfaction with the result that emerged from the discussions. Xavier Lazarus, head of the Elaia fund, said: “The ecosystem needs to be involved to accelerate the financing of women entrepreneurs. This requires strong actions in favour of gender diversity, starting with the funds’ management teams. In France, the average number of female partners is 14%. This figure is not acceptable. Our example of parity at all hierarchy’s levels, proves not only that this is possible but also that it is to the benefit of performance and development.” The SISTAxCNNum charter sets a target of 30% female partners by 2025 and 50% in investment teams, i.e. a doubling of the current figures in 6 years.
“BPI has a crucial role to play in accelerating change and we do it on a daily basis. If the whole ecosystem is mobilised, including the schools from which young graduates come, we will succeed!” Nicolas Dufourcq, Bpifrance. Bpifrance has chosen to set an example by applying the principles of the charter to all its investment activities, both direct and indirect.