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How Intesa Sanpaolo fosters culture of inclusion

There is still plenty of work to do to close the gender divide

Hazel Davis


The gender gap is affected by a range of factors, including structural barriers, socioeconomic and technological changes, as well as the economic shocks of the pandemic. 

It’s prevalent across all industries but, according to Deloitte, globally, within financial services institutions, women held 21% of board seats, 19% of C-suite roles and 5% of CEO positions in 2021.

Intesa Sanpaolo has long been committed to enhancing diversity and promoting inclusion as essential components for the group’s growth. Currently, women represent 54% of the bank’s total employee base. Some 40% of women are in management positions and 28% are in executive management. 

“Of course, we can always do better, and we are constantly working on this,” says Anna Roscio, head of Intesa Sanpaolo’s Corporate Sales and Marketing Department, Banca dei territori. “But we are also in an important position compared with our competitors and our contribution is recognised by the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index, which rates us well above the industry average.” 

In fact, the bank is the number one bank in Europe, number two in the world, and the only Italian bank among the 100 most inclusive and diversity-conscious workplaces, according to the Refinitiv Global Diversity and Inclusion Index 2022

It was also among the first in Europe to obtain the independent international diversity certification GEEIS-Diversity certification and the first major Italian banking group to be awarded the gender equality certification provided for in the EU’s NRRP (National Recovery and Resilience Plan).

Intesa Sanpaolo’s Women Value Company Award is now in its sixth year and at the recent ceremony, the bank announced the availability of €500 million for supporting and promoting female entrepreneurship and to help increase the contribution of women to the country’s economic and social development. 

Some of this is being used on training courses, says Roscio – both for men and women.

"It’s not just about including women, it’s about making sure the whole organisation is involved in the culture."

Anna Roscio, head of Intesa Sanpaolo's Corporate Sales and Marketing Department, Banca dei territori

The bank also has in place a Rules for Combating Sexual Harassment document. This, says Roscio, “contributes to the creation of an environment in which everyone’s rights are respected. It leads to a better and more inclusive atmosphere. It also helps everyone feel free to express themselves at their best.”

In the Western Balkans and in Albania the gender gap in entrepreneurship remains large and norms remain largely favourable to men. “Entrepreneurship is still being reported as a ‘masculine’ undertaking,” says Elena Balliu, head of the Small Business Department at Intesa Sanpaolo Bank, Albania. 

The World Bank estimates that Albania loses 20% of its potential gross domestic product per capita every year due to the low rate of participation by women in the labour force. Women are overrepresented in unpaid or poorly paid sectors and earn lower average wages.

“As a group with untapped potential for the Albanian economy, in the last decades initiatives in support of female economic empowerment have been numerous,” says Balliu. “However, not many of them have resulted in concrete, long-lasting policy actions in support of female entrepreneurship.” 

"Women entrepreneurs encounter numerous difficulties as a result of the influence of gender norms; patriarchal practices affect women’s positions in business development and limit their access to opportunities, resources and power. Women do not have the same access to market information, legal support, and benefits from enterprise development as men."

Elena Balliu, head of the Small Business Department at Intesa Sanpaolo Bank, Albania

There have been a handful of state-funded schemes throughout the years, including a Competitiveness Fund, Creative Economy Fund, Start-up Fund, and Innovation Fund, as well as a fund supporting innovative start-ups from the Minister of State for the Protection of Entrepreneurship. 

However, says Balliu: “Almost two-in-three women entrepreneurs rank financing or funding opportunities as a top priority for supporting them to be able to further develop or expand their enterprises, as well as for other women willing to get involved and establish new initiatives and start-ups.” 
One of the few regional initiatives aimed at improving access to finance is the Women in Business programme, supported by the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and donors. 

This initiative provides financing to companies led or owned by women, encouraging women’s entrepreneurship through access to capital and expertise.

The bank’s long-term aims in the area of equality are committed and necessary. Roscio says: “They are defined by our commitment to create an equal and meritocratic environment without prejudice and harassment, in which everyone is valued, regardless of gender.” 

In addition, she says: “We feel a great responsibility with regard to our country. Diversity can turn around our economic and public system in terms of how we promote and invest in different initiatives and our financial offer is committed to this pursuit.” 

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