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Series Seven, Episode Three: Transformation vs Innovation – The future and the female global workforce

In this episode, host Julia Streets is joined by Claire Calmejane, Group Chief Innovation Officer for Societe Generale, and Gemma Young, Founder of the DiversiTech Hub and Women of FinTech. They discuss the female global workforce, the importance of prioritising inclusion over diversity and how policy can be used as a lever to drive inclusion. They also explore innovations in banking, tech and digital platforms, how diversity sits on par with climate change as a business imperative, and the demands and expectations from the next generation around the future of work.

Research mentioned in this episode:

How family life is held against women in tech by Paul Roberts

Claire Calmejane

Claire Calmejane began her career in 2006 in the Technology Transformation department of Capgemini Consulting, where she supported companies and especially financial institutions in their technological and digital transformation. Contributing to a study on the digital transformation of large companies led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011, she joined the London office of Capgemini to lead the digital centre of the Financial Services sector. Recruited in 2012 by Lloyds Banking Group as Head of Digital Delivery in the Online Services Department, she was appointed Innovation Director and set up the Innovation Labs and the Digital Academy before being appointed Risk Transformation Director at Lloyds Banking Group.

In September 2018, Claire Calmejane joined Societe Generale as Group Chief Innovation Officer. She is a member of the Group’s Management Committee.

Claire Calmejane studied IT Engineering with a degree from the École pour l’informatique et les techniques avancées (EPITA) and a Masters degree from the HEC French school of management.

You can follow Claire on Twitter @ccalmeja.

Gemma Young

Gemma Young has 17 years + experience in the FinTech industry, both as an employee and as an entrepreneur running @WomenOfFintech and DiversiTech Hub, as well as working freelance to help companies promote diversity and gender equality. She has a strong passion for building new relations as well as a strong track record of building strategic alliances and exceeding targets. Gemma has experience working both nationally and internationally having spent 4.5 years in the Middle East.

Gemma is also passionate about anthropology and is a philanthropist who seeks to help people and societies better themselves, both in and out of work. She have travelled to over 83 countries and has worked on several charity projects, both in and out of FinTech.

You can follow Gemma on Twitter @FintechGem, DiversiTech Hub @DiversitechH & Women of Fintech @WomenOfFintech.

Series Seven, Episode Three Transcript

Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets and welcome to Divercity Podcast, talking about equality, inclusion, and diversity in financial services. On the podcast, we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer lots of ideas to help drive change.

Today I’m delighted to be joined by Claire Calmejane and Gemma Young. Claire Calmejane is a Group Chief Innovation Officer at Société Générale, or SocGen, and is a member of the Group’s Management Committee. She is the Chairman of the investment fund S.G. Ventures, and is Executive Chairman of the FinTech Treezor.

Claire started her career at Capgemini Consulting and spent seven years in the UK at Lloyd’s Banking. She was Head of Digital Delivery in the Online Services Department, and as their Innovation Officer set up the Innovation Labs and the Digital Academy. She then made the move from innovation into the world of risk transformation, and joined Société Générale in 2018. She lives in Paris and joins us this morning, hotfoot from the Eurostar terminal. Claire, welcome to the show.

Claire: Thanks, good morning.

Julia: Gemma Young is the founder of @WomenofFinTech and DiversiTech Hub, and has enjoyed more than 17 years in FinTech as an employee, consultant, and also as an entrepreneur. She currently advises firms in the field of diversity and inclusion and has worked both nationally and internationally, helping businesses to grow and scale with a tenure of between four/five years, even in the middle East. She has travelled to more than 83 countries, and as a philanthropist has worked in many charity projects, both in and out of the field of FinTech. Gemma, welcome to the show this morning.

Gemma: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Julia: We’re recording this during half term week, and Gemma, being a successful working mother is joining us today via Skype. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation a lot, because in the field of FinTech we think about on one end of the spectrum, the smallest early stage companies and of course to huge transformation innovation projects in large organisations. To have both of you on the show is fantastic.

What we like to do at the beginning of each episode is to invite each of you to take a minute, to talk us through what’s your main focus for 2020. Claire, let me come to you first of all, what are you working on this year?

Claire: Julia, two key priorities for 2020, the first one is to ensure our execution in digital is coming to life. We have to realise, Société Générale is 145,000 people in 61 countries. We invest about 4 billion per year in our digital transformation, and it materialised by more than 65% adoption in the different countries via mobile or online for customers. We have also launched a huge entrepreneurship programme about 18 months ago in Société Générale, creating 60 startups.

I’m very proud that five of them have been already capitalised. That’s a new process of generating innovation, which is a very large scale programme of entrepreneurship. We really have to understand how this programme has worked, through and through, and we look as much at the successes, and I’ve talked about some of the success and the failure.

How do we design certain groups at Société Générale, in 10/15 years, what’s going to be the diversification of some of our business models. As of this year our industry is under threat, not just from Fintechs, which we often partner with to be honest. We have seen, for example, Libra, a project of cryptocurrency which enabled a very different way to store your money and regulate it, but completely changed the business model of banking, which is about storing your deposit and your money, by giving this responsibility here to a third actor. That’s forced us to think a little bit, and obviously France and Europe have been much proactive in these topics, and we’re working actively with policy and regulators in some of these new business models.

Julia: Wow! Two enormous questions. There’s much that we’ll unpick today on the show. Gemma, let me bring you in at this point. From the work that you’re doing as well, what are you focused on at the moment?

Gemma: This year is much about growth, we launched in September DiversiTech Hub, which is covering all different areas of diversity within FinTech. We successfully launched Women Of FinTech a few years ago now, and we really wanted to branch out and cover other areas of diversity. This year is all about growth and getting more members on board so that we can start producing more STEM projects out there as well.

Julia: Why don’t we pick up on that straight away. Talk to us about the impact that the initiatives are having, and how do you measure that?

Gemma: Women of FinTech are set up as a pro bono thing. When I was pregnant with my fourth child, I have seen over the 17 years of working in the industry that the way you could bank had gone up exponentially, but the way you could come back as a working mother, we were having the same conversations as I was when I was pregnant the first time round 12 years ago. It was really plateaued and low and stagnant. When I set up Women Of FinTech, it was just to see if I could support some other women in the same situation, having been through it a few times myself. It grew to over 2000 women during my maternity leave, it really organically grew and showed me that there was a real need for supporting women out there. But also became much more than I could do as my sideline as my pro bono when I also already had four children and a full time job.

I very quickly looked at how we could turn that into a business model, but I really wanted to turn it into something that was sustainable, and also to stop these same conversations. 17 years ago it was, “we need more women in the industry”. 17 Years later, it’s, “we need more women in the industry”. How can we change that?

I set up a business model where, it’s not breaking the rules, it’s the same as what lots of people do. It’s a membership hub. People pay to join the community for commercial reasons so they can network and so on. But what we’ve joined is the empathetic reason for joining. We use the membership money to fund STEM projects, to ensure that we’re bringing new people through for the future of FinTech. Our first STEM project that we did last year was working with B.A.M.E children from low income backgrounds.

Really looking at social mobility and teaching them how to code, but also mentoring them as to why they should look at FinTech and other jobs. Then we’re helping them going forward with things like work experience and making sure they get those opportunities to apply for apprenticeships or graduate schemes and so on. Also teaching girls to code, looking at all the different areas of diversity, making sure that we’re pulling people through from the grassroots level up. In making it sustainable, what we’re doing is ensuring that there’s a positive, not just now about talking about diversity and inclusion, but also a positive for the future by bringing new people through so that we can change this cycle of having the same conversation all the time.

Julia: Sounds amazing. In terms of if you were going to ask audience listeners to get involved, what would you particularly want people to step up and do?

Gemma: The only way of joining up is actually as a member. We decided quite early on with our founding members that we wouldn’t go down the route of having any commercial agenda, so that we could maintain that we are fully inclusive of everyone. That means that somebody who’s a FinTech startup can join the membership hub as a member on the same level as a larger organisation such as SocGen or Lloyds for example. The reason that we’ve done it that way is to maintain inclusion, and also maintain the fact that we are the only membership community out there without any commercial agenda behind us. We have no sponsorships or partnerships. We literally are out there just to promote diversity and inclusion.

Julia: Wonderful, thank you. Claire, let me bring you in at that point. It is fascinating when you look at organisations of such size, and thinking about your role as a senior woman sitting on the Senior Executive Committee, and the Chair of not only a fund and also a FinTech as well. I’d love your thoughts on how you get involved in the diversity conversation as well, and your experience.

Claire: I think obviously my first contribution is to help my role model position, which honestly is a challenge. As any person that is a Mum of two kids under three, life gets very busy very quickly, and it’s tough and on top of that you think about all the other women in your organisation that maybe have more challenges, that are not in an executive position yet, and how much, is it harder and more difficult to go up the ladder when you face these challenges day in and day out? I think it was a first reflection. But of course it goes way wider, you know there are ways to support, in our fund and in our Fintechs, that’s something that I’m very vigilant on in the industry.

We are signing a charter which is a bit like the Tech Talent Charter in the UK, which is called SISTA in France, which ensures that we look at the number of deals and how many women are pitching, how many women CEOs are there. Making sure that in the panel, where our executives are represented in technology, it’s sufficiently mixed and diverse. Diverse in a large sense, and not only gender. But all of these areas that maybe seem simple in a startup, when you are working the big corporate, are complicated and some resource will be around promoting parental rights for fathers, and recently we increased from one week to two week for all the employees of Société Générale, but also, when I arrived in SocGen I was pregnant and of course, there’s a French convention means that if you are pregnant under nine months, you are not paid for your work. So these policies have changed as well, I don’t think because of me, but these have changed. 

You know, there are so many things that were not fit for women at work, or women that want careers. There is a huge catch up to begin, so yes it’s our big initiative, but honestly it’s more all small steps, and everything you do counts. Most mature organisations have very proper diversity programmes that are set from the top, and that’s what you can observe in the U.S. or in the UK. Société Générale is international, but we are headquartered in France, and I will say that it’s starting, but there is a lot of promotional still coming from policies and the governments, who recently passed a law for a 50% at Board, it’s now considering 50% in Executive Committee as well.

Generally my observation of living in the U.S., in the UK and in France is it starts from a policy agenda that is pushing it through, and companies have to accelerate dispensing out diversity programmes, set them up properly and embrace it from gender or family matters, LGBT, ethnic minority and also spectrum. That’s very key in innovation, because at the end of the day you will never generate your vision, especially in the world of today, if your population is not diverse. If your top exec management don’t represent your customer base, and in SocGen, 50% of the customer base is female obviously.

Julia: It is fascinating, isn’t it, because now you’ve talked about policy and leadership, and then also organisational cultures, and programmes as well.

I’m really fascinated to hear from you about to what degree do you engage with the other male colleagues and male champions in driving this change, or do you feel like you’re sitting on the edge trying to make incremental change yourself in your networks? Or is there a wave of support out there as well?

Claire: I think it’s critical to design your scheme with males at the beginning, because what you will find is, first diversity is not only a gender problem, it is not only a gender issue. It’s a big part of it, but it’s much wider, and you better be inclusive from the beginning. At the end of the day, the ones that are going to make it are the ones that are in the senior management, and they are the males. As much in all organisations I’ve worked, it’s key to design it with top sponsorship from the top exec, whatever their gender or their background.

That’s the way you advance, also promoting their role model stories, and going beyond, which is quite difficult, especially in France. Opening up about, even if some areas like LGBT are much more accepted now. Still, talking about your family matters, talking about how you struggle to work, about mental health issues from being bipolar or different things, it’s really unusual when you are in France. I cover countries like Africa, Russia, and in Russia we have a 50/50% executive committee. Yet I’m not really sure about promoting everything from family matters to mental illness, which are parts fully of the component of what we do that the younger generation expect.

Julia: Gemma, I’d like to bring you in here because Claire’s talked about right the way across the spectrum that is diversity inclusion. I’m thinking about mental health, and perhaps a step aside from that is also cognitive diversity, and the importance of having diversity at the table. Gemma, tell us about what we all focus on, appealing and attracting and engaging with the breadth of the spectrum as well.

Gemma: The way that we’ve gone about it is, instead of going down a tick box route, which has been something that’s happened in the past, because we want to be inclusive, and in FinTech you’ve got lots of startups. Two guys from the same university setting up a FinTech aren’t going to tick any of those boxes like a larger organisation would. We don’t want them to be deterred from growing in the right way, we want them still to be part of that conversation on what diversity and inclusion is. We say become a member, make a pledge that you want to be diverse and inclusive, and in that we help you on your journey. We know that no one can be an expert in every area of diversity. Even if you look at, say for example, LGBTQ+, someone who’s lesbian, gay or bisexual isn’t necessarily going to know what it’s like to be transgender.

It really must be a journey where we’re all listening to each other, and learning from experts in their fields. The beauty with being a community is that we can bring those experts in. Last year we did some work with neurodiversity, and we took in the National Autistic Society to come in and talk to us as a community, as a membership, about how we can not only attract talent from that neurodiverse side of things, but also retain it. Because it’s one thing to get someone through the door and understand that there’s different ways of socially engaging with them for interviews. But then how do you keep them happy and within the organisation as well. It’s very much for us a journey, and listening to lots of people from lots of different areas, but also giving all of those people a platform to talk, and then giving them an audience who will listen to them.

I’m trying to promote the inclusion side perhaps more than the diversity, because I think through that, diversity breeds itself.

Julia: I’m intrigued to know what is proving to be harder to overcome. Gemma, let me  come to you first of all then Claire, I’d like to hear your opinions on what is difficult, because while we think about the listeners, and we shine a light on really positive stuff, but also we need to get to the essence of what’s hard. Gemma, your thoughts on that?

Gemma: I think what you touched on earlier with making sure that men are part of the conversation in gender diversity, I think it’s making sure that everyone realises they are part of the conversation of diversity. People might look at themselves and think, okay, I’m not diverse, but everybody is diverse. Everybody comes from a slightly different background, and comes at something with a different angle. Whether it be the fact that maybe they’ve become diverse by becoming a parent during their career, or where they’ve learnt, where they’ve lived, and what different socioeconomic backgrounds they’ve come from. I think it’s really important to make sure that everybody is part of the conversation, and that we’re not leaving anyone else out, because then it’s just swinging the pendulum the other way.

For example, leaving men out of the gender diversity conversation. Somebody once said to me, if you can replace a word with any other word, then you’re doing it right. For example, if you’re advertising a job and you said, I want women for this job, if you replace that with, I only want men for this job, it would really get a lot of people’s backs up. I don’t necessarily agree when people then turn around and say “okay, I want a woman for this job, ” because I feel like it’s just swinging the pendulum the other way in terms of exclusion.

I think we have to really evaluate what we’re doing all the time to make sure that we are being inclusive, and making sure that everybody has the right to apply for that job, or be part of that community, or be part of that workplace.

Julia: Does that apply also in your work, Claire? Or do you see a different view?

Claire: A slightly different view. For me, there are two main issues. The first one is about building the pipeline, and we have to remind ourselves that in STEM, there is less than 20% in general in Europe of women working in STEM, and there is really good research on that. it’s lower than a one-to-five ratio. Most of those are sectors, especially if they are the cross of finance and technologies, one of the worst. 

For me the second one is a business case for diversity. Because at the end of the day, when you work in a big company and there are some changes, obviously, upcoming with everything around what we call “raison d’etre” in French, but the mission purpose movement, it is coming and obviously, changing the planet, such as climate change impact and different things.

How diversity can be as important in the mindset of people as climate change. We know the two degree scenario is not an option. It is not an option because we are not going to be there. Diversity is never an option, because the world we are going to design, especially the world with digital, with moral, ethical, AI, everything that we are going to put on it. If it’s not designed by women, ethnic minority backgrounds, which type of fault are we going to give as a legacy to our children?

That is not yet in the minds of top executives of this world, because there’s still some time to report to their shareholders. So as I mentioned, this is a movement that is changing, and we’ve seen this summer, last summer in the U.S. there was a big momentum of 200 companies saying okay, shareholder value needs to be put in perspective of bigger things that are around us, and in life.

In Europe we’ve been more centric around this movement, and obviously our new commissioner, Ursula, is quite big into this agenda, but it has yet to unfold in front of us. We still have China, and the growth of China, especially in technology, which when you have soft social credits directly taken from a biometric in your face, and use it, usage of data, I’ve questioned this business when it cannot exist in Europe and surely diversity are not underpinning them in the large sense of it.

So those are two areas, talent pipeline and I want to be deeper into the case for the business case and business performance, but we know women at work will be about 12 trillion working globally. When you know that Europe is in a period of slow growth, who can afford to not put these talents at work, is my question today.

Julia: Well I think that’s a beautiful moment to pause for a second to bring in Cynthia, who’s got some research to support today’s discussion.

Cynthia: In the article “How family life is held against women in tech” by Paul Roberts, he states that by the time a woman in tech hits her mid thirties, the age when her male coworkers can expect to see their careers taking off, she’s likely to be considering her exit. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, 41% of female tech employees will leave the industry after their 10th year on the job, compared with just 17% of men. As tech workers get older and life starts to morph into family life, the balancing act can become trickier for women seeking to start families than for men. While working mothers in every sector struggle to balance work and family, tech’s notorious emphasis on long hours and intensive focus may make the struggle especially acute. Stress over work-life balance and a desire for more time with family was second only to pay and promotion as a factor in women’s early exit from tech, according to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee study.

Julia: Thanks, Cynthia. The links to the research can be found on our website, That’s where you can find all our episodes and sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Please do follow us on Twitter @divercitypod, and DiverCity Podcast is available on BrightTALK and all good podcast channels. We’d love a rating because it all helps to promote the show.

It was really interesting, what you were saying there Claire, before about two key areas. One of them being the pipeline, and one of them being about purpose, in many ways, thinking about climate change and thinking about the big issues that the industries and the world is facing today. I’m quite keen to come back to this pipeline question, because Gemma, that’s what you’re really focused on. It strikes me in terms of just driving greater diversity into the pipeline, and I suppose there’s one key question in my mind which is how do we accelerate that change?

Gemma: I really agreed a lot with what Claire was saying there, and I think it really does touch home with what we’re doing over at DiversiTech Hub. One of the beautiful things about being a community is that we can really draw on other people’s ideas there as well. For example, in terms of how you can accelerate that, we’ve got Gary Elden, who had an OBE for his working diversity working with us, and he also is very passionate, not only about ethnicity but also about disadvantaged backgrounds. That’s how we came to have him as one of the mentors in our previous STEM projects. Working with children from low income backgrounds, and really making sure they make the right decisions and know what opportunities are out there.

What we need to do is offer people the opportunity to actually pay back in society, and give them small tangible steps where they can actually get involved. For example, with Gary that I spoke about just then, we gave him the opportunity to come in on the STEM project and mentor these children. Now people at the top of their game don’t necessarily have time to get involved in a huge project, but if they can be part of the community who are collectively making a huge change, but individually can be involved via small tangible steps, then this is a way that we can give everyone the opportunity to really make a difference.

Julia: They certainly do. Claire, final thoughts from you really, if you would, about how you talk about purpose, and you talk about how the world is facing some really big questions at the moment. I guess one of my big questions in my head is, where do you start, and what’s really going to make a difference at the moment? Your thoughts on that?

Claire: I think the first thing is really to understand what are the conclusions at the moment. They are a bit dramatic, you know, Julia, because when we look in Europe, you’ve seen some of the surveys by the World Economic Forum, between October and November is the date when women start generally, to work for free. How do we change that? How long is it going to take?

Reports say it’s going to take 100 years. Do we have 100 years to wait? We are talking about the numbers, about the numbers of women that are entering STEM today, and they are still beyond 20%. Even if we take initiative, how much is it going to raise? One/two percent per year for the next 10 years. I mean, that’s not going to be possible. I think the first one is really to integrate the conclusion and know the numbers, and to have very clear data about what’s going on. Because when you realise it, and when you look at your children, how can you live with it? That’s when you start to take action. I will go back to what Gemma was saying, which is we just have to make very tangible steps, and policy can be a big lever in terms of changing.

We’ve talked a little bit about quotas and ratios that have been observed in the industry. They start to move the line, and this offers opportunities for women and men of different generations to put the conversation on the table and to say, I don’t want to work in this type of organisation. My future of work, what I want to do in my life, is a little bit different. What I would say is policy, giving back the voice to the ones that will be working in these companies of the future, and co-designing and co-building it and anyway, now it’s a requirement, because when you want to recruit talent, if you don’t do it, they will just go to companies that offer these type of policies, because the new generation, this is what they want.

They don’t want the money, they want to make sure what they do has an impact, and is inclusive. By designing everything they do, and they don’t think we’ve integrated fully ways that we manage companies even if it’s starting, and I will say the third lever for me is definitely to take the step of digital and innovation, because digital is definitely changing. It’s driven by consumers, but it’s changing the way we consume, it’s changing customer expectation. We have to redesign organisations because of this mental trend, and there’s never been a better opportunity when you drive innovation to really contribute to this agenda and to take the step. And yes, it’s required to go a little bit further from the day to day job, but like you said, it’s worthwhile.

Julia: It is most definitely worthwhile, and it’s been the most fantastic conversation. I say, I’ve really enjoyed the fact that we’ve looked at this question around talent and technology from many different perspectives. I just want to take a moment. Gemma, it’s been great to have you on Skype, particularly middle of half term, thank you so much for joining us. And Claire, to have you in London from Paris to take the time to be with us. Thank you both very much indeed.

Gemma: Thank you.

Claire: Thank you.

Kieron: This episode of the DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya for her insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates.

To be sure of catching all our future podcasts, subscribe to our feed on iTunes, or your favourite podcast app. And, if you’ve enjoyed this episode DiverCity Podcast, remember to give us a rating or review. This all helps promote the show to a wider audience. Finally, our Twitter handle is @divercitypod. Thanks for listening.