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French firm drives home diversity

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Diversity is on the mind of Severin Cabannes, one of three deputy CEOs for Société Générale.

The France-based global banking concern is pressing forward on a topic that doesn’t get much play in today’s economy-obsessed world: diversity.

“We have two [objectives] among our diversity requirements—to promote women and to promote non-French colleagues,” says Cabannes. “Our internal midterm objective is from 20% to 35%.”

Though the bank’s management is predominantly French, only 37% of its 160,000 worldwide employees are from France. Its footprint spans 82 countries. So why are only 20% of its top execs non-French or female?

It’s not acceptable, says Cabannes.

McKinsey & Company would agree. According to the consultants’ years-old research, a company’s performance is strongly linked to the proportion of women serving in its governing body. Chalk it up to certain leadership be­­haviors typically adopted by women. But women are still underrepresented in boards and executive committees.

Cabannes’ take? He believes diversity is about business, not merely reputation. “When you have different perceptions, different viewpoints on a team, you create value,” he says.

 — Adapted from “Société Générale Deputy CEO, Severin Cabannes, On Driving Diversity,” CEO Magazine; “Women Matter,” McKinsey & Company.

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