Nudging Gender Diversity within Teams at BNP Paribas


Retail and investment banks are confronted with the absolute need to evolve: to meet new client needs, and to face competition from new entrants.

Change is essential. It has to happen, at multiple levels.

Teams need to be creative, agile, make informed decisions, and enter new markets themselves. They have to be collectively efficient, they have to innovate. It is not optional anymore. And the wellbeing of employees has to be cared for, both because it is the right thing to do, and also because it has been proven to increase performance.


But change is difficult. And the norm is failure.  


Team diversity is strongly correlated with multiple positive financial indicators – including higher margins, higher market shares, and higher likelihood to enter new markets.



See also: the BVA Nudge Consulting’s D&I Series – Part 1, including multiple sourced figures on the impact of diversity on business.


Inclusive companies are also 1.7 times more innovative[1].


And importantly, studies have shown that employee satisfaction is boosted if the representation of their minority group exceeds 15%.


Diversity proves to be an essential element of a transformational business strategy. It is a business objective, as well as a moral imperative.


The BVA Nudge Consulting’s Diversity & Inclusion practice is proud to have worked with BNP Paribas to increase team diversity.


Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, director and CEO of BNP Paribas, is personally involved in the diversity initiatives of the group, and as part of this commitment, became a thematic champion of the United Nations HeForShe initative, aiming at engaging men for gender diversity.


We worked with BNP Paribas to increase team diversity, in particular on two axes:

  • Encouraging the recruitment of more men in the HR department, and
  • Favoring the recruitment and retention of more women in Global Markets, a business unit of the CIB branch.


Indeed, as with many organizations, BNP Paribas has committed to actively encourage gender diversity, not forgetting that the ultimate goal – for it to have business and wellbeing impacts as well as social impacts – is that diversity is favored at team levels and not just at a company-wide level.

We supported BNP Paribas to increase team diversity on two axes:

  • Encouraging the recruitment of more men in the HR department, and
  • Favoring the recruitment and retention of more women in Global Markets, a business unit of the CIB branch.

Why would BNP Paribas choose a behavioral approach to foster diversity?

BNP Paribas has been at the forefront of multiple initiatives since 2004, when it first signed the Diversity Charter, launched the Mixcity network and reached a first agreement on equality at work.


When we met, the Diversity and Inclusion team, and in particular Caroline Courtin, Corporate Head of Diversity and Inclusion & HR CSR at BNP Paribas, they wanted to try out a new approach, one that could help them get one step further. They felt after all these initiatives, there was still something that was difficult to overcome.


And first and foremost, they wanted to use an approach that was not constraining for managers, HR or talents – a complementary approach that would leave room for freewill. BNP Paribas, as many other clients we work with, had indeed started to observe reactance to some of the initiatives led to recruit and equally promote more women.


Our behavioral approach met these objectives, and had the other advantage in this context to complement what had been done before, and to be aligned with the initial and always reaffirmed objective to make sure that people with the relevant competences and the best qualifications were hired.

BNP Paribas, as many other clients we work with, had started to observe reactance to some of the initiatives led to recruit and equally promote more women.

But the most important reason why BNP Paribas decided to launch a behavioral approach, is that it had observed its tremendous impacts to encourage behavioral change within and outside organizations.


Behavioral Economics, a field of research born in the 1970s, is now a revolution recognized by the academic world with three Nobel prizes in the last 5 years, to Robert Shiller, Richard Thaler and Esther Duflo. Its insights are used by more than 200 government and public organizations across the five continents, and applied by the world’s most innovant and successful companies such as Google.


And in particular, to quote Iris Bohnet, a Harvard professor, Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, and a renowned academic expert on diversity: “Behavioral Design is the most useful and underutilized tool we have” to foster gender diversity in organization (Iris Bohnet, “What Works”).

So what did we do?

We looked at things with a double objective: suppressing frictions and adding levers to encourage good decisions

We looked at the drivers impacting the behaviors of all stakeholders, with the double objective to suppress all frictions acting as barriers from the objective and to add levers to create motivation and facilitate the good decision.


At BNP Paribas, the main stakeholders in recruitment processes are the managers looking to recruit, the potential internal and external candidates and the HR staff supporting the recruitment process.


We analyzed the drivers impacting their behaviors from two angles:


  1. We went through all the steps that each stakeholder goes through in a recruiting process (e.g. a recruiting manager first identifies the need, then lists the required competencies for the position, goes to HR for support in writing and posting an internal / external recruitment ad, goes through the CVs of the candidates pre-selected by HR, meets relevant candidates, organizes meetings with other team members, and gives their final “go” to HR): and identified all barriers to a diverse recruitment at each stage
    • e.g. managers often appeared inclined to look for the exact replacement of a team member rather than being open to other types of profiles (-> status quo bias)
    • e.g. managers evaluated candidates alone, with no comparison tools or interviewing guide (-> encouraging possible halo effect or ingroup favoritism)
    • e.g. informal networks appeared to play an important role, leading some potential internal candidates not to be aware of open positions, and therefore not being able to apply


  1. We identified the less tangible possible barriers to diversity at a broader level: company, country, and job culture, underlying stereotypes, day-to-day values and behaviors that may impact perceptions
    • e.g. the relative scarcity and invisibility of senior women (-> reinforcing female belief that no career is viable for them in an investment banking environment)
    • e.g. the lack of interest in HR positions (-> leading men not to adjust their misbelief that HR positions are less strategic or less business oriented than what they are looking for)

We analyzed the drivers impacting the stakeholders’ behaviors from two angles:

  • Identifying all factors in the recruitment processes that could lead to bias in favor of the most represented group
  • Identifying the underlying cultural and less tangible factors also at play

Based on this analysis, the BVA Nudge Consulting and BNP Paribas co-created and designed a variety of actions to suppress frictions and create motivation, using the BVA Nudge Consulting’ award winning approach (ESOMAR 2014 and 2015).


See also: our work for HeForShe


Here are three examples, successfully implemented by BNP Paribas HR departments to encourage the recruitment of more men in HR.

Reframing job titles from HRBP to HR Business Partner

HR Business Partners are a large group within BNP Paribas’s global HR team, and one that we specifically focused on. We observed that people referred to them not as HR Business Partners but using the cold and meaningless acronym HRBP, thus missing out on the opportunity to counter the above-mentioned misconception shared by many men that the “HRBP” position was not very strategic, business-oriented or demanding.


Systematically using the wording “HR Business Partner” as opposed to HRBP allowed to highlight the Business and Partner elements of the job.

Having men write the recruitment ads

We wanted to go further to respond to this misconception. And we also wanted to tackle the different but related misconception shared by many potential male candidates that HR positions required less technical skills and few tools.


So we also asked men in HR positions to write the recruitment ads for new openings.


Because in general, men and women don’t use the same vocabulary and men may use a vocabulary that speaks more to other men. And because we expected men in HR positions, when writing the ads, to naturally highlight the characteristics that they valued in their jobs that may be less highlighted by women.

Making career paths currently viewed as “atypical” visible and aspirational


We had also identified other reasons why men did not apply for HR positions: for many, it did not even come to mind. Others had difficulties projecting themselves in the role – given their career and the competences acquired so far. And others did not manage to visualize the next steps of their career after an experience in HR.


So we made career paths including a HR experience visible, to create social proof.


For example, we interviewed a newly hired HR Business Partner with a strong marketing background, asking him in particular what he valued in his new position. And we made sure the interview got traction.

BNP Paribas has implemented a comprehensive approach involving multiple behavioral interventions to encourage the recruitment of more men in the HR department, including in particular:

  • Reframing job titles from HRBP to HR Business Partner
  • Having men write the recruitment ads for HR positions
  • Making career paths currently viewed as “atypical” visible and aspirational

BNP Paribas increased the nominations of men to HR Business Partner positions by 40%

As a result of a comprehensive approach involving multiple behavioral interventions and other actions, BNP Paribas has already managed to reach three of the four team diversity objectives the group had set for itself by the end of 2020.


One of these objectives was to increase the nominations of men to HR Business Partner positions by 40%. So far, the goal is actually largely exceeded since they went from 18% to 28%, an increase of 55%. 


The specific results of the twin approach led with the Global Market team are expected to be released in the course of this year.


Such a quick and large evolution was only made possible by addressing the objective holistically from a behavioral perspective: not looking at things simply from a recruitment perspective, but putting everything place for a cultural adaptation, so as to create an attractive environment where more diverse profiles feel welcome, feel like they belong, feel that they can contribute to their full potential, and feel that have a successful career in the organization.


To again quote Iris Bohnet, “We will use all what we know about how the mind works, how biases influence decisions and outcomes, and how behavioral design can alter this. We can effect this change not in a matter of decades but in matter of years” (“What Works”).


BNP Paribas’ experience is an illustration of what is feasible with behavioral design to reach diversity and equality in the workplace.


BNP Paribas already managed to reach 3 of the 4 team diversity objectives the group had set for itself by the end of 2020, including increasing the nominations of men to HR Business Partner positions by 40%. 

Multiple entities at BNP Paribas and in other financial institutions have now been using behavioral science for multiple purposes, including

  • Promoting financial well-being and driving loyalty 
  • Reframing the Role of the Physical Branch (& Its Employees) 
  • Helping/Encouraging Customers to “Self-Serve” and Use Digital Tools
  • Optimising Contact Centre scripts to improve customer experience 
  • Recruiting and retaining a diverse and talented workforce


For some of them, behavioral transformation is a key axis to drive long-term transformation and position themselves as major players in the future of financial services.


If you wish to learn more about our work with financial institutions, do reach out, we are always happy to share our passion. 

Anne Charon, BVA Nudge Consulting


Anne Charon

BVA Nudge Consulting