"Things are going in the right direction for women in IT"
Global Head of IT for Equity & Derivatives for the Service Unit Resources (Global Banking & Investor Solutions), Evelyne Chagneau has worked in two very male-dominated areas: IT and trading rooms.
“I originally wanted to be an artist”, Evelyne Chagneau told us. “I chose to do IT at a time when it wasn’t fashionable at all, because I found coding to be a really fun and creative process: from a blank page you can make something ‘come to life’.”
After several years at Crédit Mutuel, where she set up a bond trading room before taking up a post as Head of IT Research, Evelyne Chagneau decided to join Societe Generale in 2001, to work in an international environment. In particular, she worked on an offshoring project in India. In 2004, she joined the IT team in equity derivatives, which was highly prestigious as Societe Generale is a global leader in that field. She became Head of IT for the division a few years later, and today manages several hundred people throughout the world.
The IT and trading room environments are very much her realm. “I love not knowing what will happen on a particular day - there are always surprises! These are places that attract brilliant people and where new ideas flow freely”. But they are also very masculine environments. “I think that being a woman helped me at the start of my career, because there were very few of us and people generally looked out for us”, explains Evelyne Chagneau. “This becomes a drawback when you have children. You go home at the end of the day because you have another life, whereas your colleagues go out together. You start to have different ways of talking and thinking, different networks, etc.” Nonetheless, she stresses that women, like men, are making increasing use of social media, while companies such as Societe Generale are launching programmes aimed at increasing diversity at all levels of responsibility. “I’m confident that things are going in the right direction at the company for women in IT. Going forward, it would probably be a good idea to have some specific measures to achieve faster progress”.
At Societe Generale, her managers have provided plenty of valuable advice and helped her to advance her career within the Group. “This is a place where people really get their chance”, she says. “I was treated as a colleague first, and a woman second, and I have been able to progress because I was good at my job”. But the fact remains that women are underrepresented in IT. “The proportion of girls studying IT is still lower than 20%, and as you go up the levels of an organisation there are fewer and fewer working in IT”. Evelyne Chagneau thinks it’s a purely cultural issue. In India, Morocco and Tunisia, for example, there are as many women as men working in IT.
“It’s important to not only have Western men from the elite universities, because they all see the world through the same prism. It’s in everyone’s interest to have more diversity - not just women, but people from different backgrounds, different socio-cultural origins, etc. Diversity brings a lot of benefits”.
Evelyne Chagneau, Global Head of IT for Equity & Derivatives for the Service Unit Resources (Global Banking & Investor Solutions).