“I encourage women to recognise their talent”

A trading floor sales rep at Societe Generale, for the last 25 years Irma Villet has worked in a very male-dominated field. Profile of a woman who is pushing inclusion within the Group.

Promoting diversity

Irma Villet is in contact with institutional investors, insurers, fund managers and pension funds. “My role is to suggest they invest in market products, a field in which Societe Generale is a leader”, enthuses the sales rep born in Austria but settled in France since her university studies at the Vienna University and at HEC. “This is a fascinating sector because it’s constantly changing, due to innovations and regulations... I’m someone who doesn’t like routine, so I’m never bored!”

However, she notes that women are underrepresented in her department. One of the main reasons for this is that “most traders graduated from engineering schools, which don’t attract many female students”, regrets this determined woman. “It’s also a universe with a lot of stress and pressure, which may seem tough but personally I love this ambiance, this constant challenge”.

Developing female networking

Despite the progress that has been made in terms of diversity, market activities are still a very male-dominated environment. “In 2013, some other female staff and I came up with the idea of creating events for our female clients to develop networking”, says Irma. “Since then, every year we hold our ‘Ladies Events’ where we can get to know each other better, share our professional or personal experiences. The aim is to create a community combining business and pleasure. Preparing these events helps bring women together within Societe Generale’s trading floors”.

Almost 500 women who work in finance, Societe Generale staff and clients, have been invited. And seven editions have already taken place since 2013: a guided tour of the Group’s Central Branch, a trip to the theatre preceded by a networking activity, a conference with a naturopath who shared her wellbeing tips, etc... These events have been a success, and have crossed the French border with a ladies Event being organised in Zurich in 2019.

Supporting women’s ambitions

“I am pleased to see that the banking sector, and notably Societe Generale via its Human Resources teams, is taking action to help women improve their visibility within their work environment”, says Irma. “The development of mentoring, where a junior member of staff is mentored by a senior one, is notably a very good solution. Today, I am proud to be supporting a female member of staff, encouraging her to be audacious and recognise her talents. It’s an excellent means of making progress and strengthening self-confidence in a field that is still very male-dominated”.

Launched by the Market Activities teams, the “Women in MARK” initiative is also striving to promote gender parity. And what are this programme’s objectives? To promote diversity in all our actions and processes, develop women staff members’ potential, attract more talented women and increase women’s retention rate.

Take action and be supportive of one another

To help women improve their situation, Irma says that female solidarity is essential. “I always admire the way Mercedes Erra, co-founder and President of the BETC ad agency, puts the spotlight on those who work alongside her”, comments this mother of two daughters. Strengthening ties between women is pivotal to them daring to contact each other, seek help, seek support, spread best practices... “Women are always stronger together!”