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The role banks can play in advancing gender equality

What happens when a bank makes a move towards achieving greater gender parity internally, combined with a sharp focus on the ambitions set out in SDG 5? Learn more in a conversation with Laura Hemrika, Global Head Corporate Citizenship & Foundations and Patsy Doerr, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Credit Suisse.

Credit Suisse is this year's host of Business Fights Poverty's flagship event at UNGA in New York – could you tell us a little more about why a bank like Credit Suisse supports these kinds of initiatives?

Patsy Doerr (PD): At Credit Suisse, we believe that it is in the interest of both our organization and our clients for us to develop and support measures that contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive economy. Since the introduction of the SDGs by the UN, we have been pursuing activities designed to contribute to the realization of the goals in our role as a global financial institution, as a financial intermediary and employer and through corporate citizenship.

Laura Hemrika (LH): Our global initiatives in the areas of financial inclusion and education are designed to promote inclusive growth and social development through partnerships with organizations across different sectors of society. For example, in the area of financial inclusion, investments are designed to provide economically disadvantaged people with access to financial services. The combination of financial support from Credit Suisse and skills-based volunteering by our employees allows our partners to generate greater impact.

Gender is a big focus for Credit Suisse and SDG 5 sets out an aim for gender equality – can you share some more on this?

PD: Credit Suisse's gender equality – and more broadly our diversity and inclusion agenda – is a key focus area both internally as well as in our social impact programs.

For example, our Real Returns program for women provides talented and experienced professionals (not necessarily from the finance sector) who have taken an extended career break, an opportunity to transition back into the workplace through a structured 6-month program. By the end of 2018, the program has seen the participation of 295 professionals in 17 classes since its launch in 2014, and over 60% of participants obtained a permanent position at Credit Suisse.

Moreover, Credit Suisse signed the Women in Finance Charter (PDF) in June 2016 – a pledge to support the progression of women into senior roles across our UK legal entities. We have also established regional development and mentoring programs, specifically targeting the development of female talent, as e.g. the Switzerland “Mentoring Advisory Group”. Since its launch in 2009, more than 1000 employees have participated more than 750 participants have benefitted from our ‘childcare leave' coaching in all regions to provide guidance on planning for an upcoming parental leave and subsequent return to work, and to increase retention of female employees after their maternity leave.

LH: And we address female empowerment across the globe through our corporate citizenship programs. One billion women are outside the formal financial system today. Funded by the Credit Suisse Foundation, our Financial Inclusion Initiative aims to strengthen our partner organizations' ability to serve the diverse financial needs at the base of the pyramid, such as our partnership with Women's World Banking (WWB). We support their Leadership & Diversity for Innovation Program (a curriculum to deliver the tools and skills women need to advance their careers and to build greater diversity for their institutions and enhance their ability to serve the women's market).

Our Financial Education for Girls Initiative, also funded by the Foundation and delivered by our not for profit partners, aims to increase girls and young womens' financial capability and awareness of their social and economic rights, and to help girls build better futures for themselves. Our not for profit partners deliver this program in schools alongside a broader life skills curriculum, focusing in countries and locations where girls and young women are particularly disadvantaged because of their gender, socio-economic background and cultural environment. To date the initiative's focus countries are China, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Tanzania. Girls are also encouraged to start up small enterprises that will equip them with useful experience for their future livelihoods.

There is a lot of talk about the importance of embedding social impact firmly into business purpose – what does this mean to Credit Suisse?

PD: We believe that a positive impact on society and the environment can be achieved without sacrificing financial returns. We have been active in the sustainable investment space for over 16 years and continue to broaden our sustainable investment offering and align it more closely with the SDGs.

LH: Increasingly our clients look for opportunities to invest in companies and initiatives that are mindful of environmental, social and governance factors, seeing a vast transfer of wealth shift from one generation to another, a generation that is far more purpose-centric in its investment behaviors.

In our role as a fiduciary of our clients' capital, and as a global citizen, we are working to close the gaps identified by the UN SDGs. We do this by partnering with like-minded private, public and non-governmental organizations and with a dedicated team of product specialists working to innovate and deliver sustainable products and services across asset classes and themes.