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06 February, 2023

#35 Portret van een vrouw in de financiële sector: Sandra Wilikens

Sandra Wilikens shares her view on her impressive career development at BNP Paribas Fortis and tells the story of how she moved from being an expert to a more transversal role as a Chief HR Officer and Member of the Executive Board.

Sandra Wilikens' vision is to feel fulfilled both in her professional and private life. As Head of Human Resources, she plays a cross-functional role where people are always at the forefront of her mind.

Ambitious and responsible human resources management is essential. Doing everything possible to ensure that the right people are in the right place is key in enabling the company to implement its strategy. Our company is characterized by the variety of its metiers, the diversity of cultures and nationalities, and the richness of the community it forms. Diversity and Inclusion generates enthusiasm, performance and creativity, and, as a result, should be encouraged and valued.

Her driving force: passion in everything she does, which has enabled her to work in many different disciplines in the bank, and to move from an expert role to a more cross-functional role. This change has proved to be a real stepping stone in her career that she owes in particular to her managers who have supported her at every stage of her career, but also to her almost inexhaustible energy: "The main thing is to love what you do and to have confidence in your abilities, but also to have sponsors, people who talk about you when you are not in the room," Sandra points out.

In terms of gender equality, Sandra is particularly concerned about the low percentage of women in management committees.  Belgium has had legislation on gender quotas on boards of directors since 2011. The proportion of women on boards of directors quadrupled between 2008 and 2020, which is good news, but the contrast is stark with management committees which are not subject to quotas and where women represent only 14.8%. These facts demonstrate two things: firstly, the effectiveness of quotas and, secondly, that there is still plenty of room for improvement. As a consequence, it is imperative and beyond urgent for companies to take an interest in female talent from middle management onwards. Understanding the context around gender equality in each business line and addressing it by developing tailored plans while putting the subject regularly on the agenda of the top management is paramount, and this is what we have been doing since 2021 at BNP Paribas Fortis.

Asked what advice she would give her younger self, Sandra says: to continue to have passion in everything you do and to never hesitate in taking risks and getting out of your comfort zone.

Her advice to young colleagues:

·       Open and transparent discussion with your manager is essential;

·       Set limits while maintaining a constructive dialogue;

·       Have confidence in your own abilities and tell yourself that nothing is impossible.


Interviewed by Anne-France Simon