IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has partnered with the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) for the third consecutive year to ring the opening bell for trading to celebrate International Women’s Day 2018—a partnership that highlights how the private sector can spur women’s participation in the global economy and promote sustainable development.
Studies show that female talent is among the least utilized economic and business resources around the world. Making even small inroads in closing the global gender gap could quickly yield strong results, with the potential to increase global gross domestic product by $5.3 trillion over the next seven years, according to a 2017 report from the World Economic Forum. For listed companies, failure to capitalize on these resources—for example, by adding more women to their boards and ranks of senior leadership—represents a substantial opportunity cost.
Making the keynote speech at the ceremony, Professor Maithree Wickramasinghe said “Equality involves accepting commonality – considering the common rights of men and women. It involves ensuring equal employment, promotion and opportunities for men and women, equal access to credit, resources, concessions, markets and benefits, and so on.”
“At the Colombo Stock Exchange, we encourage companies to prioritize diversity in their own corporate structures by implementing gender-friendly workplace policies; developing female-oriented investment products; reporting on diversity objectives, policies, and practices; and increasing the number of women holding board and senior leadership positions,” Rajeeva Bandaranaike, CEO, Colombo Stock Exchange.
In Sri Lanka, latest research indicates that about 8 percent of listed company board directors are women. While this compares well with the rest of Asia, more can be done. To generate a conversation on women’s leadership, this year’s event in Sri Lanka debuted a film celebrating the diversity of female leadership amongst CSE-listed companies and a women-on-boards directory.
“Women across emerging markets like Sri Lanka are making vital contributions to private sector growth through strong corporate leadership,” said Amena Arif, IFC County Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives. “We are excited to work with our partners though the DFAT-IFC Women in Work program to expand the discussion on board diversity and help more companies retain and attract senior women to serve on their boards.”
This year’s Ring the Bell events include 59 stock exchanges globally. IFC welcomes the unified voice that stock exchanges add in advocating for equal gender representation on companies’ boards and senior management. Studies such as the Catalyst analysis of the U.S. Fortune 500 have found that firms with gender-diverse boards outperform those with male-only boards by as much as 53 percent as measured by returns on equity. Ring the Bell participants are acknowledging what the evidence demonstrates: that shattering corporate glass ceilings is a smart business strategy.
IFC’s support for gender-smart business solutions includes working with companies in developing countries to generate opportunities for women that also contribute to bottom-line benefits. The institution leverages its relationship with over 1,000 financial institutions and private equity funds to expand access to finance for female entrepreneurs. It also promotes good corporate-governance practices such as board diversity. IFC has 30 percent female representation among nominee directors on the boards of its own investee companies today, and aims to increase that rate to 50 percent.
The “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” event is a partnership of IFC, Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, the UN Global Compact, UN Women, Women in ETFs, and the World Federation of Stock Exchanges.
IFC—a sister organization of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work with more than 2,000 businesses worldwide, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in the toughest areas of the world. In FY17, we delivered a record $19.3 billion in long-term financing for developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to help end poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit www.ifc.org