(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –For the fifth consecutive year, IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, partnered with the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) to ring the opening bell for trading in celebration of International Women’s Day 2020. An annual global gender initiative, Ring the Bell encourages the private sector to expand opportunities for women as leaders, employees, entrepreneurs, and consumers to promote sustainable development.
While progress has been achieved in educational and health outcomes, Sri Lanka lags behind in women’s participation in the workforce with only 34percent, compared to 76 percent for men.
At the same time, the latest research by IFC and CSE points to a rise in the number of women board directors. In 2019, 9.6 percent of listed company board directors were women – a significant rise from 8.5 percent in 2018 and 8.14 percent in 2017.
“Women in the workforce remain among the least utilised economic and business resources – closing this gender gap would yield exponential results,” said Dumith Fernando, Director at CSE. “We at CSE are encouraged to note that more of our listed companies have welcomed the participation of strong, independent women on their boards. This is evident through a steady increase over the years of the number of listed companies with women holding corporate board seats, which stands at 9.6 percent as at January 2020.”
Accelerating the pace of gender parity could generate financial returns in the private sectorand lead to important economic gains in emerging markets. Global research indicates that companies with female CEOs and CFOs have produced superior stock price performance, compared to the market average, and companies with more than one woman on the board return 3.7 percent a year over those that have none.
“It is very heartening to see that these statistics show that companies in Sri Lanka are walking the talk and we are on the right trajectory. However, this pace of progress is still marginal and needs to be accelerated to match global trends,” said Amena Arif, IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “Therefore it is important to continue to take a multipronged approach to have more women in the workforce while building a sustainable pipeline for more women to take on leadership roles.”
The ‘Women on Boards’ program is part of IFC’s broader efforts to increase women’s private sector participation and leadership by promoting the adoption of corporate governance best practices among Sri Lankan companies. IFC’s work in this area is supported by the Australian Government under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program.
“Achieving gender equality and women’s economic empowerment is important for Sri Lanka in building a sustainable and high performing workforce,” said David Holly, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “Australia believes equality and diversity are crucial for a more inclusive and prosperous economy that leads to success for women and men, families and communities, businesses and the world at large.”
The “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” event is a partnership of IFC, Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative,UN Global Compact, UN Women, Women in ETFs, and the World Federation of Exchanges. This year, the event is being held in over 90 stock exchanges around the globe.