IFC, CSE ring bell for gender equality in Sri Lanka
Rajeeva Bandaranaike, CEO CSE; Sarah Twigg, Manager, IFC-DFAT Women in Work Program; Anoji de Silva, Partner EY; Viraj Dayaratne PC, Chairman SEC; David Holly, High Commissioner, Australian High Commission in Sri Lanka; Thushara Wijewardena, CEO of Aventude (Pvt) Ltd and Non-Executive Independent Director of Commercial Bank PLC; Lisa Kaestner, IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives; Dumith Fernando, Chairman of CSE; Chinthaka Mendis, DG SEC; and Aroshi Nanayakkara, SLID Council Member
For the seventh consecutive year, IFC partnered with the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) to ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality.’ Celebrated in line with the International Women’s Day, the annual global initiative highlights how greater participation of womenin the economy can spur sustainable and inclusive growth, shaping a more equal future.
“The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) joined this initiative in 2016 as one of the initial stock exchanges, and we believe this is the platform to convene business leaders, investors, and other key parties at the national level to highlight the growing business and economic case for gender equality,” said Dumith Fernando, Chairman of the CSE. “We at the 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 by a steady increase over the years in the number of listed companies with women holding corporate board seats. There are 96 new board positions that have been occupied by women since 2018. Even though we see a positive trend, we are still short of the regional markets. So, all of us, as policymakers in our respective corporates, are vested with the duty to encourage gender equality in our establishments.”
In Sri Lanka, the female labor force participation rate remains stagnant at around 35 percent, compared with a steady male participation rate of 74 percent. Similarly, the average female unemployment rate (7 percent) remained more than double that of men (3 percent) between 2011 and 2019.
By improving female labor participation, McKinsey Global Institute estimates, Sri Lanka can potentially add $20 billion a year to its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 — increasing economic growth by about 14 percent.
Accelerating the pace of gender parity could generate financial returns in the private sector,leadingto significant economic, environmental, social, and governance gains in emerging markets.
“Pushing for gender equality today is needed for a sustainable tomorrow. Research – including IFC’s – continues to demonstrate that gender diversity in the boardroom boosts financial performance, promotes better decision-making processes and improved environment, social and governance (ESG) practices,” said Lisa Kaestner, Country Manager for IFC Sri Lanka and Maldives.
“We need more women business leaders for an inclusive and resilient recovery in the country. I hope that companies and policy makers continue to commit toward accelerating the progress made to date.”
“The Women in Work partnership is integral to the Australian government’s commitment towards advancing opportunities for women and boost economic growth in Sri Lanka. It is based on global evidence that greater diversity is good for business and the economy,” said David Holly, the Australian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka.
ccording to IFC research— under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program — the number of women on CSE-listed boards increased from 8.2 percent in 2018 to 10.1 percent in 2022 (from 144 to 240).However, this remains well below the global average of 20 percent.
IFC’s ‘Women on Boards’ program in Sri Lanka is part of the broader efforts to increase women’s private sector participation and leadership by promoting the adoption of corporate governance practices among Sri Lankan companies.
At an event to mark International Women’s Day, there was a panel discussion on the business case for gender diversity on boards. Participants included Anoji De Silva, Partner Ernst &Young, Krishan Balendra, Chairman, John Keells Holdings PLC,and Rasakantha Rasiah, Chairman, Hela Clothing. The discussion was moderated by Sarah Twigg, Program Manager for IFC-DFAT Women in Work program.