Thirteen of the leading companies listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) have pledged their support to increase women’s representation at both their management and board levels.
The move comes as IFC partnered with the CSE for the eighth consecutive year for the ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality,’ celebrated in line with International Women’s Day. As part of IFC’s moves to promote gender equality, the 13 companies have signed onto a commitment to boost female representation at the board level and in management to a minimum of 20 percent by 2025.
“If we look at the progress that the exchanges have made, specifically with regard to listed companies, we relatively had a success. If we look at the numbers way back in 2018, we had 8 percent of women representation in our boards and that has increased to 10 percent today. We have global statistics that show women representing management in organizations even at board level have contributed to every aspect of better results, even in terms of financial results,” said Dilshan Wirasekera, Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange. “The event is used as a ‘call to action’ for businesses to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality. We invite all the 20 S&P companies to pledge their commitment towards increasing female representation at the board level and in management to a minimum of 20 percent by 2025.”
The Global Gender Gap Report of 2022 indicates the share of women hired into leadership roles has seen a steady increase, from over 33 percent in 2016 to nearly 37 percent in 2022. However, amid multiple global crises, sparked initially by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are concerns that women’s workforce participation has dropped, risking further backsliding on gender parity.
IFC’s commitment to the initiative is part of its strong focus on gender equality, which includes leveraging relationships with financial institutions to expand access to finance for female entrepreneurs and increase the number of women in leadership roles.
“Better gender balance in business leadership is inextricably linked with achieving sustainable, inclusive growth. We know that making even small inroads in closing the gender gap can yield clear and positive results for businesses especially in financial performance and better decision-making processes,” said Sarah Twigg, Manager, Women in Work Program, IFC. “The commitment of the top 13 Sri Lankan companies is a significant step towards accelerating the progress we have made so far. This is also the time that Sri Lanka needs more women corporate and business leaders to help ensure an inclusive and resilient recovery in the country.”
The companies that signed up for the pledge are CIC Holdings PLC, Commercial Bank of Ceylon (CBC), Expolanka Holdings PLC, Hayleys PLC, John Keells Holdings PLC, Lanka IOC PLC, LOLC Holdings PLC, Royal Ceramics Lanka PLC, Sampath Bank PLC, Softlogic Life, Teejay Lanka PLC, Valibel Finance PLC, Watawala Plantations PLC.
The research shows accelerating the pace of gender parity could generate financial returns in the private sector, leading to significant economic, environmental, social, and governance gains in emerging markets. In Sri Lanka, research by IFC’s Women on Boards program has also highlighted the clear correlation between increased board diversity and financial performance, with positive trends being reported in line with indicators such as return on total assets and price-to-earnings ratio. IFC’s work on the ‘Women on Boards’ program in Sri Lanka is supported by the government of Australia under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program.
“The global ‘Ring the Bell’ event helps raise awareness of the essential contribution women make to our economies – and reinforces the undeniable business case for women’s labour force participation. As Sri Lanka navigates significant economic challenges, it is critical now more than ever, that we find new ways to advance gender equality,” said Lalita Kapur, Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives.
This year, nearly 120 exchanges around the globe took part in events worldwide. The 2023 ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality’ event in Sri Lanka marks a partnership between CSE, IFC, Government of Australia, Sri Lanka Institute of Directors, The World Federation of Exchanges, Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, UN Global Compact, UN Women, and Women in ETFs.