IFC, DSE, UN for flourishment of women's leadership
Celebrating International Women’s Day, IFC partnered with the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE), UN Women, and United Nations Global Compact for the seventh consecutive year to ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality.’ While emphasizing women’s role in shaping a more equal future, the annual event highlights how greater participation of women in the economy can spur sustainable and inclusive growth.
The commemoration event came as new figures showed there was an increase in the percentage of women who are independent directors on listed companies from five percent in 2020 to six percent, despite the impact of COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected women. A 2020 IFC-DSE study showed at the time around 18 percent of listed company board directors were women, that has remained the same. In terms of women on boards of listed companies, Bangladesh still tops the South Asia region.
Speaking at the event, H.E. Ms. Nathalie Chuard, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Bangladesh said, “As Bangladesh embarks upon its graduation from the LDC category, ensuring gender equality is all the more critical for a sustainable transition that leaves no one behind. As a committed and longstanding bilateral partner, Switzerland gives particular importance to gender equality and social inclusion in all of its engagements in Bangladesh.”
In the welcome address, Tarique Amin Bhuiyan, Managing Director, Dhaka Stock Exchange Limited said, DSE was and will always remain committed to closing the gender gap and promoting women's role in leadership. We strongly believe that advancing women's roles in companies like DSE will not only create a more diverse leadership team but also will serve to help private sector companies create stronger values, bring new ideas, boost transparency and promote inclusive growth. This year's campaign is represented by the #BreakTheBias hashtag and it is a call on people like us to work towards a world that is equitable, inclusive, and free from bias and discrimination in order to creating a level playing field for women moving forward.
In the concluding remarks, Md. Eunusur Rahman said, for raising awareness about the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), for the last eight years stock exchanges around the world have been hosting a bell-ringing ceremony in celebration of International Women’s Day which is held on 8 March every year. I believe that this has been playing a pivotal role in the private sector and also has been strengthening global gender equality to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal. We know that the theme of this year's Women's day is "Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow' which aims to recognize women who are working to build a more sustainable future. There is no denying the fact that 'sustainable development' depends on an equitable distribution of resources for today and for the men & women. So, we understand that sustainable development cannot be achieved without gender equality. Women's empowerment is a key factor for achieving sustainable economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability.
He added, the country’s capital market is witnessing a surge of female investors who have been increasing their contributions to the national economy. Modern technology has made their journeys in the share market easier, helping many of them keep the track of the market even by sitting at home through their computers or smartphones. Finally, I would say that Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in closing the gender gap in the last one and half decades. Bangladesh is among the few countries that have increased female employment while also cutting the wage gap between men and women significantly.
Meanwhile in a new joint report on, “How Exchanges Can Advance Gender Equality: Updated Guidance and Best Practice,” the UN Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative and IFC identify three broad areas where exchanges can play a role in advancing gender equality. These include the promotion of gender-focused and/or gender-aware products and services, strengthening of market performance on gender equality and leading by example.
‘Investing in women’s economic empowerment is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do as it sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth,” said Gitanjali Singh, Head of Office, a.i. UN Women Bangladesh.
The report offers guidance on implementing gender-responsive action plans, such as supporting the listing of gender-focused financial instruments, addressing barriers to gender equality on boards and senior management, promoting increased transparency on gender performance through expanded environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosure, and setting gender targets for listed companies.
IFC's commitment to Ring the Bell 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.
“IFC has long been engaged in efforts at the capital markets level to support women as economic actors,” said Martin Holtmann, IFC Country Manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. “We are well aware that having more women in leadership positions makes economic sense for companies and is also linked to better environmental, social and corporate governance standards and practices. It’s why IFC has been working with multiple stakeholders in Bangladesh including the stock exchange, regulators, and companies.”
Earlier in March, IFC and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) also announced a new program that included Bangladesh to spur private sector investment in developing countries by leveraging sound environmental and social and governance (ESG) practices.
The Women's Day event included a panel discussion on the business case for gender diversity on boards. Participants included Zareen Mahmud Hosein, FCA, Partner Snehasish Mahmud & Co., Melita Mehjabeen, Associate, Professor, IBA, University of Dhaka and Shamarukh Fakhruddin, Director, Urmi Group. The discussion was moderated by Shahamin Zaman, Executive Director, Global Compact Network Bangladesh (GCNB) and Md. Eunusur Rahman, Chairman, Dhaka Stock Exchange Limited provided closing remarks.
The global partnership with Sustainable Stock Exchange, IFC UN Women, UN Global Compact, began in 2015 to Ring the Bell for Gender Equality and this year more than 120 stock exchanges have been taking part in events around the world to raise awareness for gender equality.