Sri Lanka’s boardrooms need 500 more women to close the gender gap in the corporate world
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will need 500 more women directors in boardrooms of listed companies to reach gender parity although the number of women joining leadership roles have steeply increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington-based International Finance Corporation said.
“We would need about 500 more directors to reach parity with men on boards of listed companies and the reason for this push is beyond a social and moral imperative there is a business case behind it,” Lopa Rahman, Corporate Governance Officer of IFC, addressing the ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality’ at the Colombo Stock Exchange on Monday said.
According to research conducted by IFC in collaboration with Colombo Stock Exchange it has found that since 2018 over 25 qualified women have joined Sri Lanka’s corporate boards.
Currently, the number of women on board stands at 221 from 144 in 2018.
“Despite the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19 our research indicates a positive trend in the number of female directors on boards in Sri Lanka,” Lopa Rahman pointed out.
In 2018 Rahman said only 8.2 percent of the listed company board directors were women which was lower than the neighbouring countries and below global average of 17 per cent.
However, she said the latest 2021 data suggest that now women comprise 9.5 per cent of the board which is equivalent to an almost 30 per cent increase over the last 3-years.
“What is interesting to note here is that there is a sharp increase from 2018 to 2020 and some may say this increase is driven by the regulatory push followed by the finance ministry to have progressive quotas for women on board,” Rahman said.
“Promisingly these numbers have not declined since the onset of the pandemic and shows that companies themselves are stepping up and internalizing this objective.”
Rahman said the research also indicated that the 30 largest companies in the country with the highest gender diversity in leader boards experienced better financial returns on both equity and total assets.
“Even before the pandemic hit, developing countries were losing nearly 48 trillion in wealth because of the differences in lifetime earning in women and men” she pointed out.
She also reiterated that the COVID-pandemic has created an opportunity for companies to intentionally push for gender equality to better utilize their resources.
“This pervasive inequality could further widen due to the impact of the current crisis. There has never been a better time to work intentionally on economic gender parity. The COVID pandemic has created an opportunity to focus more focused value creation strategy such as gender market investing to help private sector companies sustain economies and protect jobs.”
Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson, CEO of Hemas Holdings PLC addressing the audience said that women to succeed bias at workplace and home should be eradicated.
“Let’s encourage women to be their own unique self, let’s take out the bias.”
She pointed out three main biases women face – to see women only as feminine house maker, to encourage women to create and be their own self while making a corporate culture that supports employees to balance their family life too.
“It has been a male-dominant corporate culture and they see women as feminine homemakers and its uncomfortable for them to see a woman a bit strong at work so let’s take that unconscious bias out and on the other side let’s not call a man emotional,” Wilson said.
“Secondly, let’s encourage women to be their own unique self in leadership, that’s the only way you can become a leader and finally we a culture of families in organizations’.
“Where organizations’ encourage co-parenting so that both men and women take responsibilities for their kids.”
The Chairman of CSE Dumith Fernando said, “at CSE, we believe that gender equality is essential for high performing, talented organizations”.
“We believe that a potential of a woman is central to ensuring sustainable and inclusive development to achieve sustainable and inclusive development both in businesses and community and in particular since we are a focal point of 300 of the largest companies that are listed on the stock exchange.”
“Closing this gender gap will have the successful inclusion of women in all walks of life and will translate to a productive economy.” (Colombo, March 11, 2021)
Reported by Mahadiya Hamza