IFC, DSE and UN push for greater participation of women in leadership roles

A 2020 IFC-DSE study showed that at the time, around 18% of listed company board directors were women

For the seventh year in a row, IFC collaborated with the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE), UN Women, and the United Nations Global Compact to "Ring the Bell for Gender Equality."

The annual event highlights how greater participation of women in the economy can spur sustainable and inclusive growth, according to a press release.

The commemoration event came as new figures showed there was an increase in the percentage of women who are independent directors of listed companies, from 5% in 2020 to 6%, despite the impact of Covid-19, which has disproportionately affected women. 

A 2020 IFC-DSE study showed that at the time, around 18% of listed company board directors were women, which has remained the same.

In terms of women on the boards of listed companies, Bangladesh still tops the South Asia region.

Speaking at the event, 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."  

Tarique Amin Bhuiyan, managing director, Dhaka Stock Exchange Ltd, Bangladesh Securities, and Exchange Commission said: "Dhaka Stock Exchange remains fully committed to closing the gender gap and promoting women’s role in leadership, particularly in listed companies."

He added that advancing women's roles in companies will not only create a more diverse leadership team but will also serve to help private sector companies create value, bring new ideas, boost transparency and promote inclusive growth.

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.

Gitanjali Singh, head of Office, a.i. UN Women Bangladesh said: "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."

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 the 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.

Martin Holtmann, IFC Country Manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal said: "IFC has long been engaged in efforts at the capital markets level to support women as economic actors." 

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. That’s why IFC has been working with multiple stakeholders in Bangladesh, including the stock exchange, regulators, and companies, he added.

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, 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 Ltd provided closing remarks.

To ring the bell for Gender Equality, a global partnership with Sustainable Stock Exchange, IFC, UN Women, and UN Global Compact began in 2015, and this year, more than 120 stock exchanges have participated in events around the world to raise awareness for gender equality.