Good corporate governance helps firms improve performance, drive growth, manage risks, attract and retain investors, and weather financial crises. To be truly effective, a board requires a diversity of skills, cultures, and views to make smart decisions with lasting impact.
The Case for Women
A growing body of research shows that a broad set of business benefits is associated with gender diversity on corporate boards. These include improved financial performance and shareholder value, increased customer and employee satisfaction, rising investor confidence, and greater market knowledge and reputation.
As part of our overall corporate governance work, IFC is building capacity, raising awareness, and expanding the discussion about gender diversity on boards in developing countries.
In Bangladesh, IFC organized a workshop with women entrepreneurs, together with the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) division of the central bank. Data from a survey of 200 women entrepreneurs helped to identify their business sector, their role, challenges they face, and the type of support needed. This event also helped establish social media network support groups in Facebook and group e-mail. A follow-up workshop with the leaders of each support group provided training in corporate governance, specifically on basic principles of corporate governance, board effectiveness, and the control environment, among others.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia, IFC has been working with researchers to identify the real reasons why there are so few women on boards and has developed policy recommendations on what could be done by the various market players to empower women and improve board diversity (download report). In Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, together with local partners, IFC organized a series of training activities for women on boards in order to improve their skills in risk governance, financial literacy, and board strategizing.
In Kosovo, together with RTC Consulting, one of IFC’s local partners led by a female entrepreneur, IFC is implementing a comprehensive program to empower young women from non-financial SMEs. The program comprises three days of training and six months of mentoring through which participants design and implement personal development plans that also address corporate governance improvements in the companies in which they work. IFC has organized a training-of-trainers workshop for the mentors, who allocate their time, for free, as part of the corporate social responsibility efforts of their institutions.
In Indonesia, IFC organized with the Indonesia Chapter of Women Corporate Directors, the Center for the Study of Governance of the University of Indonesia and IPMI International Business School, the country’s first roundtable discussion on the role of women on boards. The event addressed the cultural, social, and economic burdens preventing women from reaching the boardroom and is the first in a series of awareness-raising and capacity-building initiatives slated to be organized with IFC’s partners in the future.
In Jordan, IFC collaborated with the Jordanian Institute of Directors to conduct a study on gender diversity in boardrooms among 237 publicly listed companies and 996 private shareholding companies to raise awareness on the value of such diversity and its influence on their organizations’ performance. Initial findings reveal that the health industry in Jordan has the highest female representation on boards with about 11 percent, followed by 7 percent in the education sector. Only 5 percent of women are represented in boardrooms in banks, 4 percent in insurance companies, and 4 percent in other financial services sectors.
In Morocco, IFC collaborated with the Ministry for General Affairs, UN Women, the Moroccan Institute of Directors, and the Moroccan Chapter of Women Corporate Directors to conduct and disseminate research on the number of women on corporate boards. The survey collected information among all the companies listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange as of 2013 (76), 144 of the largest Moroccan companies, and 37 state-owned companies. According to the report, only 7percent of board directors are women, while boards of listed companies fare slightly better at 10 percent. In all three categories, less than 50 percent have at least one woman board director. The Moroccan Institute of Directors and the Moroccan Chapter of Women Corporate Directors will combine efforts to raise awareness on the issue of gender diversity in the future.
In Pakistan, following the results of research conducted to assess the number of women on corporate boards, IFC launched a series of nine roundtable discussions in three major cities of Pakistan, featuring more than 150 managers and directors. Following these programs, which represented Pakistan's first ever training for women directors, a number of women have secured board seats or top management positions. This work has also yielded results at the regulatory level. Policymakers revised the country’s Code of Corporate Governance to encourage the inclusion of gender diversity as a key consideration in board composition.
In Vietnam, IFC has been involved in supporting formation of Women Corporate Directors’ chapters in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. We also collaborated with them to organize a workshop for women directors of banks on board effectiveness. In the future, we plan to increase our engagement with women directors to raise awareness of good corporate governance practices, to promote women diversity on boards of companies, and to continue to support Women Corporate Director’s activities.
In Yemen, IFC worked with local partners, the Yemeni Business Club, and the Center of Business Administration to organize the first of a series of awareness-raising and capacity-building workshops encouraging local businesswomen to serve as effective and qualified board members. IFC also trained Yemeni women to serve as corporate governance consultants in order to advance the corporate governance agenda in the market place in a sustainable manner.
IFC promotes diversity on boards across developing and emerging markets and, through its programs on corporate governance, supports training for senior women executives. By 2015, we expect to fill at least 30 percent of IFC-nominated director positions with women, up from a current 24 percent.
IFC has also been involved in supporting founding participants in Women Corporate Director chapters in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and Vietnam.