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IFC and Partners Ring Bells for Gender Equality Around the World
Over the course of a week in early March, professional women gathered at stock exchanges around the world. There they rang opening and closing trading bells in a symbolic gesture of solidarity to mark International Women’s Day.
Representing IFC: Katie Meighan and Irene Arias, who joined other IFC partners at both the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange, proudly “Ringing the Bell for Gender Equality” to close the trading day. The event highlighted the importance of the private sector in stimulating increased women’s participation in the global economy.
Similar events took place at 43 stock exchanges in cities across the globe, from Amman, Bucharest, Buenos Aires, and Dhaka, to Nairobi, New York and Yangon, with IFC leading or co-leading in 16 countries.
IFC’s commitment to the Ring the Bell initiative is part of its market-building focus, which includes leveraging relationships with nearly 1,000 financial institutions and private equity funds to expand access to finance for female entrepreneurs, among other efforts. IFC is also strengthening the boards of companies in which it invests by upping the diversity: today, almost 30 percent of IFC nominee directors are women.
Gender equality is key to economic growth
“For IFC, balancing the gender scales is fundamental to its development mission,” says Meighan—co-lead of IFC'S Women's Network and legal manager for IFC's treasury and financial institutions work—and Arias, director of IFC’s Latin America and Caribbean region. “Gender equality is not only a social and moral imperative, but it is also an economic need,” Meighan notes. “We know that when more women work, economies grow.”
According to one recent IMF report, closing the gender gap in the labor market of one developing country—Egypt—would raise that country’s GDP by more than 34 percent. And the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative notes that if women fully participated in formal labor markets, global GDP would increase by $28 trillion.
But it’s going to take some time and a great deal of effort on the part of multiple players to change the status quo. The World Economic Forum reports that it will take another 170 years to close global gender gaps.
Focus on stock exchanges as drivers of positive change
The Ring the Bell initiative is designed to draw attention to the strong role for stock exchanges in pushing for gender equality. They can encourage listed companies to report on their diversity objectives. They can ask for policies that support equality in the workplace. And they can recommend that companies share diversity metrics such as the percentage of women on their boards and in the ranks of senior management.
According to Darrin Hartzler, manager of IFC’s Corporate Governance Group, such measures are also in the best interests of the exchanges themselves. “Increasing opportunity for women through the career ranks and into the highest levels of corporate leadership can significantly enhance company performance,” he says. “Evidence from stock exchanges around the world shows that companies with a better gender balance at the top outperform other companies. And stock exchanges want strong performers.”
Now in its third iteration, Ring the Bell for Gender Equality is a partnership of IFC, the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, the UN Global Compact, UN Women, Women in ETFs, and the World Federation of Stock Exchanges.
Photo Album (Flickr)