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Strengthening Businesses in Europe and Central Asia Through Women Leaders

In Europe and Central Asia, only one out of every five businesses has a top female manager, and women’s representation in board rooms and positions of corporate leadership is lower than those of East Asia and Latin America.


For every country like Belarus, where the share of firms with women in top management is among the world’s highest, there are two like Kosovo, which has almost no firms with women in top management.


That’s why IFC’s Corporate Governance Program in ECA has been working with local institutions to promote the business case for good corporate governance practices, including gender diversity. “To be truly effective, a board requires a diversity of skills, cultures, views, and gender,” says Aliya Azimova, IFC Representative in Azerbaijan.


A lack of appreciation of the business benefits of gender-diverse boards is not the only reason representation of women in leadership is so low among firms in the region. A recent IFC study found that women executives have weaker knowledge and skills in key areas such as risk management, as well as a poorer understanding of the strategic role and functioning of boards. While women are more willing to compromise and consider different views, they also generally pay less attention to networking with other people working in risk management.


IFC’s Corporate Governance Program is working to address this skills challenge with events and programs across the region to help female leaders and board members.


In Belgrade, we teamed up with our corporate governance partner, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, and organized a training event for female members of boards of directors and supervisory boards.


In Kosovo, the few professional women holding junior or middle management positions are struggling to climb up the corporate ladder despite the value they could bring to their company’s leadership.  IFC supports them via a comprehensive program anchored by six months of training and mentoring.


In Azerbaijan, where two percent of firms have women in top management, IFC teamed up with the Azerbaijan Risk Professionals Association to organize a training event in Baku for female board directors. “The training definitely helped me improve my understanding of corporate governance practices, including the role of the board in strategy and risk management.” said Nargiz Mammadova, who works in the monitoring department of Zamin Bank ASC.


In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), IFC teamed up with its partner, the Association of Board Members of Companies in BiH, to host a training event for female members of management and supervisory boards of companies.


Since launching this regional initiative to target and train more women for board and leadership functions, IFC’s Corporate Governance Program for ECA has led half a dozen workshops, and will soon hold more.


This is not simply an effort to promote diversity on boards simply to get more women on boards,” says Oliver Orton, Program Manager of IFC’s Corporate Governance Program in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “This is about promoting board diversity as a powerful means to improve company dynamics and performance.”


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