Increasing Women's Representation in Business Leadership

June 9, 2023

World Bank Group Gender Thematic Policy Note Series: Evidence and Practice Note

Better gender balance in business leadership is inextricably linked with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By definition, attainment of SDG 5, gender equality, is impossible without women’s equal representation at the top.

This note contributes to an increased understanding of the importance of gender-diverse leadership for inclusive and sustainable economic growth. The topic of leadership is quite broad, so the note directs focus to the critical aspect of women in business leadership. It explores the reasons for the significant gender gaps in the leadership of large enterprises, including private sector businesses and state-owned entities.

While direct cause-and-effect links cannot always be demonstrated, World Bank Group interventions that address the root causes of gender gaps in business leadership offer strong potential for progress. This note offers programmatic evidence of promising interventions to increase women’s representation in the leadership of these enterprises, based on IFC and World Bank experience and suggests several strategies that other programs can consider to accelerate the pace at which women ascend to senior leadership positions.

Businesswoman and businessman walking side-by-side in Kazakhstan