In a rapidly changing and competitive world, companies need to look to the future and build a pipeline of leadership talent that features the full range of complementary skills, expertise, and perspectives.
The push toward greater diversity—and specially, gender diversity at the top—is already happening. It’s driven by a growing number of qualified women, male champions, investors and shareholders, legislation and governance codes, and an overall awareness that companies must better reflect the markets they serve. Organizations that fail to address these culture shifts risk getting left behind.
A growing body of research shows a range of business benefits associated with gender diversity on corporate boards and in senior leadership as well as positive influence of gender-diverse management and boards on a company’s sustainability profile. Among these benefits: improved financial performance and shareholder value, increased customer and employee satisfaction, rising investor confidence, and greater market knowledge and reputation.
IFC is building capacity, raising awareness, and expanding the discussion about gender diversity on boards and in business leadership in emerging markets and developing countries—all part of our overall environmental, social, and corporate governance standards.
IFC has launched its Women on Boards and in Business Leadership training program to meet the needs of companies as they look to improve diversity in management and on boards. Our efforts respond to the growing demand from organizations, so they can build their pipeline of female talent, creating a new generation of women leaders. The program provides greater opportunities for women on boards and in leadership positions, accelerating competitive advantages. It also helps companies maximize the benefits from a board and senior leadership team that reflects a diversity of thought, skills, and experience.
In companies where we have investments, we have reached a target of 36 percent female representation for IFC-nominated director positions, with the goal of 50 percent by 2030.
We also conduct research to demonstrate evidence of the link between more women in senior executive positions and stronger environment, social and governance standards. A publication on women in business leadership and increased environmental, social, and governance performance will soon be launched. Two publications on female business leaders in emerging markets and strategies to mainstream gender diversity in the boardroom and senior management are also underway. Regional and country surveys on women on boards and in senior management are being completed in East Asia and the Pacific, as well as Egypt and Lebanon. One in Sri Lanka has started.
Through collaboration with various stock exchanges around the world, IFC encourages thousands of listed companies to close gaps between women and men in leadership and board positions. We partner with the stock exchanges in the Ring the Bell for Gender Equality initiative to celebrate the International Women’s Day on March 8 of every year—a partnership that highlights how the private sector can spur women’s participation in the global economy and promote sustainable development.