IFC executives ring the bell to celebrate International Women’s Day in Washington, D.C. © Brandon Payne/World Bank Group
Women’s roles in business and in driving sustainable development have taken center stage this week as IFC joined more than 30 stock exchanges, the UN Global Compact, UN Women, Women in ETFs, World Federation of Stock Exchanges and the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative to mark International Women’s Day with a ringing of trading bells around the world.
The Ring the Bell for Gender Equality initiative highlights the importance of gender equality to economic growth and the power of the private sector to bridge diversity gaps and lead by example. At a time when nine out of ten jobs in developing countries are created by the private sector—and when the women’s workforce participation rate in many emerging markets remains well below the 50 percent global average—businesses in these countries have an opportunity to unleash enormous untapped potential for their own advantage.
“Women’s economic empowerment is a key driver of sustainable development as well as a key corporate sustainability issue. It makes good business sense,” said Ethiopis Tafara, IFC Vice President for Corporate Risk and Sustainability. Mr. Tafara did the bell-ringing honors for IFC at the Nasdaq Stock Market in New York on March 8.
The initiative also showcases how IFC clients are helping to bridge gender gaps in the global marketplace—they collectively employed almost 700,000 women as of 2014 and provided access to credit for more than 100,000 small, women-owned businesses.
Shattering the glass ceiling
IFC’s advisory work includes encouraging more female representation on the boards of emerging-market companies by strengthening the pipeline of qualified female nominee directors and promoting the business case.
“Balanced boardrooms that bring to the table a diverse mix of qualified men and women with the full complement of professional skills and experience can yield significant business benefits, including improved decision making, reduced risk, and enhanced reputation,” said Darrin Hartzler, manager of the IFC Corporate Governance group.
The business benefits that can translate into broader economic gains are a reason that the organization has committed to promoting gender balance on the boards of companies in which IFC invests. Today, women make up 30 percent of the directors who sit on IFC investee company boards—up from only 19 percent three years ago, and heading toward a future goal of full parity. IFC assists investee companies such as MNT, a leading Turkish provider of molecular imaging and oncology services, as they seek to add diversity at the top. For MNT, the first-ever appointment of a female director has boosted its regional presence, better positioning the company to pursue its global growth strategy.
Partnering with stock exchanges
IFC has long collaborated with stock exchanges and regulators in developing markets around the world in an effort to enhance the overall corporate governance standards of listed companies.
To date, IFC has contributed to the development of 95 corporate governance codes, regulations and laws, which have been adopted in more than 30 countries. It’s another way in which IFC is helping emerging market companies prosper, enabling them to tap into the growing pool of investors that are committed to good governance and sustainability.
Press Release: IFC and Stock Exchanges Worldwide ‘Ring the Bell’ for Gender Equality (in French)
Video: Ring the Bell for Gender Equality, March 2016