Top Sri Lankan companies pledge to increase women’s representation in corporate leadership

International Women’s Day

The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in association with the World Federation of Exchanges, the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, UN Global Compact Network, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of the Australian Government, UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and the Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID) rang the market opening bell for gender equality, in line with the International Women’s Day 2023, for the eighth consecutive year, with several top Sri Lankan Companies, pledging to increase women representation in corporate leadership.

At the event 14 companies signed onto a commitment to boost female representation at the board level and in management to a minimum of 20% by 2025.

The annual global initiative highlights how greater participation of women in the economy can spur sustainable and inclusive growth, shaping a more equal future.

“The Colombo Stock Exchange joined this initiative in 2016, as one of the initial stock exchanges, and we believe this is the platform to convene business leaders, investors, and other key parties at the national level to highlight the growing business and economic case for gender equality, said CSE Chairman Mr. Dilshan Wirasekera delivering the opening remarks.”

“If we look at the progress that the Exchanges have made, specifically with regard to listed companies, we relatively had success; if we look at the numbers way back in 2018, we had 8% of women representation in our boards and that has increased to 10 % today. We have global statistics that show, women representing management in organizations even at board level have contributed for better financial results,” he added.

“The event today is used as a ‘call to action’ for businesses to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality. We wanted to invite initially the 20 S&P companies today to pledge their commitment towards increasing female representation at the board level and in management to a minimum of 20% by 2025.”

The Global Gender Gap Report of 2022 indicates the share of women hired into leadership roles has seen a steady increase, from over 33 percent in 2016 to nearly 37 percent in 2022. However, amid multiple global crises, sparked initially by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are concerns that women’s workforce participation has dropped, risking further backsliding on gender parity. IFC’s commitment to the initiative is part of its strong focus on gender equality, which includes leveraging relationships with financial institutions to expand access to finance for female entrepreneurs and increase the number of women in leadership roles.

“Better gender balance in business leadership is inextricably linked with achieving sustainable, inclusive growth. We know that making even small inroads in closing the gender gap can yield clear and positive results for businesses especially in financial performance and better decision-making processes,” said Sarah Twigg, Manager, Women in Work Program, IFC. “The commitment of the 13 top Sri Lankan companies is a significant step towards accelerating the progress we have made so far. This is also the time that Sri Lanka needs more women corporate and business leaders to help ensure an inclusive and resilient recovery in the country.”

Ms. Lalita Kapur, Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives sharing her valuable insights on the initiative, stated, “The global ‘Ring the Bell’ event helps raise awareness of the essential contribution women make to our economies – and reinforces the undeniable business case for women’s labour force participation. As Sri Lanka navigates significant economic challenges, it is critical now more than ever, that we find new ways to advance gender equality.”

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