IFC Joins Colombo Stock Exchange to Ring the Bell for Gender Equality in Sri Lanka

March, 7, 2019

Marking International Women’s Day, IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, partnered with the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) for the fourth consecutive year to ring the opening bell for trading. This annual global initiative is aimed at promoting women’s participation in the global economy to catalyze sustainable and inclusive private sector growth.


While the private sector is increasingly recognizing that advancing gender equality means better talent, higher productivity, more customers, and a stronger bottom line, progress remains slow. IMF’s calculations show that Sri Lanka’s GDP could be 20 percent higher if female workers had the opportunity to participate and contribute to the country’s productivity. This exemplifies a case for business and markets to accelerate the pace of reforms towards gender parity.


“Women are progressively at the helm of some of the world’s most prominent corporates. Female participation in business, political, executive leadership and on corporate boards should be strongly encouraged,” said Ray Abeywardena, Chairman, Colombo Stock Exchange.


Empowering women in the workplace can also generate financial returns in the private sector, as IFC’s latest research reviewing the top 30 companies on the CSE highlights. Global research shows that companies with at least one female director have better share price performance and return on equity, and companies with more than one woman on the board return 3.7 percent a year over those that have none.


In Sri Lanka, a recent research by IFC and CSE indicates that about 8.5 percent of listed company board directors are women – a marginal increase from that of 8.14 percent last year.


“As business leaders, entrepreneurs, employees and consumers, women are fundamental to inclusive growth,” said Amena Arif, IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives. “We view the latest statistics on Women on Boards in Sri Lanka as an important catalyst for fresh commitments to diversity at the top and revitalized conversations about harnessing the economic potential of more gender-balanced boards in the country.”


This year’s Ring the Bell event in Colombo marked the release of the aforementioned report “The Case for Gender Diversity Among Sri Lanka’s Business Leadership”, as well as the second edition of the Women on Boards Directory, a crucial repository of 136 women directors on the boards of CSE-listed companies in 2018.


The ‘Women on Boards’ program is part of IFC’s broader efforts to increase women’s private sector participation and leadership by promoting the adoption of corporate governance best practices among Sri Lankan companies. IFC’s work in this area is supported by the Australian government under an IFC-DFAT Women in Work partnership.


“Achieving gender equality does not just benefit women; it benefits everyone. Australia has chosen to focus on women’s economic empowerment in the private sector because this is where we see greatest potential for impact,” said Jon Philp, Acting Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “Our Women in Work partnership will create more and better private sector employment and business opportunities for women.”


The “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” event is a partnership of IFC, Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, UN Global Compact, UN WomenWomen in ETFs, and the World Federation of Exchanges. This year, the event will be held in over 70 stock exchanges around the globe.


Photo - From L to R: Rathika De Silva, Director, Global Compact Network Sri Lanka; Jon Philp, Acting Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives; Amena Arif, Country Manager for IFC Sri Lanka and Maldives; Ranel T. Wijesinha, Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka; Asha De Vos, Marine Biologist and the only Sri Lankan to be included in the BBC’s 100 inspiring and influential women for 2018; Renuka Fernando, CEO, Nations Trust Bank; Ray Abeywardane, Chairman, Colombo Stock Exchange; Chaminda de Silva, CEO, Sri Lanka Institute of Directors