Published: 07:00 PM, 14 March 2022
CelebratingInternational Women’s Day, IFC partnered with the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE),UN Women, and United Nations Global Compact for the seventh consecutive year to‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality.’ While emphasizing women’s role in shapinga more equal future, the annual event highlights how greater participation ofwomen in the economy can spur sustainable and inclusive growth.
Thecommemoration event came as new figures showed there was an increase in thepercentage of women who are independent directors on listed companies from fivepercent in 2020 to six percent, despite the impact of COVID-19, which hasdisproportionately affected women. A 2020 IFC-DSE study showed at the timearound 18 percent of listed company board directors were women, that hasremained the same. In terms of women on boards of listed companies, Bangladeshstill tops the South Asia region.
Speaking at theevent, H.E. Ms. Nathalie Chuard, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Bangladeshsaid, “As Bangladesh embarks upon its graduation from the LDC category,ensuring gender equality is all the more critical for a sustainable transition thatleaves no one behind. As a committed and longstanding bilateral partner,Switzerland gives particular importance to gender equality and social inclusionin all of its engagements in Bangladesh.”
In the welcomeaddress, Tarique Amin Bhuiyan, Managing Director, Dhaka Stock Exchange Limitedsaid, DSE was and will always remaincommitted to closing the gender gap and promoting women's role in leadership.We strongly believe that advancing women's roles in companies like DSE will notonly create a more diverse leadership team but also will serve to help privatesector companies create stronger values, bring new ideas, boost transparencyand promote inclusive growth. This year's campaign is represented by the#BreakTheBias hashtag and it is a call on people like us to work towards aworld that is equitable, inclusive, and free from bias and discrimination inorder to creating a level playing field for women moving forward.
In theconcluding remarks, Md. Eunusur Rahman said, for raising awareness about the Women’sEmpowerment Principles (WEPs), for the last eight years stock exchanges aroundthe world have been hosting a bell-ringing ceremony in celebration ofInternational Women’s Day which is held on 8 March every year. I believe thatthis has been playing a pivotal role in the private sector and also has beenstrengthening global gender equality to achieve the UN’s SustainableDevelopment Goal. We know that the theme of this year's Women's day is"Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow' which aims to recognizewomen who are working to build a more sustainable future. There is no denyingthe fact that 'sustainable development' depends on an equitable distribution ofresources for today and for the men & women. So, we understand thatsustainable development cannot be achieved without gender equality. Women'sempowerment is a key factor for achieving sustainable economic growth, socialdevelopment and environmental sustainability.
He added, thecountry’s capital market is witnessing a surge of female investors who havebeen increasing their contributions to the national economy. Modern technologyhas made their journeys in the share market easier, helping many of them keepthe track of the market even by sitting at home through their computers or smartphones.Finally, I would say that Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in closingthe gender gap in the last one and half decades. Bangladesh is among the fewcountries that have increased female employment while also cutting the wage gapbetween men and women significantly.
Meanwhile in anew joint report on, “How Exchanges Can Advance Gender Equality: UpdatedGuidance and Best Practice,” the UN Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE)initiative and IFC identify three broad areas where exchanges can play a rolein advancing gender equality. These include the promotion of gender-focusedand/or gender-aware products and services, strengthening of market performanceon gender equality and leading by example.
‘Investing inwomen’s economic empowerment is both the right thing to do and the smart thingto do as it sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication andinclusive economic growth,” said Gitanjali Singh, Head of Office, a.i. UN WomenBangladesh.
The reportoffers guidance on implementing gender-responsive action plans, such assupporting the listing of gender-focused financial instruments, addressingbarriers to gender equality on boards and senior management, promotingincreased transparency on gender performance through expanded environmental,social, and governance (ESG) disclosure, and setting gender targets for listedcompanies.
IFC's commitmentto Ring the Bell initiative is part of its strong focus on gender equality,which includes leveraging relationships with financial institutions to expandaccess to finance for female entrepreneurs and increase the number of women inleadership roles.
“IFC has longbeen engaged in efforts at the capital markets level to support women aseconomic actors,” said Martin Holtmann, IFC Country Manager for Bangladesh,Bhutan and Nepal. “We are well aware that having more women in leadershippositions makes economic sense for companies and is also linked to betterenvironmental, social and corporate governance standards and practices. It’swhy IFC has been working with multiple stakeholders in Bangladesh including thestock exchange, regulators, and companies.”
Earlier inMarch, IFC and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) alsoannounced a new program that included Bangladesh to spur private sectorinvestment in developing countries by leveraging sound environmental and socialand governance (ESG) practices.
The Women's Dayevent included a panel discussion on the business case for gender diversity onboards. Participants included Zareen Mahmud Hosein, FCA, Partner SnehasishMahmud & Co., Melita Mehjabeen, Associate, Professor, IBA, University ofDhaka and Shamarukh Fakhruddin, Director, Urmi Group. The discussion wasmoderated by Shahamin Zaman, Executive Director, Global Compact Network Bangladesh(GCNB) and Md. Eunusur Rahman, Chairman, Dhaka Stock Exchange Limited providedclosing remarks.