Fostering Directors in Diversity: First Chapter of Women Corporate Directors launched

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 2 2021

In a bid to promote Boardroom diversity and establish a network of existing and prospective women Directors, the Women Corporate Directors Foundation (WCD) – the largest organisation of women Corporate Board members globally – launched its first local chapter in Sri Lanka, yesterday. 

The initiative of ‘Women in Work’ programme, supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFC-DFAT), aims to offer a platform for Sri Lankan women Board members to share industry expertise while helping the country increase its pipeline of aspiring and qualified female Board members.

In Sri Lanka, despite higher education, women are significantly underrepresented in the labour force. Only around one in three women of working age are employed. This gap further widens among Senior managers, Board members, and Business owners. The percentage of women among Board members of listed entities in Sri Lanka is also low, compared to South Asian peers such as India (12 per cent) and Bangladesh (17 per cent). According to IFC’s latest findings, around 9.5 per cent of Board Directors on the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) listed Companies are women.

“Despite the low numbers on women on Boards, Sri Lanka has a well-accomplished pool of women Directors representing a wide spectrum of industries. In this context, as part of WCD’s growing presence in Asia-Pacific, we are delighted to launch our first-ever local chapter in the country,” said Susan Stautberg, WCD CEO and Chairman. “As a WCD member, Sri Lankan women Directors will have better access to trends and expertise from global economies, helping strengthen their knowledge when advocating for improved Corporate Governance practices for businesses.”

A significant and growing body of research points to the business benefits associated with gender diversity on Boards and in Senior management, including increased financial performance and productivity as well as improved Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) practices. In Sri Lanka, IFC’s research highlighted that the top 30 CSE-listed Companies with higher gender diversity perform better in terms of financial measures, including return on equity, return on total assets, and price to earnings ratio.

“Diversity is not just a moral imperative, it also makes perfect business sense,” said Alfonso Garcia Mora, IFC’s Vice President for Asia and Pacific. “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that Companies with better ESG practices and Board diversity have been more resilient in recovery.”

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 2 2021

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