Gender equality an economic need, says IFC Country Manager | Sunday Observer

Gender equality an economic need, says IFC Country Manager

The head table at the launch of Women in Management Awards. Pic: Chaminda Niroshana
The head table at the launch of Women in Management Awards. Pic: Chaminda Niroshana

Even though the economy in Sri Lanka is expanding, formal female labour force participation has dropped from 41 percent in 2010 to about 36 percent in 2016, Country Manager, IFC Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Amena Arif told guests at the launch of eight edition of Women In Management (WIM) Awards in Colombo last week.

Gender equality is not merely a social and moral imperative, but also an economic need. This is because, globally, women represent nearly 50 percent of the world’s population, the world’s consumers and decision makers but, account for only about 41 percent of the formal workforce, she said.

This highlights the importance of equal opportunities, equal resources and equal choices for women and they are also disadvantaged by ‘glass ceiling’ barriers to reaching the highest decision-making positions, Arif said.

“The IFC has been a long-standing partner with WIM in hosting these awards, and we are excited to see what this year brings. The IFC partners WIM Professional and Career Women awards 2018 for the fourth year simply because there really hasn’t been a more critical time to invest in people, especially in women and girls, she said.

“Women earn 10 – 30% less than men. A recent analysis done by IFC, in partnership with the Colombo Stock Exchange suggests that women constitute about 8% of all board positions in Sri Lanka.

The global average while not where it should be, is still much higher at about 15 percent, Arif said.

Sri Lanka’s numbers are quite low given that there are many highly qualified women here who play important roles in business and in the economy. Women are fundamental to transforming the global economy, supporting job creation, raising per-capita incomes, and promoting sustainable development.

“We at IFC believe firmly that society cannot develop sustainably without ensuring the equal distribution of opportunities, resources, and choices for both men and women,” she said.

“This is something we focus on even internally, where we have diversity and inclusion targets to create a fair, diverse and inspiring environment for staff. Externally, we want to narrow the gender gap, increase female participation in the economy at all levels, right up to increasing the number of women on boards.

“These goals are the driving force for the recently launched, IFC-led Women in Work program. This program is supported by the Government of Australia and aims to create opportunities and environments to allow for increased economic participation for Sri Lankan women at every level of the economy,” Arif said.

“Success, will, of course, require not just comprehensive strategies but also strong partnerships with institutions such as WIM, who share our vision and believe in these goals.

The WIM Top 50 Professional and Career Awards serve to recognise the contributions of strong women who excel in their careers, businesses and everyday life. It also brings to the fore important role models who can inspire others and provides an important platform to help awardees access more markets and networks around the world. We know, greater access means increased business,” she said.

“Over the past few years, we’ve built a strong partnership with WIM to provide skill-building and training opportunities for women on corporate boards and women who lead, or work in, corporate, micro and small businesses and we’re really excited to further strengthen this partnership and help more women enter and thrive in the workforce.

“I believe that we have already achieved this year’s theme of Taking Sri Lankan Women to the World with the launch of the first WIM Professional and Career Women Awards in Canada earlier this year, to reward exceptional Sri Lankan-origin women in Canada.

Founder/Chairperson Women in Management, Dr. Sulochana Segera said, “For the past seven years, WIM has consistently identified and recognised exceptional women leaders across every level, from corporates to the grassroots, and we are thrilled to congratulate the multitude of our awardees who continue to lead the charge and progress in their careers.

“As the Founder of WIM, I am delighted that we have become an organisation that is taking Sri Lankan women to the world and WIM has become a global brand,” she said.

Nominations for these awards are open till June 15, 2018. The awards ceremony will be held on August 7, at the Hilton Hotel, Colombo. Last year, around 100 women received awards for achievements across multiple categories.