‘Inbuilt system vital to support career women’ | Sunday Observer

‘Inbuilt system vital to support career women’

Executive Vice President, John Keells Holdings and Chief Marketing  Officer, John Keells Properties, Roshanie Jayasundera Moreas, Head of  Sector, John Keells Properties, Nayana Mawilmada, Senior Vice President,  Consumer Banking, DFCC Bank, Gillian Edwards and Partner, EY, Anoji de  Silva.
Executive Vice President, John Keells Holdings and Chief Marketing Officer, John Keells Properties, Roshanie Jayasundera Moreas, Head of Sector, John Keells Properties, Nayana Mawilmada, Senior Vice President, Consumer Banking, DFCC Bank, Gillian Edwards and Partner, EY, Anoji de Silva.

There is a significant improvement in the contribution by women to the economic development of the country, and an inbuilt system needs to be in place, to support career women.

A steady growth has been recorded in the number of women borrowers over the past decade and this shows their active participation in the finance sector through these transactions, Chief Marketing Officer John Keells Properties and Executive Vice President John Keells Holdings PLC, Roshanie Jayasundera Moreas said.

The participation of women in the stock market has seen a healthy growth in the past decade at a rate of 17%. There is also a growth in Real Estate investment by women from 9% in 2004 to 16% in 2019. This is an encouraging trend for the country, she said at a round table discussion on ‘Financial independence for women’ in Colombo last week.

“We have carried out a number of surveys to ascertain and provide solutions on what women need to retain them in employment. It is evident that they need supporting infrastructure and also want the employers to step up facilities such as providing quality centres for their children during working hours. These measures will attract more women to workplaces as their domestic situation has a big impact on women, during their careers,” she said.

“It is not a lack of risk appetite that deters women from investing, it is a lack of awareness. That is why education about the investment opportunities available, is vital to closing the investment gap.”

“I believe this is a pathway for Sri Lanka to become prosperous, as it becomes more inclusive, and empowers its women to succeed. At the same time, knowledge in today’s world is true power, and there is nothing that can prevent a woman from learning about investments and taking steps to build her financial independence on her own,” she said.

The women participation in the job market is 36% of the workforce and this is a low number.

Women need to not only preserve wealth, but create it as well. It is necessary to have a resource pool to create wealth and to this end investment opportunities especially in the Real Estate and property sectors, are necessary. We could see increased women participation in stock market trading and they should not only engage in quick capital investment, but longer term investment in blue chip companies as well, Partner, Earnst & Young, Anoji de Silva said.

Emphasising the importance of not having all your eggs in one basket, she said that it is necessary to have a secure, diverse spread of investments.

With regard to housing choices of people, she said that women find it difficult to have access to finance to invest in housing facilities, because borrowers need to produce ‘proof of repayment capacity’, women are disadvantaged when seeking financial assistance from the formal banking sector, she said.

There are only 16 to 20% women borrowers and the default rate is minimal. However, there are 40% joint borrowers at present.

“One of the biggest challenges is attracting women into the formal sector of employment especially to the banking sector. Therefore, measures are needed to ensure their financial independence as a key priority. Home and education remain as the top priority of women. These are fundamental requirements in women’s lives. The fear of losing what you has has slowed down the investment decisions of women,” Senior Vice President Consumer Banking DFCC Bank, Gillian Edwards said.

However, there is a shift and transition from what women need to achieve and job prospects. We can see that despite the low rate, the number of women borrowers is growing. It is important to educate women in micro finance aspects and bring them into the formal banking system, she said.

With Sri Lankan women joining the workforce, particularly in the corporate sector, at a higher rate than ever before, a new opportunity to bridge the wealth gap is emerging as women now turn their eyes towards the world of investment.

According to research conducted by John Keells Properties (JKP), the number of women investing in Real Estate is on the rise, with 16% of their client portfolio currently comprising women, as compared with a mere 9% in 2004.

While this trend is a direct result of increasing overall affluence and a rising per capita income, the increase of women seeking ownership of their own property is also tied to increasing financial independence among Sri Lankan women, and a growing desire to diversify into non-traditional investments.

While these are signs of progress, World Bank research also found that 71% of all assets controlled by women were concentrated in cash, and women tend on average to channel as much as 90% of their earnings back into their family – in keeping with established societal norms that place a low priority on the financial independence of women. Women also tend to take time off work to care for family members, which contributes to a lower investment rate among women.

When they do invest, women have tended to prefer traditional investment instruments such as fixed income securities such as Fixed Deposits and bonds that are stable but offer extremely limited investment returns. However, according to a study by Merrill Lynch (investment firm), in later life, 41% of women wish they had invested differently.

Having your own source of income and the freedom to spend it any way you choose, is being financially independent, and education is the key. Gender equality is something that is largely discussed these days with regard to pay, politics and positions. One thing that really needs attention is the investing gap. According to the research conducted by an investment platform, woman are less likely to invest than men.

It is important for women to achieve a sense of financial equality and independence. Investing is one of the best ways for women to ensure that they have the potential to accumulate wealth.

As studies show that women rank equally on risk taking, they should be encouraged to invest in non-traditional investment instruments.