IFC’s SheWorks partnership to increase role of women in business | Sunday Observer

IFC’s SheWorks partnership to increase role of women in business

The panel discussion in progress.
The panel discussion in progress.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, brought together CEOs of leading companies to mark the anniversary of the SheWorks partnership in Sri Lanka.

The partnership, supported by the Australian government, works with 18 leading employers that have pledged to implement measures to enhance employment opportunities for women.

This collaboration has led to the companies making 99 gender-smart commitments focused on increasing women’s business leadership, ensuring recruitment and retention of female talent, exploring employer-supported childcare, promoting anti-sexual harassment mechanisms and supporting women in the value chain. Of the commitments, 72 percent have been realised or are on shedule for completion by the mid-2020.

“The achievement of the SheWorks Sri Lanka partnership is an indication of the business case for gender-smart solutions and the vital role employers can play in improving the role and participation of women in the workplace,” said IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Amena Arif. “For sustainable growth, we must harness the power of diversity, in particular of our talented women.”

IFC also released a publication, ‘Making Progress: Sri Lankan Businesses Advance Gender Equality at the Workplace’. The report highlights that 13 companies have registered an increase in women’s employment from 28 to 30 percent. The presence of women in senior leadership has increased from 19 to 23 percent, in middle management from 20 to 21 percent, in the executive cadre from 30 to 32 percent, and in the non-executive cadre from 28 to 30 percent.

Sri Lanka has achieved the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education and gender parity in secondary education.

In contrast, women’s participation in the economy remains low, at 36 percent. 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. The SheWorks partnership aims to bridge the gap.

“The Women in Work is a flagship program and partnership for the IFC and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to galvanise conversations and action on gender-smart policies in the country. This is key to the Australian government’s overarching efforts to advance economic opportunities for women in Sri Lanka,” said Australian Deputy High Commissioner, Victoria Coakley.

“The SheWorks Sri Lanka partnership goes beyond the 18 participating companies and acts as an exemplar for companies across the island to improve their businesses via the introduction of fair and inclusive policies,” she said. The private sector, which accounts for nine out of 10 jobs in developing countries, plays a critical role in creating better employment opportunities for women.

SheWorks is part of IFC’s broader effort to help companies address gender gaps in employment and drive gains in productivity, competitiveness and innovation.

SheWorks members are across Sri Lanka’s priority sectors, and include 18 companies; AIA Insurance Lanka, Brandix Lanka, CBL Group, Diesel and Motor Engineering, Fairway Holdings, Hela Clothing, Hemas Holdings, Jetwing, John Keells Holdings, London Stock Exchange Group, MAS Holdings, Melwire Group, National Development Bank, Richard Pieris and Company, SANASA Development Bank, South Asia Gateway Terminals and Standard Chartered Bank and Virtusa.