Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 6, 2020—For
the fifth consecutive year, IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, partnered
with the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) to ring the opening bell for trading
in celebration of International Women’s Day 2020. An annual global gender
initiative, Ring the Bell encourages the private sector to expand opportunities
for women as leaders, employees, entrepreneurs, and consumers to promote
While progress has been achieved in educational and health outcomes, Sri
Lanka lags behind in women’s participation in the workforce with only
34 percent, compared to 76 percent for men.
At the same time, the latest research by IFC and CSE points to a rise in
the number of women board directors. In 2019, 9.6 percent of listed company
board directors were women – a significant rise from 8.5 percent in 2018
and 8.14 percent in 2017.
“Women in the workforce remain among the least utilised economic and business
resources – closing this gender gap would yield exponential results,”
said Dumith Fernando, Director at CSE. “We at CSE are encouraged to note
that more of our listed companies have welcomed the participation of strong,
independent women on their boards. This is evident through a steady increase
over the years of the number of listed companies with women holding corporate
board seats, which stands at 9.6 percent as at January 2020.”
Accelerating the pace of gender parity could generate financial returns
in the private sector and lead to important economic gains in emerging
markets. Global research indicates that companies with female CEOs and
CFOs have produced superior stock price performance, compared to the market
average, and companies with more than one woman on the board return 3.7
percent a year over those that have none.
“It is very heartening to see that these statistics show that companies
in Sri Lanka are walking the talk and we are on the right trajectory. However,
this pace of progress is still marginal and needs to be accelerated to
match global trends,” said Amena Arif, IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka
and the Maldives. “Therefore it is important to continue to take a multipronged
approach to have more women in the workforce while building a sustainable
pipeline for more women to take on leadership roles.”
The ‘Women on Boards’ program is part of IFC’s broader efforts to increase
women’s private sector participation and leadership by promoting the adoption
of corporate governance best practices among Sri Lankan companies. IFC’s
work in this area is supported by the Australian Government under the IFC-DFAT
Women in Work program.
“Achieving gender equality and women’s economic empowerment is important
for Sri Lanka in building a sustainable and high performing workforce,”
said David Holly, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
“Australia believes equality and diversity are crucial for a more inclusive
and prosperous economy that leads to success for women and men, families
and communities, businesses and the world at large.”
The “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” event is a partnership of IFC,
Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative,
in ETFs, and the World
Federation of Exchanges.
This year, the event is being held in
over 90 stock exchanges around the globe.
IFC—a sister organization of the World Bank
and member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution
focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work with more than
2,000 businesses worldwide, using our capital, expertise, and influence
to create markets and opportunities where they are needed most. In fiscal
year 2019, we delivered more than $19 billion in long-term financing for
developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end
extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit