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Marginal increase in women representation at board level in listed companies: Research


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  •   Overall results indicate firms with higher gender diversity are likely to be more positive than negative
  •   Companies with higher board gender diversity, women in leadership positions exhibit better financial indicators in terms of ROE, ROTA and P/E ratio
  •  IFC Country Manager says women are fundamental to inclusive growth 

By Charumini de Silva

Latest research by the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) and IFC, a member of the World Bank, indicates that there is a marginal increase of women representation at the board level of listed companies, while suggesting that empowering women in the workplace can also generate financial returns in the private sector.

According to the report ‘The Case for Gender Diversity Among Sri Lanka’s Business Leadership’, about 8.5% of listed company board directors are women – a marginal increase from that of 8.14% last year. 

The report was released at this year’s Ring the Bell for Gender Equality’ event to mark the International Women’s Day 2019 in Colombo on 7 March at the CSE, which also launched the second edition of the ‘Women on Boards Directory’, a crucial repository of 136 women directors on the boards of CSE-listed companies in 2018.

The overall results of the report done during the past three years highlights that the relationship between gender diversity on the board, in senior management and the financial performance of the 30 largest listed companies on the CSE is likely to be more positive than negative, although further research is needed. 

Speaking at the event, IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives Amena Arif said as business leaders, entrepreneurs, employees and consumers, women are fundamental to inclusive growth.  

The report makes the case for greater gender diversity on Sri Lanka’s corporate boards and in senior management by highlighting the value proposition of such diversity for companies, communities and ultimately the country. 

Global research shows that companies with at least one female director have better share price performance and return on equity, and companies with more than one woman on the board return 3.7% a year over those that have none.

According to the report in Sri Lanka, on average, companies with higher board gender diversity and in business leadership positions has exhibited better financial indicators than those with lower diversity, in terms of return on equity, return on total assets and price- to-earnings ratio.

It also said that equity and fairness are important arguments on their own to justify promoting gender diversity among Sri Lanka’s corporate boards and senior management regardless of the financial utility that might result from having more women at the top.

The ‘Women on Boards’ directory is an update to capture any changes that have taken place since 2018 to accurately reflect the experience and the skills of female directors of CSE listed companies. The goal is to have a repository of qualified women directors that inspires other women to advance, grow and showcase the important role women on boards play in Sri Lanka in different industries. 

“We view the latest statistics on ‘Women on Boards’ in Sri Lanka as an important catalyst for fresh commitments to diversity at the top and revitalized conversations about harnessing the economic potential of more gender-balanced boards in the country,” Arif said. 

 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. This campaign is a continued collaboration between CSE, Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID) and IFC.

IFC’s work in this area is supported by the Australian Government under an IFC-DFAT Women in Work partnership.

The ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality’ program is a partnership of IFC, Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, UN Global Compact, UN Women, Women in ETFs, and the World Federation of Exchanges. This year, the event will be held in over 70 stock exchanges around the globe.


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