International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has partnered with the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE), United Nations (UN) Women and the UN Global Compact for a sixth consecutive year to organise the "Ring the Bell for Gender Equality" event.
While emphasising the role of women in shaping a more equal future, the annual event highlights the link between gender equality, sustainability and inclusive growth.
This year's event, on Sunday, came at a critical moment when the economic and social consequences of Covid-19 continue to disproportionately impact women.
Research shows that women have borne the brunt of added household burdens and have lost their jobs at about 1.8 times the rate of men. Studies also show that female talent is among the least utilised economic and business resources around the world, and the pandemic is worsening the situation.
Making even small inroads in closing the global gender gap could quickly yield strong results, with the potential to increase global gross domestic product by $12 trillion by 2025, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report.
"We are extremely pleased that the Dhaka Stock Exchange – along with over 100 other stock exchanges around the world – joined hands with IFC and other partners to 'Ring the Bell for Gender Equality,'" said Shibli Rubayat-Ul- Islam, chairman of Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission.
"We remain fully committed to closing the gender gap and promoting the role of women in leadership, particularly in listed companies in Bangladesh. This will help private sector companies create value and promote inclusive growth," he added.
A 2020 IFC-DSE study indicates that around 18% of the members of boards directors, of companies listed in Bangladesh, are women. In terms of women on boards of listed companies, Bangladesh tops the South Asia region with a higher average than the global average of 17%. However, only 5% of women board directors are currently independent directors.
Special guest of the programme Md Eunusur Rahman, chairman of DSE, said, "Gender equality is a fundamental human right, and today there is more recognition than ever that women bring different experiences, perspectives and skills that make contributions to decisions that work better for all."
He said women's economic empowerment is considered a key driver of sustainable development and a key corporate sustainability issue. Despite this, new UN Sustainable Stock Exchange research shows that women are still underrepresented in key positions in corporations around the world. Women worldwide only make up a very low proportion of executive positions.
Md Eunusur Rahman also mentioned that Bangladesh topped its neighbors in the latest World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index. In the report, Bangladesh ranked 50th among 153 countries.
Corporate Governance Officer of IFC Lopa Rahman said, "There has never been a better time to work on economic gender parity. The Covid-19 pandemic has created an opportunity to pursue more focused, value-creating strategies – such as gender-smart investing – to help private sector companies sustain economies and protect jobs."
"Women have to work twice as hard to succeed in a male-dominated world of work, and at the same time, women carry a significantly larger part of the unpaid domestic care burden. This care burden and other gendered access barriers have been amplified by Covid-19," said Mia Seppo, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh.
"Despite this, we see plenty of evidence of women's resilience, innovation and leadership. In a future, gender equal world, there is no limit to how far women can go," she added.