International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group, recently partnered with the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) as part of the global initiative titled Ring the Bell for Gender Equality for the fifth consecutive year.
The initiative was formed to celebrate the International Women's Day 2020, said a press release.
The annual event was backed by the government of Japan and held in Dhaka to encourage the private sector to expand opportunities for women as leaders, employees, entrepreneurs and consumers to promote sustainable development.
A new IFC study titled Portrait of Bangladesh's Independent Directors showed that around 18 percent of board seats in Bangladesh are held by female directors, which is higher than other South Asian countries. However, it also showed that only five percent of all independent directors of 294 DSE listed companies are women.
Bangladesh also tops its neighbors in the latest World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index, ranking 50th among 153 countries. But in economic participation and opportunity, the country stands at 141st position, with only 38 percent of its women active in the labor force, as compared to 84 percent of men, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020.
"Sustainable development depends on an equitable distribution of resources for today and for the future," said Md Eunusur Rahman, chairman of DSE.
"It cannot be achieved without gender equality. Women's empowerment is a key factor for achieving sustainable economic growth, social development, and environmental sustainability," he added.
IFC research has highlighted that correcting gender imbalances could lead to important economic, environmental, social, and governance gains in emerging and frontier markets. Still, women hold only 16.9 percent of board seats globally, only 4.4 percent of global CEO, 5.3 percent board chair positions, and 12.7 percent of global CFO positions.
"As investors, IFC sees the value of having equal gender representation on company boards," said Wendy Werner, IFC country manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal.
"It is not only the right thing to do – it is also smart business strategy. We know too that companies with more than one woman on their board have returns over three and a half percent of those that don't, clearly showing gender equality too yields business dividends," he added.