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SL leads South Asia in women’s recruitment and board diversity in banking sector: IFC report

June 04, Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka holds a leading position amongst its South Asian counterparts in recruiting women at the entry level within the banking sector, a recent report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) disclosed.

According to the report titled ‘Women’s Advancement in Banking in Emerging South Asian Countries’, conducted in collaboration with the Australian government, Sri Lanka stands out with women comprising 46 per cent of new recruits and holding 27 percent of board positions.

This positions the country as the leader in board-level gender diversity among the assessed nations.

The research, focusing on private sector commercial banks in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, examined seven prominent private commercial banks in Sri Lanka, collectively representing 41 per cent of the market share.

It revealed that 38 per cent of the workforce in these banks comprises women, with 70 per cent expressing aspirations for senior roles.

However, the report uncovered disparities between women’s career aspirations and their actual progression within the sector.

Despite Sri Lanka’s proximity to gender parity in recruitment and workforce representation, the data revealed a decline in women’s representation from entry-level positions (40 per cent) to middle management (27 per cent) and further to senior management roles (20 per cent).

Numerous barriers were identified, including sociocultural constraints, lack of fair evaluations, and non-conducive work environments, impeding women’s advancement in the sector.

Sociocultural norms, which often burden women with unpaid care work and lead to career interruptions post-marriage and parenthood, were highlighted as a significant challenge.

Additionally, the absence of objective performance assessment criteria and prevalent biases in evaluation processes hindered women’s progress.

Furthermore, less than half of female respondents reported feeling confident at work, citing micro-aggressions such as frequent interruptions during communication.

Whilst efforts have been initiated by banks and policymakers to address these challenges, the report emphasised the need for stronger commitment from banking industry leaders to create inclusive workspaces.

IFC Regional Director for South Asia, Imad N. Fakhoury, stressed the importance of comprehensive and collective action to overcome these barriers, advocating for targeted efforts such as commitment to gender diversity, equitable workplaces, and supportive ecosystems.

The report concluded by recommending specific measures to bolster women’s advancement in commercial banking, including enhanced commitment and accountability for gender diversity and the creation of equitable and safe work environments.

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