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Boosting Growth through Diversity in Financial Leadership

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Globally, women lag men across the financial sector. They are underrepresented at all levels of the global financial system, from depositors and borrowers to private equity to regulators and bank board members.

David Lipton, the First Deputy Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, said that of the 1.7 billion people who do not have a basic bank account, 1 billion are women. He said lower access to bank credit, for example, robs people the opportunity to provide education to children.

In his welcome remarks, Hans Peter Lankes, IFC’s Vice President of Economics and Private Sector Development, said achieving better outcomes for women and improving businesses performance should not be mutually exclusive. Studies show that diversity at the board and management levels leads to improved decision-making of teams, helping boost innovation, productivity, and financial stability.

In the panel discussion that followed—moderated by Bloomberg News Reporter, Saleha MohsinAfsaneh Mashayekhi Beschloss, CEO of the investment firm RockCreek, noted that if companies and funds want to increase diversity they have to do a better job in providing internship opportunities to diverse groups.

In addition to internship opportunities, the financial sector needs to have mentors who can advise women, the panelists said. Mohsin pointed out that women also need to look for allies in their organizations who can support in advancing their career.

Discussing some of the challenges, Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, the Governor of the Central Bank of Malaysia, pointed out that lack of caregiving is a barrier for women in progressing in their careers. She described her experience of helping build a childcare center for 400 children, so women could balance their family life with work—without sacrificing their careers.

Another problem is violence against women, including in the workplace. Such violence “cuts the soul of the institutions,” Lipton said, noting that the violence has a ripple effect, hurting women, companies, and economies.

David Marsh, the Chairman of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, said it is disheartening to see a lack of women at the top levels of sovereign funds as well as at central banks of various countries. He noted that we need more female governors at the central banks of countries—there has been a decline in recent times.

The Q&A session for the event kicked off much earlier than usual, lasting for about 30 minutes. The session concluded with a lively exchange of perspectives between the panelists and audience.


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