The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, celebrated International Women’s Day, on Tuesday, at a “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” event hosted by the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) in Cairo.
The annual event, held by the IFC and stock exchanges around the world since 2014, aims to raise awareness of the pivotal role women play supporting private sector growth and development.
The Cairo event, held virtually due to restrictions as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, brought together representatives from international agencies, Egypt’s government, and the private sector. Together, they rang the bell to open trading on the Egyptian Exchange at 10 am local time.
Speakers included: the IFC’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Beatrice Maser; Mohamed Farid, Chairperson of the EGX Board of Directors; Walaa El Husseiny, CEO of UN Global Compact; and Christine Arab, the Country Representative for UN Women in Egypt.
“The celebration of International Women’s Day reflects the commitment of the Egyptian Exchange to enhance women’s economic empowerment and bridge the gender gap,” said Farid, “Empowering women calls for developing the work environment and motivating women to increase their participation in the labour market. This will unleash their energies and capabilities, allowing them to play a greater role achieving economic and social development goals.”
Maser added, “Gender equality is essential for sustainable private sector development, and the need to recognise the excellence women bring to the table is now more important than ever.”
She noted that there is a need to support women’s leadership, family-friendly policies, and digital infrastructure that encourages flexible work for women will support business growth, and equal access to opportunities. At the same time, there needs to be an improved quality of life not just for women, but for everyone.
An IFC study published in 2019, titled “Women on Board in Egypt”, found that companies with women on their boards achieve much higher returns and stronger financial performance compared to those run by men alone.
In Egypt, however, women hold only 14% of board seats, and their overall participation in the private sector is far below that of their male counterparts. The same is true across much of the Middle East.
Following the report, the IFC launched the Women on Boards and in Business Leadership Program, to help talented women ascend to senior management and company board positions in Egypt.
The programme is being implemented in partnership with the Egyptian Institute of Directors and the American University in Cairo (AUC). The programme is implemented in partnership with Japan’s Ministry of Finance.
In 2020, the IFC launched a three-year advisory programme to help private sector companies in Egypt tap into the country’s large, underutilised female talent pool.
This is the seventh “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” event, in partnership with The World Federation of Exchanges, the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, UN Global Compact, UN Women, and Women in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). This year, Ring the Bell took place at several exchanges in the Middle East and North Africa, including in Jordan, Morocco, and the West Bank and Gaza.