Gender balance in the financial sector

Gender balance in the financial sector

April 28, 2022

Have a great morning/afternoon/evening everyone. And thank you for joining us today.

Let me start by saying that this event on ‘Gender Balance in the Financial Sector’ couldn’t be more timely.

Our world has been hit by multiple shocks, resulting in multiple crises. As we hoped to emerge from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine has added a new level of human tragedy and socio-economic costs everywhere.

Women were already bearing the brunt of the pandemic. As primary home care providers, they have paid the price over the past two years with their jobs, incomes and economic security. Today, the war in Ukraine adds to these difficulties, as food and energy prices soar and families are torn apart.

These crises add to long-standing barriers that prevent women and girls from reaching their full potential. Due to restrictions imposed by laws, ownership of assets, labor markets or access to education, health and financial services, women still do not fully participate in the global economy.

And without inclusive growth, we simply cannot achieve long-term economic resilience. In fact, IMF research shows that closing gender gaps can boost growth, strengthen macroeconomic and financial stability, and reduce income inequality.

Ensuring gender balance should therefore be a priority for policymakers as they seek to address current economic challenges. This is a moral question, of course, but from an economic point of view it is also macro-critical.

This is why preventing gender inequalities from worsening further and closing gender gaps are priorities for the Fund. We are preparing our first-ever strategy to integrate gender issues into the IMF’s core work in surveillance, lending, and capacity development. Our strategy focuses on gender issues that have significant macroeconomic and financial implications for countries.

Our aim is to provide detailed advice to policy makers on how countries can reduce gender gaps. The strategy will be rolled out gradually and we will continue to work closely with other partners in this process.

I would like to highlight two of these partners with whom we are co-organizing this event. IFC works with the private sector in emerging markets to accelerate financial inclusion through product innovation such as gender bonds. They apply a gender perspective to investments and advice on housing finance, credit and microfinance. OMFIF has been focusing on gender and diversity in the financial sector for almost 10 years. And today, she’s releasing the 9th edition of her Gender Balance Index, which we can’t wait to hear about.

At the IMF, we contribute to this work. Our Access to Financial Services Survey is unique in that it provides an annual, publicly available and comparable global database on access to and use of financial services. It now includes gender-disaggregated data, highlighting gaps in financial access by region. Unfortunately, the data shows that the discrepancies have persisted during the pandemic.

The Fund has also published important analyzes in this area. For example, our research shows that increased gender diversity on boards in the financial sector is associated with better financial results, reduced risk and greater financial stability.

My colleagues Ratna Sahay and Martin Čihák, who are leading the Fund’s work on this issue, will share some new findings with you.

Let me conclude by acknowledging that policy makers face difficult trade-offs every day, made worse by the war in Ukraine. In doing so, I urge them to consider that gender-sensitive policies are growth-friendly policies. And gender balance, including in leadership, is even more critical in times of crisis.

I hope you find today’s conversation useful. Thanks again for joining us.

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