Let me start by saying that this event on “Gender Balance in the Financial Sector” could not be more timely.
Our world has been hit by several shocks, resulting in multiple crises. Just as we were hoping 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 biggest brunt of the pandemic. As primary caregivers at home, they paid the price in the last two years with their jobs, incomes, and economic security. Now, the war in Ukraine is adding to these hardships, as food and energy prices skyrocket, and families get dislocated.
These crises add to long-standing barriers that prevent women and girls from realizing their full potential. Because of restrictions in laws, asset ownership, labor markets, or access to education, health, and financial services – women still do not fully participate in the global economy.
And without gender-inclusive growth, we simply cannot achieve long-term economic resilience. In fact, IMF research shows that closing gender gaps can stimulate growth, strengthen macroeconomic and financial stability, and reduce income inequality.
Ensuring gender balance, therefore, ought to be a priority for policymakers as they seek to navigate the current economic challenges. It is a moral issue, of course, but from an economic standpoint, it is also macro-critical.
So, 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 in the IMF’s core work of surveillance, lending, and capacity development. Our strategy focuses on gender concerns that have significant macroeconomic and financial implications for countries.
Our goal is to provide granular advice to policymakers 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 want to highlight two such partners with whom we are co-organizing this event. The IFC has been working with the private sector in emerging markets to accelerate financial inclusion through product innovation such as gender bonds. They are applying a gender lens to investments and advice on housing finance, credit, and microfinance. OMFIF has focused on gender and diversity in the financial sector for nearly 10 years. And today, it is releasing the 9th edition of its Gender Balance Index, which we are eager to hear about.
We at the IMF contribute to this work. Our Financial Access Survey is unique in providing 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 show that the gaps have persisted during the pandemic.
The Fund has also published important analyses in this area. For instance, our research shows that increasing gender diversity on boards in the financial sector is associated with stronger financial outcomes, 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 with you some new results.
Let me close by acknowledging that policymakers face difficult trade-offs every day, made worse by the war in Ukraine. As they do so, I urge them to consider that gender‑responsive policies are growth‑enhancing policies. And gender balance, including in leadership, is even more critical in crisis times.
I hope you find today’s conversation useful. Thank you again for joining us.
Opening Remarks by Deputy Managing Director Antoinette M. Sayeh, at the launch of the 9th Edition of the Gender Balance Index Report with the IMF, IFC and OMFIF