More than eighty senior officials from around the world, including governors and deputy governors of central banks, representatives from the US Treasury, the UN, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, NGOs, and various other international development agencies attended our standing room only Executive Panel at the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings on April 21, 2017.
The panel was introduced by the Honourable Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s Minister of Finance, and the Honourable William (Bill) Morneau, Canada’s Minister of Finance, who delivered stimulating speeches outlining the Swedish and Canadian governments' commitments to gender equality. The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of International Development and La Francophonie delivered closing remarks and emphasized that everyone benefits when women are included—whether we are talking about health, the peace process, or finance. The panel also hosted a special guest speaker, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women, who focused on the importance of empowering women and mobilizing development partners around actions to accelerate women’s economic empowerment.
Five distinguished panelists discussed the role financial regulators/supervisors, governments, international development institutions and agencies, private sector participants, researchers, and other stakeholders can play in promoting gender equality and the economic empowerment of women. Key highlights included:
Ceyla Pazarbaşioğlu, Senior Director, Finance & Markets Global Practice, World Bank Group and Board Member, Toronto Centre noted that there is a significant gap in terms of women’s involvement in the financial institutions and/or regulatory authorities, and that this gap is most noticeable at the senior management level. She also brought forth that the inclusion of women and inclusive finance as a whole are important factors to promote sustainable growth.
Michael Wiegand, Director, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation noted that financial inclusion can drive women’s economic empowerment. He spoke to the importance of women’s participation in the workforce in terms of economic development and growth, and elaborated on the legal barriers that exist. He also shared some country examples and elaborated on the importance of improving data on gender and financial inclusion.
Yannick Glemarec, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women, noted that all government policies, including development initiatives, should be assessed on their gender consequences and should strive to be gender neutral. He also touched upon the importance of technological innovations in enabling financial inclusion and suggested that regulators should encourage digital payments.
Martin Čihák, Advisor and Unit Chief, Monetary and Capital Markets Department, IMF elaborated on the current state of the IMF’s analysis of the macroeconomic implications of the gender gap, referring to the findings of two recent IMF studies. Among other results, the IMF found a high correlation between income inequality and weak supervision: the weaker the regulation and supervision, the higher the gap. He mentioned Toronto Centre’s work in helping countries to establish better financial regulatory and supervisory systems. He highlighted the importance of obtaining more gender-differentiated data to support better analysis, and noted that gender issues are becoming a topic of discussions between the IMF and its member countries.
Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO, Women’s World Banking spoke to the difficulties women face in using financial services. Based on its research, Women's World Banking found that there are three main things that are important for women: (i) convenience - easy access; (ii) personal security - a safe place to put their savings; and (iii) confidentiality. She noted that digital finance fits very well in addressing these concerns. She also talked about how the know-your-customer (KYC) requirements act as an impediment for women since, for example, they are not provided with birth certificates in some jurisdictions.
The discussion was moderated by Babak Abbaszadeh, President & CEO, Toronto Centre.
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