Advancing Women in Leadership Roles: Inclusion Insights

August 17, 2023

Women’s representation in leadership positions remains a pressing issue globally. According to OMFIF’s 2023 Gender Balance Index, at the current rate of progress, it would take over a century to achieve gender parity in leadership roles for central banks and major financial institutions. Despite significant advancements in recent years, women still face numerous barriers and biases that prevent them from reaching the highest levels of leadership in various sectors.

Why Women in Leadership Matters

Research has shown that companies with more women in senior positions are more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experiences — among many other benefits. 

Heather Mae Kipnis, International Finance Corporation’s Acting Co-Manager and Global Product Lead, International stated in OMFIF’s GBI, “When you have gender balance in senior investment teams, private equity and venture capital funds can generate up to 20% higher returns. We also know that among private sector companies, those with the most gender diverse boards have outperformed the least diverse with 2.6 times greater return on invested capital.”

Sarah Buitoni, Women’s World Banking’s Director of Leadership & Diversity Programs, also noted, “More diverse institutions are going to be better at serving a more diverse client base.”

How Women’s World Banking Supports Women Leaders: Programs

Women’s World Banking has designed a range of programs to building the pipeline of women leaders in the finance sector by developing women from regulatory agencies and financial service providers. Our programs develop the skills and behaviors to expand impact and lead authentically while supporting senior leaders of any gender to act as a sponsor and advocate for women’s leadership. This combined investment supports institutions in building a diverse workforce, developing talent, and creating more inclusive cultures.

Our Women in Leadership program is designed for high-potential women leaders and equips them with the tools to develop their leadership vision and an action plan to make that vision a reality.

As a next step in their professional development, Women in Leadership graduates now serving in senior roles can attend our Women Advancing Leadership program. This covers topics such as emotional intelligence, influence and persuasion, mapping power dynamics, motivating teams and leading change. Participants gain self-awareness of their unique leadership contribution and chart a path forward.

We also provide custom leadership programs to senior executive teams focusing on individual and team effectiveness, leadership and management skills and leading organizational change. Our team also designs custom interventions at the sector level to support HR leaders and gender inclusion champions to introduce and advance internal change initiatives for accelerating women’s career progression within their institution.

Through our programs, we have supported 1,132 women from 307 institutions in 97 countries. 80% of post-program survey respondents experienced a positive change in their scope of responsibility following the program.

See more about the work we do and its impact.

How Women’s World Banking Supports Women Leaders: Research

Our recent research in Indonesia and Nigeria sheds light on the barriers and opportunities for women in leadership roles, while examining the unique contexts of these diverse markets.

According to recent data, women hold only 19% of board of director seats across all banks in Indonesia. The gender gap is even more pronounced in fintech institutions. Similarly, Nigeria’s finance industry struggles with low relative participation of women in leadership roles. These statistics highlight the urgent need for targeted efforts to address gender inequality in leadership positions.

The report on Nigeria’s finance industry highlights several drivers of change that have contributed to the increase in women’s representation in leadership. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) played a significant role in improving gender diversity, mandating 30% minimum female representation on boards of commercial banks and a 40% female representation in top management positions. Changes in social norms, encouraging education and career training for women, have also contributed to contributed to more women seeking out professional careers in the financial sector. Additionally, companies implementing policies that support work-life balance and provide opportunities for advancement have made a positive impact. Professional associations, networks, and mentoring relationships have also emerged as crucial factors in enabling and championing women’s leadership.

In Indonesia, recognizing the importance of women’s empowerment in the workplace, the government has set strategic objectives to address this issue. For instance, the Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises has called for 25% of board of director positions to be held by women by the end of 2023. In financial institutions, opportunities to advance women are expanding as companies are beginning to implement gender strategies and mitigate the impact of bias at the institutional level. Our report suggests the collecting, monitoring, and reporting of disaggregated data should be a critical priority for companies.

Promoting women’s leadership in Nigeria and Indonesia, and across the world requires a multi-faceted intervention by regulators and policymakers and private enterprises, as well as shifts in social norms. The reports emphasize the importance of implementing policies and initiatives that empower women, provide equal opportunities, and challenge gender biases. By fostering an environment that supports women’s advancement, both countries can unlock the full potential of their female workforce and drive economic growth and innovation, and other markets can take these learnings to advance women in leadership on a global scale.