In Conversation with Caroline Abel, Catia Tomasetti, Jorgovanka Tabaković, and Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus: Paving the Way for Female Leadership in Central Banks

February 1, 2022

In financial institutions around the world, women continue to be underrepresented in senior leadership, with only 14 holding the governorship at a Central Bank. Previously in this series, Women’s World Banking spoke with the Governors of the Central Banks of Malaysia, San Marino, Serbia, and Seychelles about navigating success and promoting inclusiveness in their careers. Read Part I here.

In Part II, the Governors share their visions for the future of female leadership in Central Banks, offering advice on how to bolster the female talent pipeline and nurture a more inclusive workplace environment.

About the Governors:

Caroline Abel has served as Governor of the Central Bank of Seychelles since March 2012. She is the first woman in Seychelles appointed to this position.

Catia Tomasetti has served as President of the Central Bank of San Marino since May 2018. She is the first female to have been appointed to this position by The Great and General Council (the Parliament of the Republic of San Marino).

Jorgovanka Tabaković has served as Governor of the National Bank of Serbia since August 2012. She is the second woman to hold this position and has served longer than any predecessor, male or female, in the past 95 years.

Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus has served as Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia (the Central Bank of Malaysia) since July 2018, having previously served as Deputy Governor. She is the second woman to hold this position.

Q: What do you think we need to do to build a larger pipeline of women leaders to take on the role of Central Bank Governors?

Governor Abel: We need to do some more work to encourage young girls to enter the field. When they are in school and preparing for potential careers, women in the field can be mentors to guide them, while society is also changing to recognize that we need to put certain systems in place to support women. It has to be a chain that starts from a very early age.

President Tomasetti: The culture of gender diversity is the key. Appointing women to various leadership positions at Central Banks on the basis of equal opportunity provisions is the first step to help women rise to important positions. Equal opportunity planning should be based on concrete goals and measures, as well as the follow-up on their success.

Governor Nor Shamsiah: What we have tried to do in Bank Negara is to support women so that they do not need to make difficult choices between prioritizing work or family. This will enable as many women as possible to remain in the workforce, and to give and be their best in both their professional and personal lives. Some of these [efforts] include opening a childcare center near our main office. We have also rolled out more and more flexible working arrangements over the years, which enable parents to attend to their children in the mornings or evenings. Of course, there is even more flexibility in the post-pandemic world. All these will allow any working parent – both fathers and mothers – to design a schedule or arrangement that best meets their situation. To encourage men to share domestic responsibilities, we are also taking steps to enhance our paternity leave policy.

Governor Tabaković: I strongly believe that each position should be occupied by an expert with appropriate knowledge. My associates managing the National Bank of Serbia’s organizational units are experts with huge experience, regardless of their gender. It makes no difference whether someone is a man or a woman: the job is the same. Women admittedly are dominant in the National Bank of Serbia, but not because of their gender; rather, it’s because of the way they do their job. As the Governor, I can confirm that at the National Bank of Serbia we don’t have any quotas for promoting women to managerial positions. I know that such a balanced and modern approach has given a significant contribution to the great success that we, as an institution, are recording in meeting our mandate.

Q: In 10 years, what progress do you hope to see in Central Banks in terms of female leadership?

President Tomasetti: Central Banks should increase female leadership and promote it to achieve a better diversity across all management levels, but also as a means by which to improve innovation and creativity. 

Governor Nor Shamsiah: I hope that there will be many more women governors to come! At the same time, I also hope that those women get the job of Governor not because of their gender, but because they are the best candidates for the job.

Governor Tabaković: Women are still underrepresented in certain societal areas and roles; nevertheless, women are gaining ground in central banking. I believe that the time of greater inclusion of women in crucial societal positions is coming, one of them certainly being that of a Central Bank Governor.

Governor Abel: There’s a lot of women at the deputy level, and if we put the necessary support systems in place and recognize women for their performance, then I am hopeful that we will see more women taking on the Governorship.

Q: What practices or programs at your institution could serve as a lesson for others in how to cultivate a more inclusive workplace?

President Tomasetti: I make an effort to create a workplace where differences are celebrated, respected, and encouraged and where equality, diversity, and inclusion are at the heart of everything I do. To build a more inclusive workplace, I’ve promoted the creation of our “Diversity & Inclusion” committee involving employees, many of whom are women. I’ve noticed that an inclusive leadership in the workplace has stimulated, and still stimulates, my employees to voice their ideas and perspectives. At the same time, inclusive leadership supports fruitful cooperation among diverse employees.

Governor Nor Shamsiah: One of our core organizational values is respect for diversity. In our experience, a policy of respect for diversity, meritocracy, and transparency works best to alleviate concerns across genders. Men and women have different challenges, and we need to allocate necessary resources to level the playing field. Our approach of giving both men and women equal opportunities to develop and rewarding based on merit has worked for us. We have an equal representation of men and women, and women account for more than 40 percent of our senior officers.

Governor Abel: In our institution, we celebrate both genders. For example, we commemorate both Women’s Day and Men’s Day. But one important thing we say when we celebrate Women’s Day is that we recognize that men support women, and when it’s Men’s Day, we also recognize that women support men. At the end of the day, we are working together, and we have to make sure that everybody sees that both are being treated equally. We need both to succeed.

We are grateful for the support of the core funder of our 2021 Leadership & Diversity Programs, the Credit Suisse Foundation.