Dear readers,

8 March was International Women’s Day and in this issue we concentrate on how increasing gender diversity in organisations can boost performance.  Let us as a community target 8 March 2020 as a cut-off date to bring about meaningful change for gender diversity in the organisations in which we work. We should start planning ahead and form work groups and communities to execute and showcase the efforts our organizations are putting into this agenda. This 2020 target is 1 of 5 changes ACCA is calling for; the others being (i) closing the pay gap between men and women, (ii) eliminating gender inequality by measuring and reporting on gender stats, (iii) committing to training and development to create equality in the pipeline and (iv) looking at and mirroring the success stories of societies that are benefiting from gender equality. 

There are two studies one can cite here; the first is the study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute (2014) considered the gender mix in over 3,000 companies across the key senior management roles of CEO, CFO, Operations and Shared Services. It shows that companies where women accounted for more than 15% of senior management achieved average return on equity of 14.7% in 2013, compared with 9.7% achieved by companies where women constituted fewer than 10% of senior managers. The second study by McKinsey shows that companies with the highest share of women on their executive committees outperform companies with all-male committees by 41% in terms of return on equity, and by 56% in their operating results (EBIT margin1) (McKinsey & Company 2010). McKinsey suggests that this could be because they exhibit some different leadership behaviors that complement those of men.

Gender data is easily the most readily available data that can be collected in organizations. Both HR and Finance can collaborate to develop and report on metrics that show how men and women in the workplace are performing in a meaningful way. These exercises can then be built upon to show how diversity can add to shareholder and stakeholder value. These are not just words when one views people as a fundamental value adding capital that is able to add to the net financial capital as well as the firm’s social and relationship stock.

A look at the World Bank gender portal tells us that for MENA the percentage of women in the labour force has been between 20% and 30% for the last 14 years, unemployment amongst the women labor force is 20.4% compared to 8.8% in men in 2014. These figures speak for themselves of the task ahead. In South Asia the picture is better with percentage of women in the labour force fairly constant at 40% over the last 14 years, a best of 45% in 2005 and in 2014 closing at 38.9% again we need to urgently adopt gender diversity policies and practices.

Let me end with a quote from the above website:
“No country, community, or economy can achieve its potential or meet the challenges of the 21st century without the full and equal participation of women and men, girls and boys. Failure to fully unleash women’s productive potential represents a major missed opportunity with significant consequences for individuals, families, and economies.”

Arif Masud Mirza

Head of Policy – MENASA

Featured below are brief commentaries on current topics impacting finance professionals in the region:
The Gender Agenda in the Middle East
by Nav Dulay
It is imperative that businesses, particularly in the private sector place a significant emphasis on attracting, retaining and developing women to further promote a diverse ecosystem.  
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Sri Lanka’s Women in Finance are Bold for Change! 
by Savithri  Rodrigo
Sri Lanka has been fortunate to have achieved commendable progress especially in health and education in gender equality prompting equal literacy rates and tertiary education being significantly more among women than men.
The Balancing Act
by Amina Munawar
On a national level, although there is improvement over the years, but we still lack adequate labour and non-discrimination laws and their strict enactment. 

Read more >
The Game Changing Silk Route by Arif Masud Mirza
As a host nation, risk management is going to be a vital part of sustaining the long term benefits of CPEC. It is vital the tone is set from the top at the very start so that all parties buy into the idea of an egalitarian approach to the project. 

Read more >
Pakistan’s Immovable Property Gambit: Impact on Stakeholders by Omer Zaheer Meer
The recent developments in the Federal Budget and later on in the Finance Act 2016 regarding immovable property shook the realty sector within Pakistan which was taken by surprise. 
  Look out for our next commentary in the next quarter...
Disclaimer: The content of this periodical as the name suggests is a commentary and should not be relied upon for decision making. The articles may contain opinion as well as fact with which readers may disagree or agree.
Editorial Board
Arif Masud Mirza
Malik Mirza, FCCA
Omer Zaheer Meer, FCCA