A two-year partnership, known as SheWorks Sri Lanka, has led to a 12 percent increase in the number of women employed by 15 of the country’s leading companies, equating to over 12,000 more women in the workforce.
Initiated by Women in Work, a partnership between IFC—a member of the World Bank Group—and the Australian government, SheWorks Sri Lanka aimed to create more equal and respectful workplaces for women and men in the country’s workforce, while also boosting business productivity and growth.
Launched in March 2018, the partnership has seen the SheWorks companies implement 97 gender-smart actions focused on increasing women’s business leadership, ensuring recruitment and retention of female talent, exploring employer-supported childcare, promoting anti-sexual harassment mechanisms, and supporting women in the supply chain.
The partnership also led to a one-third increase in the number of women board directors in the SheWorks companies as well as a 21 percent rise in the number of women in leadership roles. Six companies saw an 8 to 60 percent increase in the share of women in middle management.
“For growth to be truly inclusive, strengthening opportunities for women in the workforce is a must and the SheWorks companies have shown how advancing workplace equality also improves business outcomes.” said Amena Arif, IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives. “We look forward to seeing other Sri Lankan companies step up and embrace the gender equality agenda in the workplace.”
Women’s participation in Sri Lanka’s labor force remains low at 34 percent, less than half that of men. Further, women in the 20-40 age group are the most disadvantaged, securing only 30 percent of jobs in the private sector, reflecting women’s increased care responsibilities that are associated with marriage and childbearing and other entrenched social norms. Against this backdrop, it is essential that companies create an environment where both men and women can thrive at work.
“SheWorks has delivered significant ‘gender shifts’ in Sri Lanka’s workforce that have ultimately improved the corporate bottom line. More companies are providing opportunities for women in non-traditional roles and male-dominated sectors, including in corporate leadership,” said David Holly, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. “These companies set an example for others to follow in promoting greater gender equality across the country.”
Representing over 170,000 employees, the 15 companies spread across Sri Lanka’s priority industries such as garments and apparel, tourism, information technology, banking and finance and conglomerates. SheWorks Sri Lanka members include AIA Insurance Lanka Ltd, Brandix Apparel Limited, CBL Group, DIMO, Fairway Holdings, Hela Clothing, Hemas Holdings PLC, Jetwing, John Keells Holdings, London Stock Exchange Group, MAS Holdings, National Development Bank, SANASA Development Bank, South Asia Gateway Terminals, and Standard Chartered Bank.
An IFC publication ‘Sri Lankan Business Advance Gender Equality’ provides in-depth information on the impact and business results of the SheWorks Sri Lanka partnership—from March 2018 to December 2019.