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KARACHI:  Pakistan  Stock  Exchange  (PSX),  joined  over  70  other  stock  exchanges  around  the  world  to commemorate International Women’s Day in a befitting manner along with three leading gender diversity-promoting organizations - Women on Board (WOB) Pakistan, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Pakistan Business Council (PBC).

Fifteen leading Pakistani women professionals rang the bell to open the market. The ceremony was held to promote women in leadership and gender balance in Pakistan’s business sector.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018, Pakistan ranks 148 of 149 countries surveyed. Professional women in Pakistan face multiple challenges which often leads them to dropping out of the workforce.

The 2019 Ring the Bell for Gender Equality encourages participating stock exchanges to signal their commitment to gender equality by advocating for better gender balance and prioritising diversity.

This can include implementing women-friendly workplace policies, developing female-oriented investment products, reporting to shareholders on diversity practices, encouraging or requiring listed companies to disclose gender metrics, and increasing the number of women on their boards and in senior leadership.

Addressing the ceremony, Chairman PSX, Sulaiman S. Mehdi said, “The important role of women in any society cannot be denied or overlooked because it is women who lay the building blocks of our future generations by nurturing them.

As these younger generations grow up, the women amongst them take up their roles as working women while being mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives.

These ladies toil hard at their workplace while at the same time take care of their home responsibilities.

So it is in our best interest to provide for conducive and healthy work environments for them while encouraging more of them to join the workforce.”

Rahat Kaunain Hassan, the Chairperson of Women on Board Pakistan stated that, "WOB’s objective is to have at least 25% gender parity on the corporate boards in Pakistan by 2025".

Aftab Ahmad, CEO WOB, highlighted the findings of the survey of women’s representation in listed Pakistani companies.

Shabana Khawar, Principal Country Officer of IFC said, “There is a compelling business case for more gender diversity on boards and in business leadership - IFC research has shown that diverse boards enable companies to operate more efficiently and perform more effectively.”  Marketing & Business Development – 111-00-11-22, 32428954 Page 2 of 2

Ehsan Malik of PBC said, "PBC’s current thrust is ‘Make in Pakistan’. The objectives are to enhance employment, exports and import substitution, thus provide a strong foundation for sustainable growth of Pakistan’s GDP.

Building on the business case that diversity in the workplace leads to better performance, it is hoped that the solidarity shown by the key stakeholders at today’s event, also resonates in creating equal opportunities for women in our country.”

Farrukh Sabzwari, Chairman of Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) stated that, “The subject matter of gender diversity is very close to the new leadership at the SECP. 27 percent of our workforce in senior management is women and the overall 15 percent in terms of total workforce is also a good number when compared to other organisations.

A lot of work needs to be done to get more women on corporate boards and a concerted effort is also needed to help them get back into the workforce after they take a step back for family reasons mid-career.

I am looking forward to helping pass the same message onward to powers that be in Islamabad.” Besides the ceremony, the event featured two panel discussions in which different corporations and leading women professionals highlighted the diversity practices of their companies and their respective professional journeys. This event was held for the third year at PSX and was funded by IFC, PBC, PSX, WOB, and with the support of UK Aid from the UK Government.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019