How the EBRD strives for a better gender balance

By Barbara Rambousek

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Three Tunisian women

With the call for #BalanceforBetter ringing loud across the world as we celebrate International Women’s Day today, we would like to take the opportunity to look at how the EBRD is helping the economies we invest in transition to a more balanced and equal society.

Through the EBRD’s gender and economic inclusion strategies, we promote the empowerment of women in our regions by helping to increase their access to three key areas: finance, skills and employment, and services.

With our Women in Business programme, the EBRD is creating entrepreneurship opportunities for women by matching them up with financing for their small businesses. The programme has committed over €480 million across 18 countries, reaching more than 35,000 women – women like Tamara Chigogidze, the founder and CEO of Georgia’s largest radio broadcasting company.

To date, the EBRD has supported over 190 projects addressing gender equality as well as youth or regional inclusion gaps. More than half of these projects focus specifically on enhancing gender equality, while the others enhance access to jobs, skills and services for youth, refugees, and populations in more remote areas. The EBRD’s total investments with economic inclusion and gender equality components total over €7.1 billion.

As part of its work enhancing women’s access to employment and skills, the EBRD supports its clients across our regions to promote equal opportunities in the workplace. With the EBRD’s support, our clients introduce diversity and inclusion policies and implement measures to attract and retain more women in their workforce and move up and sideways to enhance diversity across types of jobs.                                                       

Over the last few years, we have also substantially stepped up our efforts to prevent and fight gender-based violence. One such example is in Egypt, where the EBRD is providing support to Egyptian National Railways to identify, prevent and manage cases of sexual harassment in trains and on platforms. It also works with other development banks to build capacity in the private sector to recognise and address gender-based violence in the workplace, as well as in the communities where we operate.

The impact on gender equality is largest when investments are directly combined with policy reform and support for regulatory change. In many Central Asian countries, current labour laws still contain legacy prohibitions barring women from performing certain types of occupations. These rules have remained largely unchanged for 50 years, perpetuating gender stereotypes and restricting economic opportunities for women.

Following a long-running policy dialogue engagement in Kazakhstan, the Minister for Labour and Social Protection signed a legislative order in 2018 to remove 96 roles from this list, reducing the number of jobs women cannot hold by a quarter. We will continue over the next year to work with Central Asia to remove legal obstacles to women’s full labour force participation.

The green economy is one of the fastest growing sectors worldwide, offering many new opportunities for employment and innovation. With this in mind, the EBRD works with our clients to mainstream gender considerations in our climate change work. With the support of the Green Climate Fund, we are helping Egypt and Kazakhstan to identify the many opportunities for women’s economic participation in the renewable energy sector.

Striving for gender equality and a more diverse workforce is an internal commitment for the EBRD as well. In 2017, the EBRD was very proud to achieve the first level EDGE certification, which is the global benchmark for gender balance in the workplace. This year, we aim to qualify for the second level EDGE certification, while continuing to close our corporate gender gap, and improve our internal policies to foster a more inclusive work environment.

There is still a long road ahead to better gender balance in our regions. However, the EBRD is committed to continuing to explore innovative products, investments and programmes that will allow us to scale up our impact and promote gender equality and an inclusive transition for the economies we invest in.

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