Women’s Advancement in Banking in Emerging South Asian Countries

May 8, 2024

Multi-Country Report Covering Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka


Creating Gender Parity in Banking Leadership

Globally, commercial banks with more women in leadership roles report better risk management practices and higher profits than banks that don’t. Yet, the opportunities for career progression are heavily skewed against women in these institutions.

In response, IFC commissioned this study — Women’s Advancement in Banking in Emerging South Asian Countries — as a nuanced, data-driven examination of the challenges women face in progressing to leadership roles at 20 banks in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

The report, among the first of its kind in the region, identifies opportunities to help women advance to senior roles while also highlighting the systemic barriers — inequitable hiring, lack of fair evaluations, sociocultural constraints, and others — that tend to hold them back.

IFC uses global evidence and studies diversity and inclusion practices at these banks to offer recommendations tailored to the unique context of each study country. They include providing women with professional support and mentoring, helping them access informal professional networking, and ensuring objective evaluations. Flexible work hours and on-site childcare are also crucial to helping both women and men achieve work-life balance.

Many banks in our research group already show strong commitment to building more gender-balanced workplaces with supportive work environments for all employees. But concerted efforts in suggested areas can help the banking industry in South Asia help more women advance to leadership roles and reap the business benefits of a gender-diverse banking sector.

It is within our power to foster an environment that can achieve equality of representation within South Asia’s banking industry. It also makes good business sense.