Mazars, the international audit and advisory firm, and OMFIF, the independent think tank for central banking, economic policy and public investment, recently revealed how central banks and other official financial institutions are implementing measures to improve gender diversity within their ranks, but still count too few women in senior roles.

The OMFIF Gender Balance Index tracks the presence of men and women in senior positions at central banks, sovereign funds and public pension funds. The study, now in its seventh year, scores and ranks institutions based on gender balance in their management and boards.

Spain tops the central banks index, followed by Aruba, Iceland and Malaysia. Asia Pacific’s score has shown the greatest improvement, while Europe remains the best-performing region. The central banks’ global score remains disappointing at 27.5, but has risen by 11%, from 24.8 in 2019. This is the second consecutive year of improvement on the score of 19 registered in 2018. A score of 100 would reflect a perfect balance.

Out of 173 central banks, one-fifth have no women at all in senior positions or monetary policy committees. More than half of these are in the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region. Only 14 central banks globally are headed by a woman, including the European Central Bank led by Christine Lagarde, its first female president.

“It is encouraging to note that the careers of more women are progressing within central banks and that diversity is being legitimised as a valuable and necessary consideration in recruitment,” said Danae Kyriakopoulou, OMFIF’s chief economist and director of research.

“There is wider acceptance of the benefits of diversity, and that’s progress. But there is still a lot more to do. As our survey shows, central banks have only recently begun to put in place policies to actively level the playing field for those who have faced barriers to enter and progress, while there are still huge differences from country to country.”

There is still a huge amount of work to be done

Sovereign funds’ management and boards remain very imbalanced, although they show an improvement similar to that of central banks. The overall score has increased marginally by 8% to 19.5 from 16.8. Only eight out of 72 funds are headed by women, unchanged from last year. North America remains the best-performing region, but lowest-scoring Middle East has made the biggest leap.

European public pension funds perform the best and have improved the most among the three institution types. The overall score has climbed by 12% to 46.3, from 41.3 the previous year.

The number of female-led funds rose to 36 from 31. Nordic countries did well, with Iceland and Norway topping the list.

To complement the index, OMFIF has conducted an additional global survey of 46 institutions consisting of 44 central banks and two multilateral organisations with functions related to financial stability.

The first of its kind, this survey asked what measures institutions have in place to help correct gender imbalance and promote diversity and inclusion.

It found that 15% of central banks reserve seats for women on their board of directors or monetary policy board.

More than half (54%) of central banks have implemented a gender diversity programme that encourages the upward career progression of women.

For some respondents, this includes mentorship and leadership training specifically for women.

All respondents have some form of maternity leave in place, with 35% going above and beyond the minimum legal requirement. The majority of respondents (63%) offer between three to six months of paid leave. Almost all respondents have a paternity policy in place, but nearly half (41%) grant only one to two weeks of leave.

Emmanuel Dooseman, partner, global head of banking at Mazars said: “The index shows that gender balance in central banks is increasing, but there is still a huge amount of work to be done. As regulators and supervisors of other financial institutions, central banks play a crucial role in shaping the future direction of the global business landscape. We therefore hope that the Index will act as a wake-up call for leaders: they need to do more to create and implement progressive policies that support women at work.”

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