Remarks by ADB Vice-President Bruce Davis at the International Women's Day Breakfast

Speech | 7 March 2014

Remarks by ADB Vice-President for Administration and Corporate Management Bruce Davis at the International Women's Day Breakfast on 7 March 2014 in Manila, Philippines

Colleagues and guests,

Thank you very much for joining us on this important day. I am very pleased to join ADB’s celebration of International Women’s Day 2014. It is worth remembering that International Women’s Day was borne out of the move for social change in Europe. It was first celebrated in 1911 when women were campaigning for their rights to work, vote, to be trained, to hold public office.

At the time it was seen as radical. Now it marks a global celebration of women’s economic, social and political achievements across all countries. In fact, the day is declared an official public holiday in many countries, including several DMCs, such as Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lao PDR, Mongolia, PRC, Nepal, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

There is no doubt that significant advances have been made by and for women across the world. We should applaud these successes. The world is now much more equal for our daughters than it was for our mothers. Although today is a time to honor women’s advancement, it also a time to remind ourselves of the many prevailing gender inequalities around us in the Asia Pacific region:

  • many girls still don’t complete secondary education;
  • many women still die during childbirth;
  • many women and girls are regularly subjected to gender-based violence;
  • many women still do not access paid employment (and when they do, they on average earn less than men); and
  • women continue to be strikingly under-represented in leadership positions in parliaments, on corporate boards and amongst CEOs of corporations.

There is a huge opportunity cost to our region from women’s untapped potential. And quite frankly, continued discrimination of this nature is morally unacceptable.

Our theme today and for Gender Month is "inspiring change". Now is the time to renew our collective commitment to ensure that gender equality is realized in all aspects of life. And there is no better place to inspire change that in our own back yard. ADB is a much more gender-friendly institution than it used to be, and we have made some progress in improving gender balance amongst staff in recent years. As The President mentioned, overall female representation amongst IS at end 2013 was 35% (against an overall corporate target – albeit conservative - of 37% by end 2016). Women at senior levels 7 to 10 comprised 27.6%. We now have five women heads of Resident Missions and one woman heading a Representative Office, compared to none in 2010. This is critical to improve the ‘gender-equal face of ADB’ that we portray to external partners and stakeholders.

At Senior Management and Head of Office level, women occupy only 5 of 28 currently occupied posts. We also only have one female Executive Director (ED) out of 12, and two female Alternate Executive Directors (AEDs) out of 12. And if we are to look at the current composition of our Board of Governors, women comprise only 9 out of 67 Governors and 8 out of 65 of their Alternates. It is important for us to reflect upon these sobering statistics, given the growing body of empirical evidence which demonstrates a strong positive link between an organization’s performance and the proportion of women in its governing body and senior management.

While ADB’s recent shift to a wider Diversity and Inclusion agenda gives due recognition to other axes of difference, it should not be interpreted as any diminution of the central importance of gender in the diversity and inclusion agenda. We cannot be complacent about pursuing gender balance at ADB, particularly when recruitment of women significantly dropped last year to just over 40% of new recruits from over 50% in 2012.

We also have a thinning pipeline of women at levels 5 and 6, which dropped in 2013 to 28.7% - far from our target of 35% by end of 2016. These are very concerning trends that we all must address. We need to consciously plan ahead over the next couple of years to achieve our gender targets by 2016 and support a new generation of talented women leaders moving into all levels of the Bank.

In an environment of zero budget growth we need to build proactively a talent pool of highly qualified women that we can draw from. I encourage all hiring managers to identify and reach out to different talent sources for potential women candidates and collaborate with your HR Business Partners to recruit high-performing women. We also encourage referrals. When you meet a potential woman candidate - refer her to ADB’s employment website and encourage her to apply.

Equally important to improving women’s representation at ADB is to ensure that our work environment is inclusive, to eliminate unconscious gender bias in our work culture, and to make ADB a place where women feel equally valued for their professionalism and have equal opportunity to contribute to ADB’s mission. It will take all of us, working together, to achieve these important goals. Each and every one of us, especially more senior staff, need to demonstrate our commitment by consciously walking the talk.

Let’s turn to our formal program now - I am sure we all look forward to hearing from our guest panelists and draw from their experience to inspire positive change towards a more gender inclusive ADB.

Thank you for your attention.