Opening remarks by Masatsugu Asakawa, President, Asian Development Bank, at International Women’s Day 2023, 8 March 2023
Distinguished guests and colleagues, welcome to our annual celebration of International Women’s Day. I am pleased that we are joined by our distinguished speaker, Ms. Martha Sazon, President and CEO of Mynt/GCash, Philippines.
Our theme this year is “Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality.” It highlights two important elements of ADB’s vision for inclusive growth in Asia and the Pacific: first, that digital technology is an excellent enabler for gender equality; and second, that empowered women serve as key leaders and change agents.
Let me reflect on how we can realize this vision together.
I. Overcoming the digital gender divide
In the past decade, the lack of equal access to the digital world for women and girls has cost low-income countries $1 trillion in GDP. Closing the digital gender divide provides a tremendous opportunity: by 2025, it could increase their GDP by as much as $500 billion.
We need to accelerate investments in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and digital education for women and girls. This will improve their access to high quality jobs. We need to break structural barriers for women including the lack of official identification documents, low mobile phone ownership, and access to energy. We also need to support development of digital solutions to provide women with greater access to finance.
II. ADB’s support to gender equality through technology and innovation
ADB Strategy 2030 aims to promote gender equality in at least 75% of our operations. We are committed to improving women's and girls’ access to economic opportunities and employment through our support to governments and the private sector clients in our developing member countries.
Let me highlight some of our priorities.
First, a strong and diverse workforce is needed to sustain economies that are driven by knowledge and technology. And so, we are supporting gender equality in STEM. For example, through a secondary education project in Cambodia, we are supporting female STEM teachers to enhance their knowledge and teaching skills.
Second, we are supporting efforts to enhance economic opportunities for women through private sector operations. For example, we helped a private company in Indonesia develop a digital customer engagement platform. By November 2022, there were 168,000 female entrepreneurs who were registered application users—many of them first-time users of digital financial services.
III. Gender equality in the workplace
The achievement of gender equality is as essential in our workplace as it is in our operations. We must better support and empower women in our bank, with greater opportunities and more responsibilities including management roles. To this end, we have set up a task force to develop a detailed internal gender action plan over the next four months. We look forward to the task force’s suggestions.
Let me end by thanking all of you for contributing to ADB’s efforts to building women’s and girls’ skills for the digital economy, and to developing digital solutions and services for women. I look forward to seeing the results of this much-needed work in the years to come.