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Opening Remarks at International Women’s Day - Takehiko Nakao

Speech | 8 March 2018

Opening remarks by ADB President Takehiko Nakao at International Women’s Day on 8 March 2018 at ADB Headquarters, Manila, Philippines


Distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning and welcome to ADB’s celebration of the 2018 International Women’s Day.

I would like to warmly welcome our distinguished guest speaker, The Honorable Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa. It is a privilege to have you with us today.

Samoa has been a member of ADB since our establishment in 1966. ADB’s first loan to a Pacific island country was to support Faleolo Airport in 1969. I am looking forward to visiting Samoa for the first time in a few months.

I have been impressed by the strong commitment to gender equality and especially women’s leadership in the Pacific region, although there are still many issues to tackle. Two years ago, I had the pleasure to address the Joint Session of the Senate and House of Representatives in Palau, where women deputies approached me after the address and welcomed my encouragement on gender equality.

Celebrating achievement

International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate achievements in advancing women’s status and gender equality around the world. I am proud to say that ADB is working to make a difference.

Today, I would like to highlight some of ADB’s initiatives in our operations as well as in our organization.

Gender equality in ADB operations

In our operations, by implementing the Gender Equality Operational Plan, ADB is moving steadily towards our target of having strong gender design elements at entry in 50% of our lending. Today, the rate is 48%, while 10 years ago, it was only 27%.

"We are working to ensure that intended gender equality results are achieved upon project completion. Over the last five years, our gender equality success rate has improved from less than 50% to over 70%."

We are working also to ensure that intended gender equality results are achieved upon project completion. Over the last five years, our gender equality success rate has improved from less than 50% to over 70%.

ADB supports gender equality in many tangible ways. I would like to elaborate on five of these.

First, our projects contribute to reducing gender gaps in education, thereby helping women overcome labor market disadvantages. For example, an ADB technical and vocational education and training (TVET) project in Myanmar is encouraging young women to pursue science and ICT training.

Second, ADB projects support entrepreneurship and finance for women. In India, ADB’s nonsovereign operations are providing $200 million to a private microfinance bank to give 200,000 women access to finance to start or expand businesses in agriculture, tourism, and other services. In this project, 500,000 women are being trained on financial literacy, and 60,000 on legal literacy. The staff of the microfinance bank is being trained to better meet women clients’ specific needs.

Third, many ADB projects give women and girls vital access to reliable, affordable, and safe infrastructure services. In Papua New Guinea, the Sustainable Highlands Highway Investment Program is creating new jobs for women through better connectivity to markets. Women also are employed through community road maintenance groups. Under the program, training and awareness-raising activities are provided to construction workers and roadside communities to prevent HIV and gender-based violence.

Fourth, we are paying attention to the different needs of women and men in climate change adaptation and mitigation. In high mountain areas of Nepal, where climate change is severely affecting livelihoods, over 8,200 women have been trained on climate-smart agriculture technology and practices, including the cultivation of climate-resilient crop varieties. Women’s agribusinesses represent 40% of all new jobs created through this project.

Fifth, women should be given equal opportunities to participate in climate-related decision making. In Tonga, ADB is supporting a new national Action Plan on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management. This is introducing gender mainstreaming guidelines to enable women to actively participate in designing strategies and projects that help build their climate resilience.

Much progress has been made to advance gender equality but there is still much to do. This is why Sustainable Development Goal 5 is so important as a unifying call to action. ADB is committed to playing its part and continuing to make advancing gender equality integral to ADB’s operations.

Gender equality in ADB’s workplace

Turning to gender equality within our organization, it is essential that all staff and Management lead by example. While nearly 59% of all ADB staff are women, we need to do more to improve representation of women in leadership roles.

In November 2016, ADB committed to 17 Actions to Improve Institutional Gender Equality. We are making steady progress in implementing these actions. I will mention some of them.

First, we adopted a target of increasing International Staff women representation to 40% by the end of 2022. As of the end of 2017, the proportion of International Staff women surpassed 35%, our highest level yet and an increase from 34% in 2016. This gain was supported through sustained recruitment rates and a higher retention of women. We need to continue this rate of progress.

Second, a staff mobility program was launched in December 2017, giving more opportunities to women and men to gain broader experience and advance their careers.

Third, ADB’s guidelines on work from home have been updated to support flexible work arrangements. Managers are encouraged to promote a culture of flexibility, provided that requests are compatible with business needs.

Fourth, a study on salaries in ADB was initiated, which will consider if any unexplained gender pay gaps exist.

Fifth, a career support program is being implemented for spouses and partners of ADB expatriate staff. This will support the recruitment and retention of International Staff, particularly women.

Sixth, ongoing leadership development programs are helping ADB’s senior staff become better managers and leaders of diverse teams. A high proportion of women have been among the participants, supporting the development of a pipeline of women for senior roles.

Seventh, the Respectful Workplace Unit started its operations in 2017 and is supporting ADB’s efforts to embed a respectful work environment for all staff. I want to repeat that any form of bullying and harassment must not be tolerated. This includes sexual harassment.

"ADB will be adopting Strategy 2030. Both operational and institutional gender equality will be a backbone of this new strategy."

Efforts for gender equality at ADB are a never-ending business, and a priority for me. I urge all staff, managers, and vice-presidents to make persistent and determined efforts to achieve gender equality.


The Honorable Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:

This year, ADB will be adopting Strategy 2030. Both operational and institutional gender equality will be a backbone of this new strategy.

On this International Women’s Day, I would like to reiterate my commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

I wish you all a Happy International Women’s Day. Thank you.