Gender Equality through ADB Trade Finance Partnerships

Video | 2 July 2019

ADB’s Trade Finance Program conducted a gender audit among several of its partner banks. The objective of this study was to develop specific, practical, and implementable recommendations to attract, retain and promote more women in banking. This was a joint initiative of ADB's Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department and Private Sector Operations Department funded by the Government of Australia.


Steven Beck, Head of Trade and Supply Chain Finance - I’ve been asked many times what the connection between trade finance and gender equality. People find the connection kind of odd. But it’s actually not weird at all. Increasing women’s participation in the work force, including at more senior levels, is an important priority for ADB. We see this as important for development of over half the population, but also important for broader economic growth and prosperity. 

So how does a trade finance business have impact on gender issues?

We have a network of over 200 banks we work with. And these relationships are deep and consistent. So we can use the trade finance network to support initiatives that are important for development like gender.  

So what is our gender initiative all about?

Well, 19 of our partner banks in 8 countries (i.e., Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, Viet Nam, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Samoa, and Uzbekistan participated by offering their HR policies for analysis, and we had gender specialists analyze their HR policies to see how they could be enhanced to attract, retain and promote more women in banking. The recommendations that came out of the analysis were tailored to each bank and they are very practical and implementable recommendations.

We published some of the recommendations in a report that we called “Boosting Gender Equality through ADB Trade Finance Partnerships.” 50 of the recommendations were implemented by 12 of the banks that participated. And during our annual dinner in Singapore with clients, we awarded BRAC Bank from Bangladesh as the Most Progressive Bank on Gender Strategy in 2017; and Mutual Trust Bank also from Bangladesh as the 2018 Gender Champion awardee.

So where do you take the Trade Finance Program’s gender initiative from here?

Beyond the 19 banks that participated in the first phase, several more are interested to participate to see how their HR policies can be enhanced to attract, retain, and promote more women in banking. Another thing that we would like to do is we would like to take some of the more challenging recommendations that we have made in the first phase and help some of the banks implement those. For example, we would like to help with establishing trust around grievance procedures and remedies. Another example is we would like to move discussions towards equal pay and examining any gender gaps. And finally, we are interested at helping the few banks that may be ready to work towards certification in EDGE.  EDGE certifies entities against specific standards and metrics to ensure gender equality in the workplace. 

So we are really having a good deal of fun around a lot of these gender initiatives, there is a lot more to be done and we would be very pleased to work with many more partner banks going forward.