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Women in workforce help boost income at all levels

March 8, 2016

More women in the labour force, and in more senior positions, is good news for women, for their companies and for their countries' economies, says IMF managing director Christine Lagarde.

Christine Lagarde

KUALA LUMPUR: Happy International Women’s Day! It is celebrated on March 8 every year.

Originally called International Working Women’s Day, it was started as a socialist political event, but with time, the day has lost its political aura in some parts of the world.

However, on the other side of the globe, the focus of the celebrations is on women’s economic, political and social achievements.

On the economic and business side, Malaysia has The 30 Per Cent Club, a group of chairmen and business leaders who are committed to bringing more women on Malaysian corporate boards.

The 30 Per Cent Club believes that gender diversity is good for the overall effectiveness of the boardroom — and is, therefore, good for business – although it has not called for a quota.

The Malaysian 30 Per Cent Club, launched on May 8, 2015, supports sustainable business-led voluntary change to improve the current gender imbalance on Malaysian corporate boards.

A new International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff study says more women in the workforce will boost the bottom line for home, firm and country.

In her latest blog posting on imfdirect.imf.org, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said: “March 8 is one of my favourite days.

“It is a time to celebrate the impressive progress women at all levels of the career ladder have made in recent decades.

“More women in the labour force, and in more senior positions, is good news for women, for their companies and for their countries’ economies.”

Citing the study, Lagarde said in Europe, national policies, even taking into account personal preferences, could boost women’s participation in the workforce and enhance their chances for advancement.

The research, which looked at two million firms in 34 countries in Europe, also found that the more women there were in senior managerial positions and on corporate boards, the more profitable firms were.

Lagarde said one more woman in senior management or on a corporate board was associated with eight to 13 basis points higher return on assets.

“High corporate profitability could support investment and productivity – another channel through which more women in the workforce can help mitigate Europe’s potential growth slowdown,” she said.

Lagarde said the study found that policies also had an important influence on women’s employment decisions, even after accounting for individual characteristics, choices and preferences about working.

“Removing tax disincentives for the second earner in a family, providing sufficient childcare services and allowing parental leave can broaden the opportunity for women to work as much as they want,” she said.

Lagarde said that bringing more women into the labour force benefitted the whole country’s economy and not only women.

Firstly, she said, more women in the labour force would expand labour supply in a country, noting that for Europe, if women chose to participate in the labour market as much as men did, its workforce could increase by six per cent.

She said if they also chose to work as many hours as men, the workforce could grow by as much as 15 per cent.

Secondly, she added, the prevalence of full-time female employment was a strong predictor of the share of senior corporate positions held by women.

The IMF staff study confirmed that more women in senior managerial positions and on corporate boardrooms was associated with a firm’s stronger financial performance.

It would help support corporate investment and productivity, further mitigating the slowdown in the potential growth of an economy, Lagarde said.



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