A sharper focus on gender at the EIB: smart economics or a matter of principle?
“You may not be the first, but you can be the best”, Swedish Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson told the audience at the Mind the Gap! Gender in Financing - the new normal event held at the EIB headquarters on Tuesday 10, October 2017, when congratulating the EIB on its first Strategy on Gender Equality and Women's Economic Empowerment in its investment operations. This event was followed by a session on female leadership featuring Rania Ekaterinari CEO of the Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations speaking to EIB Vice-President Alex Stubb, former Finnish Prime Minister, now leading gender policy at the EIB. It was intended to help plot the next steps - a Gender Action Plan for EIB group operations and a renewed strategy for ensuring diversity and inclusion in-house as well.
Minister Andersson is one of the EIB’s 28 Governors, and part of what she calls the world’s “first feminist government”. This, she said, is about making sure that every decision is seen through a gender perspective, not just for governments but international financial institutions too, because, it's just “smart economics”. Minister Andersson alongside EIB President Werner Hoyer was speaking ahead of a debate on the cost of gender inequality and the opportunities that a greater focus on gender can bring to the EIB Group’s operations, in terms of business evolution, economic gains and social impact.
“It is important for women to understand their capacity to create value for others”
Rania Ekaterinari, CEO of the Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations
Ethical, social and economic benefits
President Hoyer said there was a clear link between what the EIB, as the world’s largest multilateral lender and borrower does in its operations and what it does at home, “I stand firmly behind gender equality in our business and within our house”, he said. “I am convinced of the ethical, social and economic benefits that accompany the principles of fairness and justice enshrined in gender equality”.
The clear business case, how to reconcile different priorities, the need for evidence and sex-disaggregated data and the lingering gender inequality in Europe itself were all key issues addressed by leading figures in industry and policy with an extensive experience of mainstreaming gender considerations into financing and investments. Joining the EIB’s Director General of Operations Jean Christophe Laloux were Inez Murray, CEO of the Global Banking Alliance for Women; Diana van Maasdijk, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Equileap; and Helena Morais Maceira, Research Manager from the Vilnius-based European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE). They brought their experience of tracking inequality and working with banks and investors to a debate on how the EIB might move forward with implementing its strategy.
"I stand firmly behind gender equality in our business and within our house"
Werner Hoyer, President of the EIB
Add value, be yourself
Turning to the matter of gender equality in the EIB itself, all agreed there could be no complacency. Vice-President Alex Stubb asked Rania Ekaterinari, CEO of the Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations, what conditions female leadership needed to thrive. “It is important for women to understand their capacity to create value for others”, she said. “You need to be able to be yourself” was her overriding message. As the EIB prepares to approve new measures to encourage diversity and a greater number of senior female executives, this deceptively simple statement may sum up the challenge ahead."