At the end of 2022, the Boards of Executive Directors of the IDB and IDB Invest approved the formation of a Working Group on Gender, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (GDEI).
They recognized the group as an opportunity to improve development outcomes by striving for equal representation, voice and rights – especially given the fact that over the past decade, women have held an annual average of just five of the 28 Executive Director or Alternate Executive Director positions at the Board.
Chief among the group’s responsibilities is to raise awareness of the importance of representation and inclusion in our institution’s governance, which they believe will positively impact the mindset of the entire IDB Group. Its first-year agenda also includes a focus on data and evidence-based analysis to help close GDEI gaps in the governance of the IDB Group and its Boards.
We spoke with some of the directors and counselors involved in this initiative to learn more.
We understand that the idea of forming a working group on GDEI originated with Argentina’s representatives at the IDB. What was the motivating factor for this?
Yes, thank you for the opportunity to share with Bank employees about this initiative.
Latin America and the Caribbean is going through a critical juncture that demands of us, as an institution, a greater and tangible commitment to advancing GDEI.
The IDB Group is actively engaged in fostering gender and diversity, equality, representation and voice in its operations all across the region. We must also step up, moving forward towards equal representation and voice here in the institution, including the Board.
We strongly believe that boosting the GDEI agenda in our countries will contribute to generate the required awareness among decision-makers that will lead us to equal and inclusive representation at the Boards of the IDB Group.
We need to do better, and that is why the idea of setting up a working group emerged. There is still a lot of work ahead of us, since we are only starting; for example, we still must figure out the proper mechanisms to better foster representation for women as well as diverse groups at the Board. But overall, we are very pleased to see it move forward and are committed to supporting its work.
For you, going forward, what does GDEI mean for governance of the IDB Group?
After a very challenging period, the Board is strongly committed to, in cooperation with the new president, enhancing IDB Group’s governance in several key areas. We are convinced that the IDB Group will benefit from governing Boards that lead in addressing GDEI principles.
Caroline Leclerc, Working Group Co-Chair and Chair for Canada
Why is GDEI in governance at multilateral institutions like the IDB Group important for Canada?
We strongly believe in the role that multilateral institutions can play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular, the role that the IDB Group plays in improving lives in Latin America and the Caribbean.
If we know that gender equality, diversity and inclusion deliver strong economic growth, help cut down on extreme poverty, reduce chronic hunger, lead to longer-lasting peace, benefit entire families and empower all those who face discrimination, then we need to act on it.
A corollary to this is that diverse Boards make better decisions and lead their institutions to perform better. In Canada’s view, this is in all our interest, and we are pleased to convene our colleagues to spur change and progress.
For a multilateral institution that seeks to improve lives in a region as diverse as Latin America and the Caribbean, incorporating that same diversity into its Boards is critical to developing adequate and effective solutions.
Can you tell us about the main priorities of the working group and how this will impact the institution? Why should staff care about this initiative?
The main focus of the Working Group on Gender, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is to improve GDEI in the membership of the Boards of Directors and in the offices of the Executive Directors.
Why does it matter to staff? The Board is asking staff to mainstream gender and diversity through their operations. It is asking the institution to strengthen gender equality and pay equity across the institution. We cannot ask that of the institution and not do this ourselves, as the decision-makers of the Bank – especially when evidence indicates that these institutional efforts can better flourish when supported by the Boards’ promotion of GDEI principles.
Strong gender, diversity, equity and inclusion also produces better outcomes for the IDB Group’s development goals. President Goldfajn has positioned gender, diversity and inclusion as foundational to addressing Bank priorities, and the Board, through the working group, is moving to ensure the success of those objectives.
What does success for the first year of the working group look like?
Our focus during this first year is establishing the foundations for the working group to operate effectively in the upcoming years. We have begun by collecting and analyzing data on representation and pay equity at the Boards. Already, this is informing several actions that we need to take – for example, expanding data collection to include data on diversity, increasing representation at the Boards, and assessing our people-management policy for compliance with the principles of GDEI.
A notable example is that Board regulations are silent on eligibility of executive directors and alternate executive directors for parental leave, a key policy to remove obstacles to good-paying jobs for women. Simultaneously, we are creating initiatives to raise awareness of the importance of GDEI in the membership of the Boards and with the member countries.
Robert Le Hunte, Working Group Co-Chair and Chair for The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago
We understand that limited attention has been given to all aspects of diversity within the Boards of Directors prior to the establishment of this working group. How do you propose to change that?
Over 75 studies in the past decade have found that gender-diverse boards are associated with increased effectiveness and enhanced institutional performance. This working group is committed to ensuring that gender equality at the Boards is accompanied by an equal focus on, and commitment to, all other aspects of diversity, including inclusion of Afro-descendants, indigenous people, LGBTQ+ people and persons with disabilities. Now, we will review internal data, policies and processes, and collect the data where there is none, in order to build our baseline and set our targets for equity and inclusion.
We will use evidence to drive change. We will focus on improving access to data collection, monitoring and reporting in order to strengthen policies and measures to identify and eliminate GDEI gaps, continuously advocating for all GDEI issues at the Board through awareness and training sessions and increasing coordination with IDB Group staff and across the multilateral development banks.
Will the efforts of the working group make a difference beyond raising awareness?
Raising awareness is a critical component to success and we will continue those efforts, considering that there may be several groups of stakeholders who do not understand the significant benefits of GDEI for an organization. To this end, and armed with the right data, we will also foster dialogue with senior management and IDB Group employees and exchange information with other international financial institutions to share best practices, lessons learned and relevant information.
We will review current practices, and based on the working group findings, we will provide actionable recommendations. This continuous dialogue will provide the impetus required for us to move forward to ensure that Board practices and procedures support gender, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Belisa de las Casas, Working Group Member and Counselor for Peru
Will these efforts impact staff? In what way?
Yes, these efforts will benefit the staff.
The IDB Group has a diverse workforce – all employees are nationals of any of the 48 country members – and having a Board that considers diversity, not only in terms of country of origin, but also gender identity, ethnicity and more, is a logical and fair thing to do.
In addition to feeling represented, greater diversity in the Boards will show that GDEI issues at the IDB Group go beyond rhetoric and translate into concrete actions. We want to make better decisions, and the way to do it is by having wider representation at the highest governance level.
I can assure you that we are all committed to diversity. With this initiative, we want the Bank’s employees to feel proud of working in an institution that believes in, and recognizes the value of, difference. We will lead by example. The working group is small, but the participation is Board-wide.