Central banks in Asia Pacific are getting better at appointing women to senior staff positions compared with five years ago, according to the annual gender balance index (GBI) by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), released on April 20.
Still, progress remains slow especially in relation to the rest of the world, with the largest Asian economies such as China and India the main laggards, according to the London-based think-tank.
The regional GBI score for central banks in Asia climbed to 13 in 2023 from 6 in 2018 -- when OMFIF started collecting data on the region, Arunima Sharan, senior research analyst at OMFIF and one of the authors of the GBI report, told AsianInvestor.
Three of the top 10 central banks on the index this year come from the region: Reserve Bank of Australia, National Bank of Samoa and Central Bank of Myanmar, OMFIF said in its GBI report.
OMFIF's GBI scores institutions in central banks, commercial banks, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds based on the ratio of women and men at senior staff levels.
This is weighted by seniority, with governors and chief executive officers given the highest weights.
A score of 100 reflects a perfect 50-50 split between men and women on this weighted measure.
SMALLER COUNTRIES, BIGGER IMPACT
Asia Pacific also has the second-highest number of female central bank governors, tied with Latin America and the Caribbean with five each.
Europe leads with six female governors.
Bank Negara Malaysia
“There is a glimmer of hope for the future with the appointment of female deputy governors at the Bank of the Lao PDR, and Bankgo Sentral ng Pilipinas this year [Bernadette Romulo-Puyat], and a new female deputy governor in Bank Indonesia [Filianingsih Hendarta], whose appointment to the board will make it gender balanced,” the report noted.
Malaysia, Vietnam, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Myanmar have central banks led by female central bank governors.
The Bank of Papua New Guinea and the Central Bank of Myanmar appointed women as central bank governors for the first time over the past 12 months.
Elizabeth Genia was appointed acting governor in Papua New Guinea in January 2023, replacing Benny Popoitai.
In Myanmar, Than Than Swe was appointed central bank governor in August 2022, replacing Than Nyein.
The Reserve Bank of Australia was the only G20 central bank in Asia Pacific that scored high on gender diversity.
The appointment of a female deputy governor -- Michele Bullock -- in April 2022 and an increase in female representation at the board level helped, even though RBA is not currently led by a female governor.
PROGRESS WITH A LAG
Nevertheless, Asia-Pacific scores poorly across different institutions in the GBI. Its regional score is 20 or below for central banks, pension funds and sovereign banks, the report said.
In comparison, regional scores for North America and Europe are above 35 for all institution groups.
State Bank of Vietnam
Because the scores are weighted on countries’ contribution to global GDP, greater improvements made by relatively smaller economies are overshadowed by a lack of progress in larger economies such as China and India.
While there was cumulative progress in the past few years, Asia’s GBI score for central banks dropped one point in 2023 from 14 the previous year.
The score dropped due to lower female representation at the People’s Bank of China, and Reserve Bank of India, which were already poor performers, the OMFIF report said.
Along with South Korea, they scored 5 points or below this year.
Japan did not fare much better: the appointment of Kazuo Ueda as the Bank of Japan’s new governor in February, with two male deputy governors, means it continues to score 11 and ranked 143 – the lowest in the G7.
“While the region as a whole, averaged lower, there are some improvements [among smaller economies], which is nice to see,” said Sharan.
“There are senior women executives coming in in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Laos, and while not at the top level, they create more opportunities and possibilities for the future.”
Central banks globally improved their gender balance, with the global GBI score rising to 33 in 2023, from 31 in 2022.
That is the highest global score since OMFIF developed the current methodology in 2017.