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COVID-19 crisis could set-back a generation of women in business

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Women across the world have been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – a staggering 87% of women business owners say they have been adversely affected. Overrepresentation in sectors hardest hit by the economic downturn (tourism, retail, F&B, etc), the pronounced digital gender gap in an increasingly virtual world, and the mounting pressures of childcare responsibilities are only a few factors that have left women particularly vulnerable.

In tackling this stark disparity and unlocking the fullest potential of women in business, the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) 2020 report findings make a compelling case for building on targeted gender-specific policy best practices internationally.

Now in its fourth year, MIWE highlights the vast socio-economic contributions of women entrepreneurs across the world, as well as providing insight on the factors driving and inhibiting their advancement. Through a unique methodology – drawing on publicly available data from leading international organizations, such as the OECD and International Labor Organization – MIWE 2020 includes a global ranking on the advancement of women in business in pre-pandemic conditions across 58 economies (including 15 in the Asia Pacific region), representing almost 80% of the female labor force.

MIWE 2020’s top performing economy is a prime example of gender-specific support mechanisms having swift and significant results. For the first time, Israel tops the MIWE as best economy for women entrepreneurs worldwide, advancing from 4th place in 2019. With an ambition to double the number of female entrepreneurs within two years, Israel’s success has been driven by a focused institutional backing for SMEs – its ‘Support for SMEs’ ranking catapulted from 42nd place in 2019, to 1st in 2020.

Last year’s strong performers, the United States and New Zealand – although dropping from 1st to 2nd,and 2nd to 4th places respectively – demonstrate that economies with mature gender focused initiatives still out-perform on the global stage through continued focus on advancing conditions for women in business. In both these economies, favorable cultural perceptions of entrepreneurism, the high visibility of female leaders that serve as role models for aspiring entrepreneurs, and supportive entrepreneurial conditions play a crucial role in their success.

It is noteworthy that the majority of economies (34 out of a total of 58 in this report) have healthy MIWE scores of 60 to 70 such as Australia, Indonesia, Mainland China, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia while 13 economies have lower scores of 50 to 60 such as Japan and India.

Of the 58 markets included in the Index, 12 moved up by five or more ranks year-on-year, while 10 fell by five or more. Asia Pacific’s fast-rising markets include Mainland China (+6) and Indonesia (+5) while the largest drops were seen in Singapore (-12), Philippines (-10), Hong Kong SAR (-8) and Vietnam (-7).

“What the findings make clear is that regardless of an economy’s wealth, level of development, size, and geographic location, gender inequalities continue to persist – even pre-pandemic. What COVID-19 did is that it exacerbated an already problematic situation. It disproportionately disrupted women’s lives and livelihoods to a greater extent than men due to a few pre-existing factors: the jobs and sectors women tend to work in, childcare and domestic responsibilities and the pre-existing gender disparity in business.

Yet, through the pandemic we’ve seen women’s strength and endurance in the face of adversity. If anything, this year has illuminated how vast women’s potential really is. But this moment in time is fragile unless governments, financial services and business organizations come together to do three things: offer systemic support and programs to enable women to survive and thrive in this new normal, equip them with skills to navigate the digital world, and nurture an equitable, accessible financial services system that supports women’s work and entrepreneurship. These are not easy to deliver, but investments like these can yield priceless dividends for not only women, but society as a whole,” said Julienne Loh, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Partnerships, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.

COVID-19 has posed setbacks, but also opportunity

MIWE 2020 also provides initial analysis on the ramifications of COVID-19 on women at work, and draws out effective support policies. Although differing from economy to economy, those proving most effective include expansive relief measures for SMEs – from wage subsidies to furlough schemes and fiscal bailouts – as well as state childcare support.

Crucially, the report presents an optimistic outlook for the future of women entrepreneurs. It indicates that the pandemic could prove a catalyst for exponential progress for women in business and an opportunity to course-correct gender bias. It draws on several points to illustrate this, notably:

• The COVID-19 era presents an empowering narrative for women in leadership, providing inspiration at a time when cultural barriers and fear of failure still impede some women from business ventures. COVID-19 has highlighted women’s ability to lead under extraordinary circumstances. Female world leaders such as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and the leadership of Chinese Taipei Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen have presided over some of the most successful efforts in containing COVID-19 while instilling order, assurance, trust and calm. With almost half (47.8%) of female entrepreneurs reporting being driven by a desire to contribute to the greater societal good, the impact these leaders have cannot be underestimated.

• Women in business are already demonstrating marked adaptability, despite extensive barriers to success. On the frontline, women business owners are adapting to the new world of work with renewed confidence. 42% have shifted to a digital business model and 34% have identified new business opportunities since the pandemic.

• The ‘next normal’ presents a once-in a-lifetime opportunity to remove existing barriers, driving greater gender participation and parity for women in business. As well as magnifying several fold the many disparities women in business face – from the digital gender gap to financial inclusion – COVID-19 has been an intense stimulus for structural progress.

The report notes that implications of these observations are profound. It further demonstrates the untapped value of women as leaders and, critically, highlights the role of the pandemic in expediating progressive solutions. Leveraging this momentum and championing gender-specific initiatives will be critical to realizing women’s potential and winding down the $172 trillion lost globally (World Bank) due to the differences in lifetime earnings between women and men.

Mastercard’s commitment to driving forward inclusion

Sue Kelsey, Executive Vice President, Global Consumer Products and Financial Inclusion, Mastercard said: “A crisis will always reveal vulnerabilities in the system, and COVID-19 has done that in spades. We have seen the staggering extent of the disparity women in business face. But unlike any other economic downturn, COVID-19 has also paved the way for considerable progress and we have seen what can be achieved when priority is given.”

The MIWE report is just one component in Mastercard’s broader mission to drive forward the advancement of the disconnected and disadvantaged, with a particular commitment to support and help advance female entrepreneurs and small businesses through initiatives such as its Start Path and Path to Priceless programs. In 2020, Mastercard expanded its worldwide financial inclusion commitment, pledging to bring a total of one billion people and 50 million micro and small businesses into the digital economy by 2025. As part of this effort, there will be a direct focus on providing 25 million women entrepreneurs with solutions that can help them grow their businesses, through a range of initiatives crossing funding, mentoring and the development of inclusive technologies.

• Download the MIWE 2020 report and supporting assets here.

• View case studies for New Zealand (p23), South Korea (p33) and Indonesia (p51) in Appendix 1

• Learn more about Mastercard’s efforts to engage, enable and empower women here.

Methodology

MIWE provides world-leading analysis on how women in business are progressing across 58 global economies. Representing almost 80 percent of the international female labour force, the MIWE provides deep-dive analysis on the socioeconomic factors propelling and inhibiting their success.

Through a unique methodology – involving detailed analysis across 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators spanning Advancement Outcomes, Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, and Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions – the index ranks 58 economies according to performance over the past year. Aggregating these scores, the index is able to provide an overall grading of how successful individual economies are in advancing female entrepreneurialism in comparison to peers in pre-COVID19 conditions.

This year’s report also provides additional analysis on the early ramifications of emergency measures implemented by governments and business for women entrepreneurs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic across 40 global economies.

The MIWE findings provide clarity and understanding for governments, policymakers, stakeholders, businesses and individuals alike wishing to understand the crucial role of women in business and apply learnings from global economies.

– The End –

About Mastercard (NYSE: MA), www.mastercard.comMastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. Our decency quotient, or DQ, drives our culture and everything we do inside and outside of our company. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.

Mastercard Communications ContactSarah Guldin, +65 6390 6199

sarah.guldin@mastercard.com



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CSE planning new product lines to attract investors in greater numbers

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By Lynn Ockersz

The CSE is planning to attract a greater number of investors to the stock market this year through the introduction of some new product lines. In order to increase the choice of instruments available to equity investors, the CSE intends to focus in the immediate term on instruments, such as, stock borrowing and lending and regulated short-selling, CSE CEO Rajeeva Bandaranaike said.

The latter instruments would help in generating more liquidity and trading among equity investors, not only in instances when the market is on its way up but also in a declining market as well, CEO Bandaranaike told The Island Financial Review in an exclusive interview recently.

The CEO also said that the CSE is aiming at leveraging the corporate debt market through the initiation of some new products. For example, Green Bonds, Perpetual Bonds and the facilitation of secondary trading of corporate bonds via repo trading.

Asked to indicate as to how these instruments would help the bourse going forward, Mr. Bandaranaike said that stock borrowing and lending, for instance, would facilitate and enable regulated short selling which will have the effect of increasing liquidity and trading among all categories of equity investors.

This will create opportunities for traders to make use of market volatility. Besides, investors holding long term portfolios could lend their stock and earn an interest with least effort on their part.

Asked to elaborate on the importance of Green Bonds, the CEO said that institutional investors in particular are currently focusing on ESG projects; that is, investors that are sensitive to environmental, social and governance concerns. Accordingly, the CSE would be catering to some important investor needs through the latter projects.

Meanwhile, in response to the question on how the digitization initiatives of the CSE have helped in ushering a more robust share market in Sri Lanka, CSE’s Chief Information Officer Chandrakanth Jayasinghe said it is the aim of the CSE to give progressive digital exposure to investors. There are two dimensions to be considered here the CIO said. First, more and more important features have been added to the CSE’s digital mobile App over the last two years.

The CIO added: ‘A revamped mobile App is now at hand to enable quicker and informed investment decisions. All the information required by the investor is now available via this App to enable him to enter the market. For example, we are linked to the Department of Registration of Persons. Digital on-boarding and digital signing etc have been enabled via the app. On a full digital basis investors can now interact with the CSE.

‘The investor is now connected to the CDS E-Connect via the CSE and the investor could access his/her stock portfolio, for instance, and access his/her monthly statements. They could also make changes to their profiles such their address changes via the mobile App. Research reports of brokers could be accessed by the same means, nominations could be effected through the same mechanism. It’s a total change: a 360-degree info hub has been created through the App.

‘Secondly, the CSE is a more agile digital organization. For instance, most of our back-end functions are fully robotized. AI is used in many operations. We use AI for compliance operations.

‘We are saddled with very much less paperwork. Over 90% of all account openings are effected through our mobile App. Most paper-based formalities have been done away with.’

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SriLankan Airlines unveils new and improved mobile App

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SriLankan Airlines has unveiled a new and improved mobile app that is designed for optimum user-friendliness. The enhanced app will afford customers greater ease and flexibility in managing their flight bookings, purchasing value-added services, enrolling for a FlySmiLes account and performing a variety of other tasks.

The new app provides greater autonomy for Customers through added features that are exclusive to the app. Customers will be able to choose their in-flight meal; reserve seats; change travel dates and sectors; buy value added services such as excess baggage, travel insurance and duty-free items; and check-in for flights well in advance.

The ability to manage flight bookings, even while on the move, remains entirely with passengers who will be empowered to exercise greater control in shaping their journey independently and dynamically. Customers’ in-app experience is inclined to be further enhanced with the new ‘My Trips’ feature. My Trips will organize and present important information that a customer requires for an upcoming flight in a timely fashion on the app’s homepage.

The homepage includes other up-to-minute information on the flight schedule and allows users to search and stay on top of the departure and arrival times of flights. Customers can also stay updated and not miss out on the latest deals and promotional fares.

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Brandix Manusathkara Thilina 2022

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Brandix Apparel Ltd., gave hope to 16,824 children of the Brandix family by gifting them school essentials including stationery and schoolbags necessary for the new school year, under its ‘Manusathkara Thilina’ 2022 initiative recently.

 Understanding the current need to support our team members, especially during the current crisis of rising stationery costs, the children of 10,933 Brandix Associates were recipients of Brandix’s unstinting efforts to inspire and support education for all. The 2022 programme is being held for the 7th consecutive year where children from pre-school to Grade 13 received stationery packs.

Malika Samaraweera, Group Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Brandix Apparel noted, “The beginning of the new school year is eagerly anticipated and exciting for all students. However, we realise that our employees, who are the backbone of our enterprise, are facing a daunting challenge to provide their children these essential items. We firmly believe in taking care of our communities and this year’s Manusathkara Thilina programme ensures these children have the tools and opportunity to learn and grow.”

 Begun in 2016, the Manusathkara School Essentials initiative seeks to drive home the importance of education among the children of Brandix employees. To-date, over 37,000 children have benefitted from the programme. The educational hampers gifted to the children comprise of stationery and other school necessities, enabling their success for the foreseeable future.

With the aim of driving social sustainability, the inspired team at Brandix continues their work towards Equal Opportunity and the Right to Education for All. Recognising that today’s challenges are wide-ranging and incredibly tough for many families, the school essential packs will enrich the lives of the beneficiary children and sustain their school education.

Supporting Sri Lanka’s aspiring youth towards continuity in their education, Brandix has also initiated an annual scholarship scheme under its ‘Manusathkara University Scholarship’ programme. Children who are high performers in the Advanced Level Examinations within the Brandix Model Villages are awarded scholarships to pursue their higher education and contribute towards Sri Lanka’s future workforce. The ‘Model Village’ concept was developed by Brandix to support the wellbeing of communities within a 10km radius of the company’s facilities.

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