A Conversation on Financial Inclusion With World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva

A Conversation on Financial Inclusion With World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva

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Although financial inclusion of the world’s poorest is improving—in part due to the rise of mobile banking, identification cards, and other innovative approaches—the gender gap in access to and usage of financial services persists. Kristalina Georgieva, Chief Executive Officer of the World Bank, discusses legal and regulatory disparities in access to and usage of formal financial institutions and highlight how well designed digital tools can promote the financial inclusion of women.

For more information, visit the Women's Workplace Equality Index

O’NEIL: Good morning, everyone. If you could please take your seats. Great. Well, good morning, everyone. Welcome to the second session of today’s Council on Foreign Relations symposium titled “Women and the Law: Leveling the Economic Playing Field.” I’m Shannon O’Neil. I’m a vice president and deputy director of the Studies Department here at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Now, we’re very honored today to have Kristalina Georgieva. She is, as you can see from her bio which you have in all of your packets, she has an incredible impressive track record. She has been a global policymaker for many years, many positions at the World Bank, within the European Union. And today she is the CEO of the World Bank. So thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

GEORGIEVA: Well, thank you very much for having me. Good morning, everybody. It is fantastic to follow after Christine Lagarde. My office is across the 19th Street looking into her premises. And whenever my mood is down, I look there for boosting it up. (Laughter.)

I want to start, first, by saying, for the benefit of full disclosure, that in my professional life I approach this issue of gender equality from the wrong foot and stayed there for a number of years. I thought that we had to be gender blind—you are either good or not—and there is really no need to push for female participation. Women on their own devices, by working hard, would get there. When I arrived at the World Bank, walked in the building, first time in 1992, I had my best suit, which I still remember was brown jacket with flowers. (Laughter.) I looked around, walked out, went and bought a dark blue suit. (Laughter.) So I can blend in what was primarily men-dominated institution, and where women actually did try to blend.

And that was wrong. It took me a number of years to come to that conclusion. Christine wrapped up her session on that note, that diversity is a great thing, and that unless we push gender equality will take much longer than our lifetimes to be achieved. The calculation is, left on its own devices it would take 150 years. Even with modern medicine, this is a little too long. (Laughter.)

O’NEIL: Great. Well, I’m glad to see you wearing red today and not blue. So let’s start talking. I mean, we just saw Christine Lagarde. She talked a lot about gender inclusion. Could we start talking a bit about the World Bank and the role gender inclusion plays in the type of work the World Bank’s doing?

GEORGIEVA: Well, the—a point of departure is that institutions like the Fund and the Bank do play an important role in defining the economic case for diversity, the economic case for gender in development. We did recently a very important study that calculated wealth loss because of inequality. So what we said was: We know that—we calculated, the Bank, the total wealth of our planet. The last number we came up with was $1,123 trillion. And then I said, well, wait a minute, gender inequality deprives us from wealth. How much? And the answer is staggering—$160 trillion of wealth that we lose because of inequality. So Christine gave some numbers. The Council on Foreign Relations is coming up with very good analysis. And it is important to concentrate on that economic case.

So the first thing we do at the Bank is to take this global picture, but then disaggregate it to a country level, community level, family level. And what we find is that when the analysis is credible, even in the most unlikely places, we get a good hearing. For example, Middle East. In the Middle East, we have presented the economic case for gender equality with emphasis on middle class. So we talk to policymakers. They say: We want to see a booming middle class. Well, guess what? If you have one person only working in a family, this—as the Americans would say—ain’t gonna happen. (Laughter.) And when we are—when we present that productivity of men in the Middle East has to be 1.6 times higher than productivity of men in the United States or Western Europe to reach middle class, this is a big wakeup call.

So that is one bucket of things. And Christine already mentioned, we published a very important report, it looks like this, Women, Business and the Law. And it is an incredibly powerful tool for engagement with policymakers. The second thing we do is to put our money where our mouth is. If we believe in gender equality, then our projects have to be supporting girls’ education, women entrepreneurship, gender lens on everything we do. And I can tell you, we started from, first, designing gender projects. So tiny little project that goes for women. And then we realized that this is not going to be a game-changer. What is a game changer is to take a normal project—say, water and sanitation—and put a gender lens.

Christine talked about safety of women to travel to jobs. In India—and I actually visited one of our projects—we have very, very dedicated potential to safety of women in transport. In Mumbai, there is a commuter train with women-only cars. I was in one of them. And women tell me, this is critical. If they don’t have this space that is safe—no harassment—many of them won’t go to study, they won’t go to work. So we do this funding for the purpose of inclusion of women in the economy. And then we work with many partners.

And actually, I have an announcement to make today. Thanks to DVID and the Gates Foundation, we now are adding to a very important funding vehicle for rapid social response a component that will bring this gender lens to how we support individuals, families, communities in dire need, how we provide the social response. And it has a tremendously important component. And it is the emphasis on digital payments. So we will do it, empowering women to have accounts, to have digital payments. So that is our funding side.

And then comes something very important, and the third part—the third leg of this, how we look as an institution. I am very proud to share with you that we set the target to have parity in our senior ranks, vice presidents and above, by 2020. And two months ago, we reached our target, so. (Applause.) We look like the world. (Laughter.) We also got a very important part of our going to markets to help that case. We raised money for our investments at the markets. We issued bonds. And some eight months ago we issued our first gender bond, one billion Canadian dollars. It was sold like hotcake. So demand is there. Those of you that are in the financial world, do not hesitate to talk to me after for doing more of that. (Laughter.)

O’NEIL: Let me take you now back to where you started in your sort of first personal recollection. And, you know, we have been talking about working on gender equality for decades now. And we’ve seen great advances, but we’ve also seen limitations. As you look out at the next decade or so, where do you see this going? Are you hopeful? Are you skeptical? What do you think’s going to happen or what will drive change?

GEORGIEVA: Well, I need to disclose, I’m an eternal optimist. (Laughter.) So I am a bit more optimistic than Christine. Christine said there is movement, we are on the road. I actually think that we are in the very critical junction in time when finally we see a push upwards for women in politics. And it is happening in many, many places. It is happening here in the United States. It is happening in developing countries. Christine mentioned Ethiopia, Rwanda. My own country, I see an increase of women participation. The leader of the opposition is a woman. And that really critical mass to me is the most important aspect.

We cannot, with 24 percent of women in parliaments, change the laws, get these discriminatory laws out and put protections of women in, unless there are more women in parliaments. So I think this decade, if it continues with that traction in politics, it may be quite remarkable in terms of change. I also asked my colleagues, what do you think is going to make it or break it for gender equality longer term? And their answer was technology. If women through technology are empowered, then here is the topic of financial inclusion as a very central piece. Financial inclusions, though technology, would do for women in business what the curtain has done for women in music. And I am actually quite positive about that too.

O’NEIL: So let’s talk a bit about financial inclusion, because that is, as you say, a key element, and one that the World Bank focuses on. Why does it matter and why do we see less inclusion than we should? Right, money is money?

GEORGIEVA: Well, it matters because financial inclusion unleashes the potential of women to be in control of their lives. We know that women, on balance, spend more for the education of their children and the health of their families, on balance. There was actually a very interesting study that showed that—it is a controlled experiment, that in China 10 percent increase of spending by women lifted educational outcomes of boys and girls in the families. Ten percent increase of spending of men did nothing for the girls and actually decreased the educational outcomes of the girls. Kind of quite shocking. But I mean, there are cultural norms. Boys are more important than girls. So there is this one issue to start with, how empowered women spend their money.

Secondly, if we have more women with access to finance, entrepreneurial sprits of women unleashed big time. I’ll tell you something that I love. In Kenya, through—was it M-Desa? The—

O’NEIL: M-Pesa.

GEORGIEVA: M-Pesa. M-Pesa. I keep mixing that. through digital empowerment of women, 185,000 women left farming, where they were, and turned into entrepreneurs. And the extreme poverty in the communities that were included dropped by 22 percent. These are big numbers. And just imagine this on a global scale. My personal favorite story, in Bangladesh we helped payment to turn from cash to digital. So women in textile—in their textile industry, instead of getting cash they would get money in their accounts. When they got cash, one of them would have her mother-in-law waiting in front of the factory taking her money. Now the mother-in-law cannot do it and the woman saves money, gets to be an entrepreneur. These are transformative stories on a very massive scale.

But we still have—as you said, we have a big gap. Globally, the gap in financial inclusion is 7 percent, between men and women. Men 72 percent, women 65 (percent). In developing countries, it is 9 percent, is slightly higher, 67-58 (percent). Now, we take this an opportunity. And we say, OK, what would change this still discrimination. And by the way, when I say 9 percent gap, 9 percent is the global gap. But it differs tremendously from a country to a country. There are countries like Indonesia where there is no gap. And there are countries where the gap is 20-30 or more percent. My favorite, my favorite of all times, my professor of statistics who used to say about averages—yeah, you know it?

O’NEIL: I’ll let you say it? (Laughs.)

GEORGIEVA: You know it? You put your head in the freezer, your feet in the oven, your temperature is average. (Laughter.) But you’re dead. (Laughter.) So it is important to recognize that we have a duty to understand beyond and behind the averages. And this is what we do at the Bank. We look at regions and bank country levels, and within countries. And what we find is that the way to close this gap is actually multifaceted.

One: Laws. When the laws prohibit women from opening accounts—in three countries they cannot open an account on their own—or they restrict the access to jobs—and this is very massive. It is 75 countries one way or another. Or, women need permission from their husbands to move around. And I think that was 31 countries. When we have these legal obstacles, even if technically speaking a woman has an account, it is hard to get to it, and it is hard to use. So we need to deal with the legal framework. I am very proud of that our legal—our general counsel, by the way a woman, she made a commitment that the Bank will zero not just on getting this data, but on working with countries to eliminate discriminatory laws. And we are actually aiming to get first pilot already next year.

When you get the laws in good shape, then come cultural norms and traditions. And very often, we are not respectful enough of understanding, like in some countries—in Bangladesh, culturally a woman cannot give her phone number to a man. If the man, a clerk in the bank, needs a phone number to establish a bank account, she just can’t have it. There are ways around it. It can be iris. It can be other ways of IDing herself. Also, we have a big problem with many women being not only illiterate, but also innumerate. They don’t—they cannot deal with ten-number PIN. So we have to think of all these aspects as we build the systems for financial inclusion to make sure that they are culturally, societally appropriate.

And then comes, to me, the most difficult issue. If you have a bank account, you also have to have income. You need a job. And we at the Bank see that issue of jobs in developing countries as the biggest, biggest challenge of all. And we also need to understand that if in the developed world the need for women participation in the labor force comes from aging population and shrinking population, in the developing world we have an expanding population with big number of young men with no jobs, no prospects. So we have to think about that aspect very, very seriously.

O’NEIL: I’m going to ask one more question before I open it up to members for their questions. So be ready with your questions. But let me ask—I mean, given these—there are legal barriers that you laid out, many of those, cultural barriers, as well as sort of the labor market and the like. You know, what is the role of the World Bank or other multilateral institutions? How can you influence governments or cultures to change in the ways that you’re talking about?

GEORGIEVA: Well, the—to me, the most important thing is to recognize no country, no community, no family can succeed by tapping into talent of only half of its people. So we are talking about success in development. And Christine also referred to that. Cannot happen—cannot happen without the full participation of women. So we—as a development organization—we just have to hammer this message time and again. It is about the fate of women, but it is also about the wellbeing of boys and men. And that is so very important, that we time and again drive this, and then come up with practical solutions.

I don’t find it useful to go to a place and preach and then say, you know what? You have a problem. It’s your problem. Bye. We always have to think, what is that we learn that works? And I gave you a couple of stories. We have many, many activities that work. By the way, also on addressing child marriage. Also on dealing with high population growth. We have a program in the Sahel that is about access to family planning. Very much liked by the countries, a program that helps with a very difficult issue. Culturally difficult, but it helps.

So doing this, some up with these solutions, and then serving as a transmission line of lessons learned from one place to be taken to another. And then persevere. Stay the course. I think we have a change. We were with Christine at the G-20 meeting. And there was at least an hour of the meeting in which everybody talked about gender equality. The irony, of course, was that there were only two women at the table when this conversation took place. (Laughs.) But I find it to be positive, because it is no more a fringe issue. And it is not a fringe issue because of the economics of it. And the rights part, but the economics of it.

O’NEIL: Yeah. So at this moment I’d like to open it up to questions, invite our members to participate. There are microphones that will be going around, so when I call on you please stand, name your affiliation, and please ask one concise question so we can reach lots of people. Go ahead.

Q: Thanks. Rachel Robbins, formerly with IFC.

Christine Lagarde talked, Kristalina, about the fact that 11 percent of jobs of women globally are going to disappear because of technology and other factors. And she said, it calls for policies. What are the policies that can address that issue, for men and well as women?

GEORGIEVA: Thank you, Rachel. Great to see you. One of the women that were trailblazers in the World Bank Group. So fantastic to see you here.

The one—what Christine talks about is serious. We do have a major transformation that is driven by technology. And manual, repetitive jobs are disappearing. I mean, in Bangladesh, the country I mentioned, already they’re buying robots to replace textile workers. And it is an interesting question. If you are in Africa and you’re thinking that you are the next destination for textile, would that really happen? We just published our latest report on the future of work. And there, what were recognize is that rather than being afraid of this change, we need to think what is that would prepare countries for it. And it is obviously recognizing the types of skills that are kind of uniquely human still.

You take the health care profession. A lot can be done by technology, but we do not yet have—and I don’t think in the next 15-20 years we would have—a robot that can hug you so well as a human can. And there are a lot of things around emotional intelligence that are—that are so very valuable. And we need to think of the professions that are a critical part in the skills for them. And they are skills that are different from what I learned. I mean, when I was growing up I learned lots of facts. And now what my granddaughter has to learn is more about this emotional intelligence, social skills.

We have taken a very close look at human capital, because what we understand is that while there is massive automation, there is also remarkably significant role for people in the wealth of nations. The number I quote, 1,123 trillion (dollars), two thirds of the wealth of nations is actually us, it is people. You know, we are those that make kind of the robots possible still. So we are—what we are seeing is very simple: The richer a country is, the higher of the share of human capital in its wealth; 70 percent or more. The poorer countries, the lower the share of human capital; 40 percent or less. Obviously, you want to be rich/wealthy tomorrow, you have to invest in your people today. And recognize that investing in girls and boys ought to be on equal footing.

We have discovered the importance of early childhood development. From the day a child is conceived, the importance of talking to a child. I didn’t know that. We found out that the baby, a baby, if a baby’s talked at, develops brain much faster. So there are things that we know, we need to make sure that we share them, and that we prepare girls and boys for this world of rapid change.

O’NEIL: Go ahead, in the back.

Q: Thanks. Hi. My name is Katharine Zaleski. I’m co-founder and president of PowerToFly, and I actually work with corporations so they can hire more women.

It’s funny, I spend a lot of time in Silicon Valley where companies want me to be a robot when it comes to hiring women, and they’re very disappointed that we’re not automated. And part of the reason we’re not automated is because there are so many sexist patterns already built into these robots. Like Amazon, for example, tried to do an AI robot for hiring, but it just used patterns that favored men and, obviously, you know, within three days they had to ditch the robot.

So my question is, from where you’re sitting, are you having conversations around how to build up these automation systems in the world so that they don’t—so we don’t put sexist inputs in them, racist inputs, et cetera?

GEORGIEVA: Yeah. Well, I mean, yes. We found that in face recognition, because most of the writers of these algorithms that go into face recognition are white men, the recognition of women and people of color is more difficult. So there’s even gender bias in that.

So how can you deal with it? What we—what we—and by the way, we look at ourselves. We did recently a review of our advertisements. They’re male-oriented. Why? Because they had, like, ten bullet points, we list of a bunch of things, and what we realize is that men, they fit the job, never mind what, they don’t read the bullet points, women read these ten bullet points, they say, oh, my God, I don’t meet three of those requirements, I cannot apply. (Laughter.) So that is incredibly important, the question you’re placing.

When we move to automation, how do we strip those biases? And the answer stares us in the face: You need women as part of the design process, you need more women to write codes. And we supported the banks—since you asked what we do—we very massively support in developing countries universities to bring onboard more girls and young women in the STEM area, in code, writing code. We have competitions for that. We actually tell our partners in developing countries, leaders in developing countries you ought to tap into both men and women, boys and girls, if you want to compete in this world of tomorrow.

And we need people like you to go around and ask this question. So if you want to come to the spring meetings of the bank, you have a standing invitation.

By the way, I forgot to say something very important to the men in the audience: Thank you for being here. Thank you. And I’m saying this from my heart. Thank you.

Q: I think that’s on. I’m Sarah O’Hagan with a nonprofit news organization called the Fuller Project.

And as a reader of the incomparable work of the bank, generally produced by Sarah Iqbal, the legal report that you do annually, it’s an enormous educational tool, but it puts me in mind of something that Christine Lagarde said earlier about favoring quotas, and that is the enforcement mechanisms.

In some countries, there’s still enormous legal barriers to women’s participation. In other countries, the laws are on the books, but they can’t be enforced or they aren’t enforced. So I wondered how you see the role of the bank in actually affecting the changes.

GEORGIEVA: Well, the most important part of our job is to make the invisible visible. So it may not be visible that laws are not implemented, we have to make it visible, visible to the decision-makers, visible to the public.

We are big believers in transparency, that when you bring the evidence for everybody to see and then you have a mechanism to track implementation, there is a better chance it will happen. But I must admit, the saying “you can take a horse to water, but you cannot make the horse drink” actually applies. We can do only that much, in the end we need the partners in government that are convinced it is in their interests.

So we invest a lot in engaging ministers of finance to make them part of this conversation to get them to see the answer to the question, what is in it for me? Why is this good for me? How is this going to impact tax collection? How is it going to revenue collection? How is this going to impact productivity? Christine talked about that, make the implementation of the laws not an imposition, but something that is a prerequisite for success for this particular branch of governments that we engage most often with.

We also try to get excitement around these issues. For example, one of the big things you would hear us talking about is Moonshot Africa. Moonshot Africa is basically putting everybody in Africa into the digital space by 2030. And the reason we use “moonshot” is because it’s a little bit like Kennedy saying we are going to go to the moon.

And what we—what we place in very squarely is gender inclusion, digital inclusion, access to finance, access to trade, and we make it then really interesting and sexy. For example, we make—we tell African leaders look at China, China is, for many of them, a, you know, a very successful development story. In China, the women, 59 percent of women use the internet for commerce, and that, of course, generates growth and revenues, more than the men. Men were, what, 54 percent or 55 percent—more than the men. So we say look at this, China, women in ecommerce. (Laughter.)

We go to the moon together. We actually say more than that. We say we want you to be Kennedy and we will be your NASA. It makes me feel great. (Laughter.)

O’NEIL: I love that.

Let me go right here. Go ahead.

Q: Hi. Lawrence Moss, most recently at Hunter College and then Human Rights Watch before that.

Let me preface a difficult question by saying morally and philosophically I absolutely believe women should have full opportunities in education and in employment and, most especially, that there are enormous benefits to every society and every organization from bringing more women into positions of power and influence.

But I have a concern that’s troubled me since I worked at a feminist law firm in San Francisco in the 1970s while I was a student at Stanford Law School at a time when women were surging into elite law schools and into the legal profession, which is that people tend to marry within their social class. I think sociologists call this assortative mating. And as they form high income, they often marry people they meet in school and other elite institutions. And as they form higher-income couples, people of high status, there are that many less of these opportunities to trickle down to other people rising up from other classes. And I believe there now is empirical data that shows that this is a real problem that does exacerbate income inequality. And I think we all may know it anecdotally in our professional lives. So how can we—is the—do you agree that this is a problem? And is there a way to address it that still preserves the rights that women should have to equal employment and the benefits that society gets from elevating women into equal positions of employment, but still addresses this exacerbation of an income inequality problem which is growing throughout the world?

GEORGIEVA: You know, when I think of women and inequality, I actually have in front of me the faces of women in a village in Niger, who, because of the World Bank, are able to keep their income. And because they keep their income, their families have food. And their husbands would say—actually, they said that—one of them said that to me, if you gave me the money, I would have bought a bicycle and we would have been hungry.

I see the women that I travel in the third-class compartment in Mumbai. To me, the matter of a stable, secure world depends so much on eradicating extreme poverty. And eradicating extreme poverty depends so much on us being able to bring the talent of women, the capacity of women.

So I am—yes, I am now part of this elite you talk about. By the way, my husband, he is, I would say, an ordinary Bulgarian citizen—(laughter)—and I am—early retired. Before I joined the World Bank, I earned a hundred-dollar salary per month as a professor in Bulgaria. So it’s not—in other words, not every story is quite as you describe it of successful women.

But to me—to me—in my heart of hearts, it is how I use my position of authority to make it possible for women in the developing world to reach their potential, to make it possible for girls not to marry at the age of twelve. And I go to work every day with this in mind.

So I don’t think that all women that have made it are contributing to growing inequality. Probably some are, the same way some men are. I think that many, many women like me, who have made it on the basis of working harder than men—sorry, that was—(laughter)—that’s the story—we actually—we actually feel this responsibility to open up doors for other women for the well-being of women and men.

I’m not sure I completely subscribe to what you said. I mean, I see the logic of your question, and it is probably valid for Ivy League school graduates. But the world is much bigger than that. (Applause.)

O’NEIL: Go ahead, right there. Yeah, thank you.

Q: Thank you. I’m Allie Massaro with State University of New York, so not an Ivy League school. (Laughter.) And we support—I direct a program that supports young women, many of them very financially challenged, to become global leaders. It’s a two-year program.

What would you give, as I go back to them and work with them—and they’ve gone actually on to Harvard for MPHs and Johns Hopkins for international relations, five Fulbrights—what would you give them as advice as they become women global leaders or global leaders and things how to deal with challenges and other aspects of the world that they’ll be entering in their careers? Thank you.

GEORGIEVA: Well, I mean, I am one of them. I graduated in Bulgaria, got my Ph.D. there, and then by luck I was at MIT with a Fulbright scholarship. And this is where the World Bank found me and, you know, I changed my jacket. (Laughter.)

My advice, twofold: One, believe in yourself, believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in you, why would anybody else do it? And two, think of your fortune to get up in these high corridors of power as a blessing for those who are not there. You are their voice. You speak truth to that power.

O’NEIL: Go ahead, back there.

Q: This is a great day. And I want to comment on the number of women—

O’NEIL: Please introduce yourself.

Q: Oops, I’m sorry?

O’NEIL: Please introduce yourself, yes.

Q: Oh, I’m sorry. I’m Alberta Arthurs, I was in the foundation world for a long time.

Susan, I think you may have been at Harvard when I was a dean there.

O’NEIL: Possibly. (Chuckles.)

Q: I want to comment on the number of young women that are here because I think it makes a huge difference to all of us who are still around that young women are taking over so dramatically. So it’s wonderful to see so many of them here at the Council.

But the morning so far and the last question, well, make me wonder whether we can do all that we have to do until there are more women like you and our predecessor speaker in positions of power. So I think one of the questions we haven’t yet touched on seriously is the question of leadership. How do we get more of you up there?

GEORGIEVA: Well, one, I think it’s irreversible that the world is becoming more diverse and women are finding their place in it. I mean, it’s a very simple thing: Go and vote, vote for women if you find women that you trust.

To me, the—so what I would say, I immediately admit that it is a bit arrogant—I’m not an arrogant person, but this is a little bit arrogant—and it is that I don’t really care if people would get upset because I take a strong position on equality, because I believe it is so very important that those of us that are still minority in this high position of power do it. And I’m saying it not because—I actually love diversity. That means I love people from different ethnicity—men, women, everybody. But I do feel that I owe it to my daughter and I owe it to my granddaughter. I work still harder than men to be equal, and I want them to be equal just because they are. So push, and that is—again, I’m not saying this aggressively. I just feel that it is a responsibility to the next generation.

I was horrified when I found out that Millennial(s) have exactly the same gender gap in pay as my generation. This is wrong. And we have to recognize that wrong has to be put right, and it cannot happen only by being, you know, in conferences and being sort of nice and likeminded. You know, this is why I’m actually so grateful for the men in the audience. We need you. It’s not going to happen without you. But it is for all of us, and it is a matter of having a harmonious society.

Somebody asked the question about women, what women bring. Women do bring a more consensual attitude in their jobs. And we have a world that is faced with so many challenges. Wouldn’t it be good that we bring that consensual energy at the decision-making table for the benefit of everyone?

O'NEIL: Right here.

Q: Hi. Thank you so much for this wonderful and very honest talk. My name is Mariela Dabbah. And I’m from the Red Shoe Movement leadership development, work inside corporations to help more women reach the highest levels of leadership.

And I want to go back to a comment you’ve been making, thanking the men in the audience, which, when I’m presenting and I see men in the audience, I also do. But truth be told, we’re like ninety percent women and we’re talking about women and the law. So why is it—I know the why. Let’s just go to—(laughter)—what can we do to change when we’re talking about these important issues of leveling the playing field? Because nobody that advocates for its own minority is as effective as somebody from the majority advocating for that minority. And we know that when white male advocate for minorities in organizations, their careers really propel. Right? So what can we do to get more men to sit at the table and come to these conversations and really advocate for this issue? Thank you.

GEORGIEVA: Well, first, I want to recognize the president of the World Bank, Jim Kim. He became I think the first in the multilateral community “he for she” champion, and we need that. This is so very important. But to answer your question, well, next time when you come, bring two men with you. (Laughter, applause.) That actually applies to me. I have two women. Next time, we are going to have one of our men with us.

 O'NEIL: (Laughs.) Great.

Right there in the back, back row. (Laughs.)

Q: Thank you. Mona Aboelnaga Kanaan from K6 Investments.

I’m actually interested in your view on the trends that are happening in the developed market, not just the emerging or developing markets, because increasingly over time, coming out of the financial sector, as an Egyptian-American who invests both in American companies as well as Middle Eastern companies, I’m troubled by, over time, there are less women like me in senior levels in private equity in America. There are more in the Middle East, a country (sic) that we constantly talk about for many good reasons, having real gender issues. You will see, we will see in our companies in the Middle East, half of the developers are women. You will never—I will—I hope someone proves me wrong. You will never see that here. And increasingly, investing in fintech and other companies overseas, I see the real moonshots in financial inclusion because developing countries don’t necessarily have the legacy systems and infrastructure that we have here. And I’m constantly struck by we Americans sitting in defensive position, both in terms of technology, financial inclusion and gender-related issues. So I’m actually equally worried for my American sisters as I am for my Arab sisters.

 GEORGIEVA: Well, it is a very good point. Christine also made this point. There is no country on the planet where there is full gender equality. The top countries in Women, Business and the Law are the U.K. and New Zealand, ninety-six out of a hundred, let’s say, points. They are followed by Spain and Canada, ninety-five. And then—why I’m saying that because I was surprised none of the four countries at the top are from the Nordics, but then come the Nordic countries. So there is really no—when I ask my colleagues, well, there must be one country that is really perfect, and they say no. And that is—that just shows that it is not an easy problem to solve, because if it was easy, it would have been in some place solved.

So developed countries as a whole are in a better place than developing countries as a whole, but as you said, the—behind this average there is a lot that is happening, especially in the digital space with countries leapfrogging and, in many cases—I’m thinking of Senegal; we mentioned already Rwanda—in many cases with tremendous advancement for women.

What can be done? Frankly, the only thing that I can think of is to have engagement and societal change that is driven top-down, from senior—the men and women, and it is also driven bottom-up. And you see some of this happening. You see more women going into finance in school, coming up with finance degrees and going—choosing to go to the financial services. It is happening.

How can we accelerate that? Obviously, through legislative change that eliminates all obstacles. How can this change happen? I’m sorry to repeat myself: by having more women in Congress here in the United States, more women in parliaments. When you have more women, the traction of changing laws in that direction of course is stronger.

So I don’t—I don’t think I would tell you something you don’t know. It is exactly what we do here, what the Council on Foreign Relations is doing, what many organizations are now doing: concentrate, keep your eyes on the ball, make sure that change is happening, when laws are on the books they are implemented. Don’t get tired of that topic.

If I have one worry, it is always that it would be fashion that comes and goes. And the staying power actually is what we ought to generate, to concentrate on having.

O'NEIL: One last question. Right back there. Use the microphone.

Q: Hi. I’m Sara Arros (ph). I’m a freelance writer and a past banker.

And to your question about you hope this isn’t just sort of a cycle, or your comment about this not just being a cycle, where it’s fashionable and then it’s not fashionable: When I was in banking, I spent a lot of time trying to engage women throughout the bank in advocating for their own power, and what I found consistently is the younger women were not interested because—and this was my unscientific assessment—they were raised by women who were powerful or felt powerful, and they went to schools in the same number as boys and they achieved as much, if not more, academically. And so they enter into a banking program, fifty-fifty; as many girls as boys have been hired into a corporate banking program. But as time goes on, they earn less and less. And you actually mentioned, as did Christine, when you started out, you were sort of like, just work hard and that’s going to do it.

So do you think that cycle is going to change? Because we’re raising our women to think, we’re raising girls to think that they are powerful and that, until they get out into the real world, it does feel like they’re powerful because they’re being judged by their grades and by things that are pretty objective. So how do we get young women to believe they have to fight and they have to advocate for themselves and not wait until they’re forty years old and they feel like, darn, that did actually happen?

GEORGIEVA: You know, my philosophy, what I’m going to say—I should say, that’s not the opinion of the World Bank; this is my personal opinion. (Laughter.) My personal opinion is “she for she”—as important as “he for she.” Women have to be bearing this responsibility to help other women, to lift up the younger generation to understand the challenges, and then to actually relentlessly fight for what is right.

In my institution, we have instituted annual review on pay, and what we look at is discrimination on gender or part of the world you come—we have part one, part two countries. We had ninety-two cases this year. We will review again. We then make corrections. We would review again next year, and actually majority of the cases were gender, women being paid less than comparators men. And I think that discipline of correcting the right, the wrong to right, that is a responsibility for everybody, but I don’t know whether you would agree with me; I feel I have a higher responsibility than my colleagues, men, because I was once—(laughs)—discriminated—actually, my salary was corrected some years ago. And it is—and that’s why I’m saying I don’t want to be arrogant on that, but I do feel that I have to call it as it is. And I—and this is—I think it was Madeleine Albright that said there is a special hell—place in hell for women that don’t help other women. Until we reach that point in which we have critical mass and this is the exception—right now, it is the rule—we ought to be—in our maturity—(laughs)—we ought to be lifting up younger women, helping younger women, mentoring them. I mean, it is a simple matter of fact: Women judge themselves harsher in relative terms than men.

I had the case, two people, man and woman, interviewing them and they were pretty much the same. And the man says, well, you have these five criteria, but the most important three, I fully meet, and I’m bringing you my fabulous personality; of course I’m the right person for the job.

O'NEIL: (Laughs.)

GEORGIEVA: And the woman sits there and she says, well, I don’t know; I only meet three criteria; I don’t know whether I’m the right person for the job. That’s a fact. So unless we recognize it and unless we actively support women to take positions of authority, and then to watch over the risk of discrimination, on all counts, and you know, sometimes it may be a discrimination on other, for other reasons. The LGBT community may be one that is being discriminated against. But that focus on we’re not yet there—(laughs)—right—

O'NEIL: We’re working on it, right? (Laughs.)

GEORGIEVA: We’re not there yet—yet there. We’re working on that. And that focus on telling young women well, you know, watch it. Again, going to the Millennial(s): Come on, young women Millennial(s), go out there and say hey, why is my paycheck slimmer than this other one? Unless we have a bit of, you know, guts to fight it, it will be hard to close that gap. And then we don’t really have anybody to blame but kind of ourselves missing in action. I am—since I missed a bunch of years of action, I feel now every year I have to act and act a little bit more, to compensate for that past, so. (Laughter.)

O'NEIL: So on that, we’ve reached the end of our hour, so please join me in thanking Dr. Georgieva. (Applause.) Thank you.


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