Vanuatu | 31 August 2022

'Conscious and sustained' effort required to boost women in business leadership—PSDI Leadership Matters Vanuatu roundtable

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A “conscious and sustained effort” across Vanuatu’s economy and society can build on progress since independence and drive more women into business leadership rolesaccording to a local roundtable for the Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative’s (PSDILeadership Matters study. 

Leadership Matters: Benchmarking Women in Business Leadership in the Pacific collected and analyzed women’s business leadership data across the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 14 Pacific developing member countries (DMCs), establishing a baseline for women’s representation in senior business leadership, and comparing these findings to global averages. 

PSDI, in partnership with the Vanuatu Department of Women’s Affairs (DWA) through the Ministry of Justice and Community Services, on 31 August 2022 hosted almost 40 government, business, and civil society figures at a roundtable event in Port Vila to discuss Leadership Matters. 

The event also served as a consultation about how women’s representation in business leadership can be supported by DWA’s National Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) Action Plan. 

Leadership Matters sampled 18 organizations in Vanuatu in 2021: 10 state-owned enterprises, 6 other private sector organizations, and 2 industry associations. 

It found that 15% of chief executive officers (CEOs) in Vanuatu are women—higher than the 4% global average and the 13% Pacific-wide average. However, in Vanuatu boardrooms, 18% of board directors and 8% of board chairs are women—higher than the global averages of 17% and 5% respectively, but lower than the Pacific-wide averages of 21% and 11% respectively.

5Almost 40 people attended the Leadership Matters roundtable event in Port Vila.

At the event, Vanuatu Ministry of Justice and Community Services Director General Arthur Faerua gave the welcomtoktoksaying in his address that the economic wellbeing of women was a “fundamental process”. 

“It is one of the pillars that drive any society, because economic systems have a big impact on livelihoods,” Mr Faerua said. 

Mr Faerua’s remarks were followed by an opening address by Clemency Oliphant, Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Vanuatu, who said “conscious and sustained effort” was required to drive women’s representation in Vanuatu business leadership. 

This could be achieved through changes to workplace culture; boosting the overall proportion of women in the workforce; changing workplace inclusion policies; and introducing targets or legislated quotas for women in leadership roles. 

We have seen more and more investors and shareholders demand companies increase the representation of women in leadership—because they have read the evidence, and they want to make money,” Ms Oliphant said, referring to data which shows the appointment of a female CEO to an Australian ASX-listed company increased market value by 5%. 

DSC 0230The Leadership Matters event also involved discussion of DWA’s National WEE Action Plan. 

This was followed by a presentation on Vanuatu’s National Gender Equality Policy and the National WEE Action Plan by DWA’s Smith Pakoasongi, who said the plancurrently in developmentwould center upon training and education, job creation, and promoting fair and equitable employment. 

PSDI Economic Empowerment of Women Expert Sarah Boxall and Analyst Madeleine D’Arcy subsequently presented Leadership Matters’ findings, which formed the basis for a panel discussion and smaller group discussionsThe panel discussion included:

    • Wilson Toa, Vanuatu Country Director, Balance of Power (Cardno) 
    • Maeva Magmui, Principal Policy Analyst, Justice Sector and Constitutional Bodies, Vanuatu Department of Strategic Policy, Planning and Aid Coordination 
    • Sherol George, Inclusion Manager, Vanuatu Skills Partnership 
    • Qwenneth Natu Tari, Principal, Policy and Coordination, Vanuatu Department of Agriculture and Rural Development 
    • Leintz Vusilai, Acting Manager, Training and IT, Vanuatu Office of the Registrar of Cooperatives and Business Development Services 
    • Votausi Mackenzie-Reur, Chief Executive Officer and Owner, Lapita Café Ltd. 

The event concluded with a closing address by New Zealand High Commission First Secretary Esther Jens.

6“Conscious and sustained effort” is required to drive women’s representation in Vanuatu business leadership, the Leadership Matters roundtable heard.

PSDI is an ADB technical assistance program in partnership with the governments of Australia and New Zealand. It supports ADB’s 14 Pacific DMCs to improve the enabling environment for business and to achieve inclusive, private sector-led economic growth, including through reforms designed to enhance the economic empowerment of women. 

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.