Tonga | 23 April 2016

Empowering Tonga’s Next Generation of Female Business Leaders

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The leadership workshops attracted participants from major Tongan businesses and government departments.

The Women’s Business Leadership Program took place in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, over three, two-day sessions that aimed to provide attendees with the skills, knowledge, mentoring, and networking opportunities they require to advance their careers. All attendees selected to take part in the workshops currently work in mid-level roles in the public or private sectors.

The workshops covered a range of topics, from understanding different organizational cultures to the challenges and skills of successful leaders.

The networking component of the workshops—a leadership strategy that extends well beyond the workshops themselves—had the most significant and lasting impact. This component encouraged attendees to develop their own networks—thereby raising their profile, presence, and influence within their organization—and to network with other leaders in the field. Following the workshops, more than half of the attendees reported that their networking ability had improved significantly.

Providing women with the opportunities and confidence they need to approach leadership roles benefits the women themselves, their families and employers, and, ultimately, the economy. The workshops have given one attendee, Ofeina Filimoehala from the Tonga Development Bank, the confidence to set up her own business. The workshop program also helped her think differently about her own goals. “I want to be CEO of a company in three-years’ time,” said Ms. Filimoehala.

Another workshop participant was invited by her employer, Bank South Pacific, to attend an inhouse leadership and capacity building workshop. Emele Hia attributes her successful selection to the confidence she gained from attending the PSDI workshop.

The workshops highlighted the role of calculated risk taking, providing attendees with the confidence to voice their opinion, while being “prepared to accept the consequences, positive or negative,” as Norma Lavemai from Tonga Airports said.

The role of work-life balance, and thinking about what that means for those in leadership roles, was also explored by the workshops. This is an important element in any leadership training course for women but especially pertinent for Tonga, and the Pacific more broadly, given there is still much work to be done to improve gender equality.