Cook Islands | 19 July 2022

Proud of success so far, and more progress possible on women in business leadership—PSDI Leadership Matters event in Cook Islands

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The Cook Islands is among the Pacific’s best performers on the representation of women in business leadership, and can use this status as a springboard to boardroom gender parity, a local launch event for the Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative’s (PSDI) Leadership Matters study has heard. 

PSDI on 19 July 2022 hosted almost 30 representatives of Cook Islands government ministries, state-owned enterprises, private-sector companies, and nongovernment organizations for the launch of Leadership Matters: Benchmarking Women in Business Leadership in the Pacific.

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Almost 30 people attended the Leadership Matters launch event in the Cook Islands.

The launch event and roundtable discussion at Crown Beach Resort in Rarotonga was cohosted by PSDI, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce.

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

It found that 32% of sampled board directors in the Cook Islands in 2021 were women—higher than the Pacific regional average of 21% and global average of 17%. Likewise, 25% of chairs in the Cook Islands were women, compared to the Pacific average of 11% and global average of 5%.  

Meanwhile, the proportion of Cook Islands chief executive officers who were women sat at 27%—significantly higher than the regional 13% average and the global 4% average. 

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The Cook Islands is among the Pacific's best performers for the representation of women in business leadership.

At the event, New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner to the Cook Islands Helena Cook gave the opening address, saying “the challenge has been set” to push towards gender parity in business leadership. 

“The pressure for change is building globally as investors and shareholders campaign companies to increase diversity in their leadership,” Ms Cook said. “Why are investors campaigning? Because it affects their bottom line. 

Companies with more women in leadership have improved performance, productivity and profitability. Multiple studies have demonstrated the impact of greater gender diversity in business leadership in dollar figures."

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Helena Cook, the New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner to the Cook Islands.

The event also included a presentation by ADB Cook Islands Senior Country Officer Lavinia Tama, group activities and discussions, and speeches by Valery Wichmann of the Cook Islands’ Office of the Prime Minister and Sandrina Thondoo of the Cook Islands’ Ministry of Internal Affairs. 

Australian High Commissioner to the Cook Islands HE Christopher Watkins gave the closing address, lauding Leadership Matters for championing the collection of sex-disaggregated business data across the Pacific. 

There’s no reform without good data,” Dr Watkins said. It gives us data, comparative data, which is even more useful(as) it fills out the picture in a way that anecdote and discussion can’t. 

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.