Australia’s new Minister for International Development and the Pacific says getting more women into leadership positions will drive economic development in Papua New Guinea by boosting productivity and business confidence.
In one of his first official engagements in his new role, Minister Steven Ciobo said the under-representation of women in the formal economy, particularly in leadership roles, was preventing PNG in reaching it’s full economic potential.
He told an audience of female executives in Port Moresby today (October 9) that Australia wanted to do more to support the economic empowerment of PNG women and girls.
“As a friend and partner of Papua New Guinea, Australia recognises that women’s leadership in both the public and private sectors is vital to PNG’s prosperity and stability, and will help to forge a stronger, more inclusive and successful nation of the future,” he said.
“Research shows that of women had the same access to credit, markets and technology as men, the returns – in both the informal and formal sectors – would increase significantly.”
Mr Ciobo was addressing a masterclass for female managers offered through the Australian-funded Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct. The Women in Leadership workshop helps participants strengthen their skills as managers and influencers of workplace culture.
“The Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct provides opportunities such as this course for women to foster greater collaboration between the private and public sectors in PNG, and contribute to better economic growth and the provision of public services,” he said.
“We want to see women having more of a say in running their family, their community, their workplace and their country,” he said.
The Australian Government’s support for PNG women falls into three specific areas: reducing violence against women; increasing women’s economic empowerment; and improving the ability of women to take on senior leadership roles.
In Melanesia, women occupy only a third of jobs in the formal economy, and men typically earn 20-50 per cent more than women because they work in jobs that attract higher salaries. The 2012 Economist Intelligence Unit placed PNG among the world’s bottom five nations in its Women’s Economic Opportunity Index.
“Women in PNG need access to agricultural resources and finance. They need to be empowered to become leaders in business, in politics, in education, in law and order and in the wider community,” Mr Ciobo said.
“I believe initiatives such as the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct will enhance women’s voice in leadership and decision-making, and will be the foundation for the future of this relationship.
“I applaud the Government of PNG for its commitment to building a new generation of ethical and effective public sector leaders in PNG, particularly those who are working to address barriers that restrict women’s full participation in economic activity.”
Minister Ciobo’s address was followed by a panel discussion which also featured UPNG’s Professor Betty Lovai, The Voice Executive Director Serena Sumanop, Origin Energy General Manager Lesieli Taviri, Internal Revenue Commissioner Betty Palaso and Dr Christine Nixon.
The two-day Women in Leadership Course was delivered on behalf of the Precinct by the Australian and New Zealand School of Government.
It was designed to complement the PNG Department of Personnel Management’s gender equity and social inclusion policy.
The workshop was facilitated by former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Dr Christine Nixon.