Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to building stronger economies, achieving internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improving the quality of life for women, men, families and communities.
Globally, women earn on average 24 per cent less than men, do nearly two and a half times more unpaid care and domestic work than men, and are over-represented in clerical and support positions (63 per cent) compared to managerial occupations (33 per cent).
In Papua New Guinea 23 per cent of women are represented in middle management and top level management, in the private sector. Previously as little as 10 per cent had been represented in the private sector in previous years.
PNG’s Origin Energy has seen a 170 per cent increase in its profits since a female, Lesieli Taviri, has been in the CEO chair over the last four years. This is ample evidence that shows when government and society give women and girls the opportunity to lead; greater economic growth and stronger societies emerge.
There is a certain social stigma on whether a woman is capable of being a leader; culture and customary laws also hold women back from accessing opportunities, sometimes despite legislation in place to end discrimination.
Traditional codes of conduct, cultural stigmatisation of female executives or restriction on women’s claims to household property and finances all seriously restrict a woman’s ability to participate in the economy.
Female-owned Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), already an economic force in Papua New Guinea, can be further encouraged by tax breaks or mentorship programmes. Policy makers, corporations and individuals all have responsibility to make sure women are empowered with the right opportunities.
The mechanism to achieve gender equality is far from those who need it. With that being the case, The Women’s Empowerment Principles have been developed through a partnership between UN Women and the United Nations Global Compact. The principles are designed to support companies in reviewing existing policies and practices—or establishing new ones—to realise women’s empowerment.
In brief, the principles are:
- Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
- Treat all women and men fairly at work—respect and support human rights and non-discrimination
- Ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of all women and men workers
- Promote education, training and professional development for women
- Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
- Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
- Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality
Given these significant challenges, organisations have made an initiative to address the issue of women’s empowerment in Papua New Guinea. Programs such as the Women’s Self Reliance Program, Global Women in Management and Professional Business Women’s School Girl Program, and groups such as the Business Coalition of Women and the Business Professional Women’s Club have been formed to act as a platform to help implement programs, run workshops and conferences all to help eliminate this issue.
All this shows that there is no doubt about gender issues gaining momentum, and becoming important aspects of the country’s changing political and national development priorities.