Gender parity goes beyond feminism

By Rose de la Cruz


WOMEN’S emancipation has gone beyond feminism (as in burning the bras in the sixties) to seeking dominance and impact in the economy through entrepreneurship.


But the road to recognition is awash with obstacles and barriers in terms of access to financing, technology, education and the market place. The men dominate, and continue to do so, the (larger) small and medium enterprises and even the board rooms of large corporations.


And yet, in the Association of Southeast Asian nations, women-owned and managed SMEs totaling 60 million (or a tenth of the bloc’s population) have been creating impact in the communities and markets they operate in because they share their bounties through mentoring other women and girls.


In Malaysia for instance, the SME Corp. of the Malaysian Trade Ministry, has been helping and nurturing SMEs grow big and linking them to funders and markets and for technology transfer to ensure they can eventually stand on their own.


Dr. Hafsah Hashim CEO of SME Corp said the economic contribution of women-dominated SMEs in her country is 36.7 percent of the GDP (gross domestic product) while in Germany it is 57 percent and in Japan, 50 percent. “Small is now big,” she stressed.


Dr. Wandee Juljaren, CEO of Solar Power Company Group of Thailand expounded on how her company propagated solar power to Thailand and to Asia. She said the National Commission of Women of Thailand, which she heads, `has also actively engaged 200 women organizations in businesses in 51 years in helping various organizations and social endeavors and charity work to uplift the quality of life of women.


Mo Hom Lokhamieng, founder of Rose Gold Mountain Trading Co. Ltd of Myanmar narrated how she has wooed women and men folk back into farming through her silk production (which have been sold in fashion houses of the world) and in her 400 hectare property, they also grow food and she encouragesfood biodiversity by linking them to markets and funders instead of just sticking to opium- growing. She also taught the women and girls self-defense so they don’t get scared of the men, “because women should not live in fear.”


Business Insights


Shuyin Tang, principal of Patamar Capital of Vietnam, said for SMEs to succeed, they must first pursue vigorously their domestic markets before targeting the global market. Patamar Capital invests in early-stage impact startups in Asia’s fastest growing economies such as India, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. The company invests up to $2 million in businesses in sectors such as agriculture, education, healthcare, employment access and financial inclusion.

Win El Khine of Myanmar’s Maple Trading Co. Ltd. underscored the need to build an ASEAN brand collectively and it must be done now. Maple Trading was established in 1996 manufacturing trousers, woven items, dresses, children's wear, coats and wool jackets and selling them to Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands and Germany. All orders target the mid- and high-end markets.


Hellianti Hilman, founder/CEO of PT Kampung Kearifan (JAVARRA) of Indonesia said problems are blessings as she narrated how, after the big volcanic eruption in her country in 2008, she helped hundreds of organic vegetable farmers to earn income from their otherwise wasted products by linking them to a big noodle manufacturer who converted them all into mixed vegetable noodles. “If you are faced with a problem, think of it as an opportunity and convert them into solutions,” she said.


JAVARA works across agricultural value chains from production to distribution to preserve such biodiversity and bring community-based, organic products to broader markets. It works with over 50,000 farmers and 2000 food artisans, selling over 600 premium artisan food products.


Ambe Tierro, senior managing director and technology lead of Accenture Philippines named three areas for women to bridge the gap and equalize the work place namely: a) digital fluency by using technology to connect, learn and work; b) plan out a career strategy since women aspire for leadership position which can be solved by mentoring; and c) tech immersion which goes deeper than digital fluency to make them savvy in using technology.


She said with some focus and high impact actions we can see the gap closed soon.


Great thoughts


Lorraine Parkin, partner and head of indirect tax and supply chain of Asean Business Advisory Council from Grant Thornton Singapore, a firm founded in Chicago in 1924, one of the world’s leading organization of independent audit, tax and advisory firms, for several decades now, said across the world only 25 percent of senior roles are occupied by women and also 24 percent of companies had women in their boards.


In Asean, she said, 36 percent of women are in leadership posts and the Philippines plays a significant part in elevating women in senior roles. Russia, China and Eastern bloc countries are doing a lot better in moving women up the ladder, she noted, adding that communism provides them equal opportunities in education, labor and leadership roles.


Julia King, non- executive director of Sapphire and ABIE in France and past Oceania CEO of Louis Vuitton and Loewe, gave great philosophical thoughts to guide women.


First you need to work on your strengths and start thinking with hindsight; second you need to love your job not the idea of the job or the company name or the company you are working but actually what you are doing.


Citing the recent Economist survey in the last couple of years, she said, 40 percent of the women in the US say they are unhappy with the work they are doing and that they really don’t like their jobs at all. Here are more of her philosophies:


·         If you want to break the glass ceiling, you need to make a difference to the business first. You and the business are intertwined so you have to do well for the business and for yourself.

·         In my career, what I did was to make myself indispensable to the company by turning exact ideas into concrete actions.

·         You are your own product and your own brand so you need to market yourself with a great deal of sensitivity.

·         Your priority is to invest in human capital and invest in education and further training

·         Find out who are the influencers in the company

·         The world is not fair, never expect it to be so but you just have to better at your job and better than your competition. Ignore the competition, they are there, but just get on with your job and your pay will come with you.

·         Women are expected to play nice, but forget about that as well. #









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Monday, 09 December 2019
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