Solomon Islands | 15 September 2022

More women in business leadership 'delivers benefits for everyone'—PSDI Leadership Matters roundtable in Solomon Islands

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Greater gender diversity in Solomon Islands business leadership will “deliver benefits for everyone” by boosting productivity and profitability, a local launch event for the Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative’s (PSDI) Leadership Matters study has heard. 

PSDI’s Leadership Matters: Benchmarking Women in Business Leadership in the Pacific report collected and analyzed women’s business leadership data across the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 14 Pacific developing member countries (DMCs), establishing a baseline for women’s representation in senior business leadership, and comparing these findings to global averages.  

Leadership Matters sampled 30 organizations in Solomon Islands in 2021: 9 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), 20 other private sector organizations, and 1 industry association.  

Solomon Islands held the lowest share of women on boards in the Leadership Matters report, with the proportion of women board directors (11%) and board chairs (0%) lower than the Pacific regional average and global average. The proportion of women chief executive officers (CEO) (7%) was lower than the Pacific regional average, but surpassed the global average.  

These findings were considered and discussed by more than 40 Solomon Islands government, business, and civil society representatives at a roundtable event in Honiara on 14 September 2022, cohosted by PSDI, ADB, the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce, the Solomon Islands Women in Business Association (SIWIBA), and the Institute of Solomon Islands Accountants (ISIA).

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More than 40 people attended the PSDI Leadership Matters roundtable event in Honiara.

At the event, Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Solomon Islands Sally-Anne Vincent, New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner to Solomon Islands Kate Bradlow, and ADB Pacific Liaison and Coordination Office Officer in Charge Matt Hodge gave opening remarks. 

Ms Vincent noted that greater gender diversity in business leadership had positive effects on company productivity and profitability, referring to data which shows the appointment of a female CEO to an Australian ASX-listed company increased market value by 5%. 

Greater gender diversity in leadership will deliver benefits for everyone,” Ms Vincent said. 

Ms Bradlow noted the importance of collecting sex-disaggregated data to better inform policymaking, while Mr Hodge outlined PSDI’s Economic Empowerment of Women (EEOW) program and objectives. 

Their remarks were followed by a presentation by PSDI EEOW Expert Sarah Boxall, who outlined Leadership Matters findings for Solomon Islands. Ms Boxall said the report data “only tells half the story”, as continued progress is key. 

“We’re very keen to hear people’s reflections of progress in Solomon Islands over the past 5 or 10 yearsand where to from here,” Ms Boxall said. “Everyone has a slightly different role to play in improving representation.” 

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PSDI EEOW Expert Sarah Boxall presents Leadership Matters' findings.

Ms Boxall’s remarks were followed by an address by Richard Sesebo of Solomon Islands’ Economic Reform Unit, which oversees eight SOEs, and then by a pair of panel discussions moderated by Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Natalina Hong. 

The first panel, of Solomon Islands CEOs, included:  

      • Ethel Wasuka, SIWIBA CEO 
      • Christina Lasaga, Solomon Telekom CEO 
      • Mike Wate, Solomon Islands National Provident Fund, Principal CEO 
      • Pamela Alamu, ISIA CEO 
The second panel, of Solomon Islands board members, included:  
      • Dr Alice Pollard, Women’s Rights and Peace Advocate 
      • Tele Bartlett, Bulk Shop owner and director 
      • Baoro Laxton Koraua, Baoro & Associates CPA Ltd owner 
      • Pamela Zoloveke, SIWIBA board chair
Panelists discussed key constraints to women’s representation in business leadership, including educational disadvantage, the formality of board appointment processes, and male domination in some sectors and occupations. Suggestions to address these challenges included greater focus on succession planning within organizations, setting targets for women's representation, and changing mindsets to recognize that women are capable of doing anything.  

The event concluded with small group discussionswith a series of recommendations presented, including: (i) review the regulations governing state-owned enterprises; (ii) set national standards for inclusion in the workplace;(iii) establish a pool of women candidates; and (iv) provide dedicated training to assist women to obtain board positions. 

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Dr Alice Pollard (second from left) discusses women in Solomon Islands business leadership.

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.