Promote company 'treasures' to boost women in PNG business leadership—PSDI Leadership Matters panel
Organizations in Papua New Guinea (PNG) can lead the charge for women’s representation in business leadership by promoting the “treasures” in their own ranks and giving them opportunities to develop and grow, according to a roundtable on the Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative’s (PSDI) Leadership Matters study.
Almost 100 business, government, and civil society figures in PNG gathered in Port Moresby’s The Stanley Hotel on 6 April 2022 for the Women in Leadership Breakfast event, co-hosted by PSDI, the PNG Institute of Directors (PNGID), and the PNG Business Coalition for Women (BCFW).
At the event, former Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor, TotalEnergies E&P PNG Public Affairs and External Communications Manager Richard Kassman, and PNGID President Sharon Kupp-Tengdui took part in a panel discussion on women in PNG business leadership.
From left to right: Women in Leadership Breakfast panel moderator Evonne Kennedy (BCFW) and panelists Dame Meg Taylor, Sharon Kupp-Tengdui (PNGID), and Richard Kassman.
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 found that while the proportion of women board directors (19%) and chief executive officers (5%) in PNG in 2021 sat above the global average (17% and 4% respectively), women remain underrepresented relative to the Pacific average (21% and 11% respectively).
This is despite the proven positive effect women leaders have on company performance, productivity, and profitability.
PSDI PNG Senior Policy and Law Expert Rosanda Kora presents the findings of the Leadership Matters report.
Dame Meg said she saw “a certain resistance” from PNG women to taking on senior business positions, which could be alleviated by providing more training, guidance, and mentorship.
One such example is PSDI’s work with BCFW to design a 17-week Senior Executive Women’s Program in PNG, delivered in late 2021.
“What I did (at PIFS) was focus in the institution on young women coming in, particularly the analysts, because that was a pool of knowledge … because of social structures, they’d never speak in a room where there were senior people,” Dame Meg said.
“What are the treasures in that group of people that can be pulled out and you say, are you interested in management training?
“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got women who are ready to put their names forward and take on those responsibilities.”
Mr Kassman agreed, saying “continuous work” was required in PNG to train women executive talent and ensure a steady pipeline of women candidates for boards and senior management.
This included a strong strategic direction at the company level for increasing the representation of women on boards and in senior management teams.
In PNG, 19% of board directors sampled in 2021 were women, and 5% of chief executive officers were women.
Ms Kupp-Tengdui, also the Head of Legal and Company Secretary for Westpac PNG, said inspiring PNG women to take on leadership roles was critical.
“Not just putting them into positions of leadership, but to back that up and be there for them when they need it … let them know you can have a seat at the table too,” Ms Kupp-Tengdui said.
Place cards were placed on tables at the Women in Leadership Breakfast event, requesting attendee feedback on their organization’s efforts to boost the representation of women in business leadership. Almost every organization indicated they were already implementing at least one of three identified actions to support and track women’s leadership in their ranks.
Of the 26 organizations that completed the place cards, 19 said they would like to do more to promote women in business leadership. PNGID and BCFW will provide support to interested organizations to implement additional measures to increase the representation of women in business leadership in PNG.
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.