Hundreds of female business and political leaders from across the world are converging this week in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi for the 18th Global Summit of Women. They will exchange ideas, make deals and network, just as the world’s mainly male business leaders do almost yearly at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Women and Asia: Driving the Global Economy” is this year’s focus.
20 percent of the world's top managers are female and yet women make up half of the global workforce
Even today, almost a decade into the 21st century, company directors across the world are usually men. Although the number of women in top positions is growing it still lies at around 20 percent.
Teresa Ganzon is the managing director of Bangko Kabayan, one of the leading rural banks in the Philippines. She complained that although the booming economies of Asia are celebrated across the world, the contribution of women is rarely mentioned.
Ganzon added that cultural traditions and gender barriers were continuing to hinder the advancement of women in many Asian countries. “There is this consciousness to not outshine men when you are together. There is a cultural interest against being too aggressive: you have to put your ideas across in a suggestive way, not a demanding way. Men never have to worry about this.”
Teresa Ganzon’s bank finances micro-credit projects in rural areas, giving women the chance to build up their own enterprises. Women are thus empowered and develop more self-confidence due to having more responsibility.
This is an important factor for cultural change, says Ganzon: “I think that if women have more opportunities open to them they really take advantage of them and build up confidence. It also transforms the way men look at them. They are forced to look at them in a new way.”
Teresa Ganzon is participating in the Global Women Summit in Hanoi because she wants to share her experiences with other Asian experts. The majority of the participants are businesswomen or representatives of professional associations.
Networking on a global scale
Bettina Schleicher is the chairwoman of the association “Business and Professional Women Germany”. She hopes to learn more about cultural differences and establish contacts with Asian companies.
“If you are in a leading position today, you need to think globally,” says Schleicher. “The international economy has become more interlinked and we have to keep in mind that our decisions will have an impact in other countries too. Therefore, women should watch trends and growing markets around the world -- and draw lessons for the advancement of their own enterprises.”
Today, women make up almost half of the world’s workforce. They own 30 to 40 percent of the world’s small businesses and they invest a significant amount of money.
The organisers of the Global Women’s Summit are convinced that, whether in India, Kenya or Germany, it is women who will shape the 21st century as they continue to develop self-confidence and take on more leading roles.