DOMESTIC and international companies in Myanmar should improve women’s empowerment at their workplaces to ensure sustainable growth, say participants at the annual conference on women in business and leadership development, supported by the Australian Embassy.
The embassy’s economic counsellor Nick Cumpston said Myanmar should try to ensure tangible benefits from promoting gender equality because the countries with strong female workforce usually enjoy higher economic growth.
“We have seen a lot of progress [in Myanmar], but there is a long way to go. But we are happy that the government has the national strategic plan to empower women. We are realistic that it is going to be a long-term objective,” he said.
According to Cumpston, there are a lot of rooms for improvement though Myanmar is one of the lowest-ranked countries in the region in terms of women quality.
“There are a lot of lessons you can learn from other countries. It is important to raise the number of women who take leadership roles in companies. Empowering women is a core area that we are working here,” he said.
He urged a change in the mindset of people and suggested more incentives for talented female employees.
“There are still a lot of attitudes that women cannot be leaders. There is no reason why women cannot take leadership roles in enterprises. Such an attitude should be changed so women can be leaders in the community,” he said.
He said businesses should create more opportunities for women, as a large number of university graduates in Myanmar are female. He also urged more women involvement in peace talks with ethnic armed groups, as it would better reflect the opinion of the whole community.
The Embassy is working with some government institutions to support women in business, and with other development lenders including Asian Development Bank to invest in women initiatives. It has also been implementing some programmes for the grassroots; he added.
The event was organised by AustCham Myanmar which was formed in August following the merger of two Australian business chambers registered in the country.
Jodi Weedon, chief executive of ofAustCham Myanmar, said working together with the Embassy and other sponsor companies would help promote women’s contribution to economic growth, political stability and social transformation in Myanmar.
“It serves the purpose of empowering women and stimulating new areas of growth. It is a forum where Myanmar women in business get to share knowledge, skills and success stories. We are lucky to work with them towards a better future for women in this country,” she said.
The conference was divided into three major themes – inspiration, business and leadership – with discussions spread over burgeoning issues for local women entrepreneurs – from addressing opportunities and challenges in running one’s own business in Myanmar to hiring millennials and using gender-positive media and marketing communication.
Saw Nay Nwe, deputy director of AA Medical Products Ltd, the nation’s largest pharmaceutical distribution firm, said having women in top management positions will lead to a wider diversity of ideas, which will in turn result in better, more creative solutions to business issues.
“Women are terrific communicators and natural networkers. We do believe that there are new, better corporate structures evolving out there that pair women of ability with men of ability,” she said.
Rowena Guerin, research director at Kantar TNS, a leading data and consultancy firm, considers understanding the current issues as the first step towards improving the role of women and developing ways for businesses to address challenges.
Brad Jones, chief executive of Wave Money, a financial services provider, said the firm recognises the key role that women play in the growth of any economy.
“So, we proactively support initiatives aimed at providing women with the knowledge and tools necessary to elevate their quality of life and contribute positively to the societies in which they live,” he said.