Group urges APEC to support career women

by Hiroko Nakata

The APEC Women Leaders Network ended its three-day meeting Tuesday in Tokyo by calling on APEC leaders to recognize women’s economic contributions to the Asia-Pacific region and implement policies to support female career development and entrepreneurship.

The WLN meeting recommended that APEC leaders “collaborate with the private sector on initiatives that encourage and accelerate the promotion of women in management, leadership and board positions such as setting targets and reporting progress.”

To that end, the governments need to help women have more opportunities for vocational training for women and their life-long learning, participants said in a concluding statement.

Appropriate policies for work-life balance such as flexible work schedules are also necessary to encourage women and men to share family responsibilities, the statement said.

As for promotion of female entrepreneurship, financial hurdles are always a barrier. “Access to finance for women continues to be a significant challenge in all APEC economies,” it said.

Patricia Foley Hinnen, founding CEO of Capital Sisters International, which extends micro loans to women in poverty, stressed in a panel discussion earlier Tuesday the tough situations faced by motivated women in some nations.

“Think about ways to help your fellow sisters in developing countries,” Hinnen said.

The meeting also urged APEC leaders to “improve the capacity of economies in the APEC region to collect, analyze and disseminate sex-disaggregated statistics and use emerging data to raise awareness among policymakers about gender disparities.”

The WLN meeting said it will monitor the implementation of its recommendations in each economy.

The day’s agenda started with a keynote speech by Yuri Konno, president and CEO of telephone service provider Dial Service Co.

Konno, a leader of female entrepreneurship in Japan, stressed the tough reality for entrepreneurs here.

Out of 100 startup companies in the country, 30 firms fail after just one year. After a decade, 75 percent of the companies fail, and 98 percent of them cease to be in business after 30 years, Konno said.

“The country has to support startup companies more,” she said.

Almas Jiwani, president and CEO of Frontier Canada Inc., pointed out in the panel discussion statistics showing women still do not have enough power, including in big companies. She said 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies have no woman on their boards.