UN Under-Secretary-General Shamshad Akhtar is executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Previously the secretary-general’s senior advisor on economics and finance, as well as assistant secretary-general for economic development, she was governor of the Central Bank of Pakistan; vice president of the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa region; and held a range of senior posts in the Asian Development Bank. Currently, she serves as the coordinator of the five United Nations Regional Commissions.
Fumiko Hayashi became Yokohama’s first female mayor in 2009. She is known for promoting women’s empowerment through entrepreneurship, networking support, and reducing waiting lists for nurseries in Yokohama. Before entering the public sector, she served as chairperson and CEO of The Daiei, Inc. and operating officer of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. She was selected by the Wall Street Journal as among the “50 Women to Watch” in 2004 and received the “2014 Person of the Year” award by the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.
Ms. Oyun Sanjaasuren previously served as the first president of the United Nations Environment Assembly of UNEP. She was formerly a member of parliament of Mongolia, and served as minister of foreign affairs and minister of environment and green development. One of the leading women figures in Mongolia, she chairs a number of NGOs, including Zorig Foundation and Women Corporate Directors. Ms. Sanjaasuren graduated from Karlova University in Prague and holds a PhD from Cambridge University, United Kingdom.
Mr. Shintaku joined Terumo Corporation in 1999. He held various important posts to pursue international businesses, including general manager of the Strategy Planning Department and International Business Division, before serving as the president and CEO in 2010. The accomplishments during his seven years of career as the president include major acquisitions, earnings improvements, and strengthening corporate governance. Mr. Shintaku has served as director and corporate advisor since April 2017.
Before joining ADB, Ms. Stokes was a senior official in Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and AusAid. She was most recently high commissioner to Papua New Guinea, and has served as Australia’s ambassador to Austria and permanent representative to the United Nations in Vienna, and deputy head of mission at the Australian Embassy in Tokyo. Ms. Stokes holds a master of philosophy in development studies from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and a bachelor of arts from the University of Adelaide in Australia.
Ms. Sharanjit Leyl is a Singaporean presenter on BBC World News. She regularly anchors Asia Business Report and Newsday from the BBC's Singapore studio. She is also a reporter and producer on these shows along with World Business Report. Her noteworthy interviews include heads of state ranging from Thailand, Pakistan, Philippines, New Zealand, and East Timor, former prime ministers of Australia, Malaysia and Singapore, presidents of the World Bank and the IMF, and chief executives and chairpersons from various Fortune 500 companies.
In contrast to its impressive economic performance, Asia remains lagging behind the global regions in women’s leadership, be it in politics, corporate boards, or public administration. Through this seminar, female and male leaders across Asia discussed how governments, companies, and citizens together can accelerate narrowing gender gaps in the workplace, forge women’s leadership and contribute to a more vibrant, inclusive, innovative, and sustainable society in Asia.
The seminar highlighted some of the compelling gender gaps statistics in Asia’s leadership and evidence of how more gender diversity in decision-making positions positively results in better corporate performance and contributes to economic growth and sustainable development. Persisting gender stereotypes and division of labor continue to work against women’s leadership. Public awareness and education on unconscious bias, and positive role models of women leaders are important. Women leaders and managers can demonstrate results through different management styles than their male counterpart. Panelists also highlighted that men’s roles are critical in changing social norms and mentoring women to become leaders, as well as supporting their partners and family members.
The seminar pinpointed the urgent need for fundamental changes for greater and enhanced women’s leadership. Affirmative actions and numerical targets have made a significant difference, but are still not sufficient. Empowering women and girls is crucial through education, skills development, better health, and economic opportunities and asset ownership. The Sustainable Development Goals provide a great momentum in this regard. Countries are increasingly adopting institutional reforms in support of gender equality and women’s leadership, providing financial incentives for companies with business plans for work-life balance and gender equality, supporting women leaders’ training and networking, and nurturing young women leaders. The challenge lies in effective implementation in a coordinated and sustainable manner across different stakeholders. High-level political and financial commitments are critical.
- Female Labor Force Participation in Asia: Key Trends, Constraints, and Opportunities
- Building Gender into Climate Finance: ADB Experience with the Climate Investment Funds
- Mainstreaming Gender into Climate Mitigation Activities
- How Inclusive is Inclusive Business for Women? Examples from Asia and Latin America