MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today launched the Asia Women Leaders Program (AWLP) to address a glaring absence of women from leadership roles in Asia and the Pacific.

“The AWLP will dissect why there are so few women leaders in the region and explore how this can be changed through targeted public policies and programs,” said Shireen Lateef, Senior Advisor on Gender at ADB. “The program will also build participants’ personal capacity and confidence as leaders, providing them with tools to navigate the world of mostly male leaders. It will refresh their communication, negotiation and coalition building skills so they can rise through the ranks to become future leaders.”

Women are largely absent at the top echelons of the public and private sectors in the region, despite recent advances in addressing gender imbalances in the workforce. The share of women at ministerial levels ranges from 16% in the Philippines to just 5% in Cambodia. In the corporate sector, the World Economic Forum reports that women comprise less than 6% of company board members in Asia and the Pacific, compared with 15% in the United States and 17% in Europe.

Twenty-five senior women government officials from 17 countries in Asia and the Pacific will join the program, mostly from finance and planning ministries. The program will provide targeted leadership training for senior government officials in areas such as effective communication and negotiation, to help them overcome barriers faced by women as they progress in their careers.

The AWLP is cohosted by ADB and the Seoul-based Korean Women’s Development Institute. It was launched today at a workshop in Seoul featuring eminent Asian women sharing their personal journeys and insights. Speakers at the 4-day workshop include Ing Kantha Phavi, Minister of Women’s Affairs in Cambodia; Kwon Seon-Joo, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Industrial Bank of Korea; and Sapana Pradhan Malla, former Member, Nepal Constituent Assembly.

ADB supports a range of initiatives to reduce gender disparities and empower women in the region. Supporting the meaningful participation of women in decision-making at national, local and household levels and promoting women’s leadership is a priority of ADB’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Operational Plan.

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