Women leaders, gender equality key to creating more jobs in Asia

Female workers at Singapore's central business district. PHOTO: ST FILE

Would Asia be better off if it is led by women?

Ms Chiara Corazza, managing director of the Women's Forum for the Economy and Society, one of the world's leading platforms supporting women's leadership and progress, certainly thinks so.

"At the workplace, the share of women working in Asia-Pacific countries (Apac) is 62 per cent versus 78.9 per cent for men, and it's a gap that has not narrowed over the past four years.

"Gender equality in Apac could add US$4.5 trillion (S$6.2 trillion) or 12 per cent of regional gross domestic product," she told The Straits Times (ST) last Saturday, ahead of the Women's Forum Asia to be held in Singapore this week.

"Worldwide, this represents 240 million jobs and US$28 trillion to global GDP," she said.

Ms Corazza was managing director of the Greater Paris Investment Agency from 2002 to 2016, responsible for attracting foreign investors to the greater Paris region. She also led France's bid for the 2008 Olympic Games as director of international affairs for Paris 2008.

Nearly 120 speakers and about 1,500 people from the region and elsewhere will gather at the forum to discuss the critical importance of women's leadership in a changing world. ST is a media partner of the forum.

Ms Corazza told ST: "Nineteen out of 20 of the world's most dynamic cities are in Asia, making the region attractive to investment, capital and talent.

"However, Asia lags behind in terms of women leadership (12.8 per cent) compared with other regions such as Northern Europe (35.6 per cent), Western Europe (23.6 per cent) and United States/ Canada (20.9 per cent), and this represents a huge loss in terms of social impact and economic gain."

In France, which leads the world in the number of women sitting on boards, the figure is 43 per cent. But it is only 10 per cent in Singapore and under 2 per cent in Japan, she noted.

"At the current rate of change, the gender gap in Apac will take 171 years to be closed," she said.

President Halimah Yacob will deliver the keynote address at the forum. Speakers at the event include Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Culture, Community and Youth, as well as French Minister of State Agnes Pannier-Runacher, former chief executive of Pepsico Indra Nooyi and Schneider Electric chairman Jean-Pascal Tricoire.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2019, with the headline Women leaders, gender equality key to creating more jobs in Asia. Subscribe