Appointments highlight issue of gender inequality . . .
A mostly female senior team is responsible for organizing the APEC 2021 Summit in Auckland, New Zealand. Their appointments have highlighted the issue of gender inequality within the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum’s 21 member economies, of which Canada was a founding member. The women on the team include former ASB Bank chief executive Barbara Chapman, who will head the APEC CEO Summit, Māori businesswoman Rachel Taulelei, who will head the APEC Business Advisory Council, and Andrea Smith from New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who will be Deputy Secretary for the Summit. The APEC Summit is also recognized as an invaluable opportunity for networking and recognition of women-led enterprises and business leaders.
Barriers for women in business . . .
While this organizing team signals hope for increasing gender equality within APEC, there remains significant barriers for women within the forum’s member economies. For example, the 2020 United Nations report on gender inequality shows that women in APEC economies hold less than half of the seats in government. Research has also shown that women-led enterprises face specific hurdles to entering markets, such as a lack of access to business education and mentorship for women leaders. APEC has endeavoured to tackle these gender-specific barriers, and last year it released a strategy for women’s economic integration called La Serena Roadmap. This year’s APEC Summit in Malaysia will also partly focus on women empowerment, particularly in transitions to digital technologies.
Canadian initiatives to empower women in business . . .
As an APEC member, Canada has its own issues around gender equality. For instance, women own only 16 per cent of businesses in Canada. Canada has several initiatives to help empower women in trade and business, such as the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, a C$2-billion investment into doubling the number of women-owned Canadian enterprises by 2025. Another initiative run by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada is the APEC-Canada Growing Business Partnership. A key principle of this partnership is closing the gender gap in business, and it has partnered with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women to provide a one-year mentorship program for women from Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Peru.
- APEC: La Serena Roadmap for Women and Inclusive Growth (2019-2030)
- Stuff: New Zealand's APEC women leaders offer a beacon of hope for the gender-biased trading bloc
- United Nations Development Programme: Tackling social norms: A game changer for gender inequalities