23 February 2019
Solomon Islands: Women in leadership roles advancing gender equality and diversity
An article in the Solomon Star last week gave details of the ‘Waka Mere’ Commitment to Action initiative facilitated by WINGS Education, PNG.
The story related how twenty local women from nine companies participated in the training initiative and completed a Certificate IV course in business leadership and management,
The course was part of the Waka Mere Commitment to Action, a joint initiative by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry to create positive experiences and progressive opportunities for women in the private sector.
The course began in 2018 by introducing professionalism to these high potential women from companies who had signed up for the initiative, all of whom are members of SICCI.
The 20 women participated in the training all proactively seeking to change the situation in the Solomon Islands where women are still under-represented in senior leadership roles, including in commerce, industry and in parliament.
The exception, to a degree, is in the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) where the Deputy Commissioner is a woman and a recently retired Assistant Commissioner was also a woman.
The RSIPF’s recent batch of 70 newly engaged police trainees has 27 female members, it was noted
Twenty years ago, to my knowledge, gender equality and diversity was not on the agenda as it is today.
This new attention has been influenced by activists, government regulatory bodies, by women themselves seeking change and greater participation - and by commerce where the benefits of diverse leadership and the need for a more inclusive environment have become desirable in a changing technological driven world.
While some small steps have occurred towards gender equality and female participation in all spheres of work in the Solomon Islands the pace of change has not been fast enough to increase women’s participation in the workforce.
The magazine ‘People Matters’ contained a reference to ‘Leadership and Diversity’ and I thought the paragraph I read had some relevance to the situation in the Solomon Islands. I will quote it here:
“Corporates need to create an enabling ecosystem through initiatives including flexibility arrangements, paternity leave, and sponsorship and mentoring, which will inspire women to break the glass ceiling and attain senior positions. Governments and organizations should work cohesively on designing an inclusive framework. “What is necessary at the moment is fresh thinking. Embracing a three-pronged framework — strong legislation, comprehensive corporate strategy and senior management accountability for tracking diversity targets — can strongly advocate for equal opportunity and increased participation for women.”
Apart from the cultural issues that have held women back in Melanesia and in the Solomon Islands to-date, I see two other barriers holding women from effectively taking charge, one being attitudinal issues, comprising of age-old stereotypes to corporate leadership and less advocacy for pay rises and promotion. The second barrier being structural comprising of gender insensitive hiring practices.
In 2019 let us see a radical change and move to breaking the saying “Women Take Care, Men Take Charge.”