By Pacita U. Juan
THESE series of meetings are used to be called the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Women Leaders’ Network (Apec WLN). I was lucky to have attended several WLN meetings in Cairns, Australia; Arequipa, Peru; Singapore; Tokyo, Japan; and in 2011, the San Francisco, US, meeting took an interesting turn. It adopted the name change that started in Japan the previous year to Apec Women and Economy Summit (WES).
The special guest in San Francisco? No less than the former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. I was in awe as we sat listening to Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook fame. On the video was Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund or World Bank. These are the rock stars of the world in business and politics.
At the same San Francisco event, the San Francisco Declaration was adopted by the 21 Apec economies to give women more access to capital; access to markets; capacity and skill-building; and, of course, to give women leadership a second look and have it integrated in the plans of all economies. You can read more at: http://fpc.state.gov/172626.htm or look up San Francisco Declaration.
Today many economies have adopted policies to give women access to these important factors—market, capital and capacity-building. The Philippines already ranks in the top of having women in senior leadership positions. Check out our Cabinet and our private sector, as well. We also have best practice examples of access to markets (like the Great Women Program of PCW and Cida); access to finance (like the Ilaw Program of Development Bank of the Philippines); and capacity and skills building (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and private-sector groups like ECHOsi Foundation).
We, at Women’s Business Council of the Philippines (mostly MAP members, as well), are proud to be the private-sector partner of the Department of Trade and Industry, under Undersecretary Nora K. Terrado. For over two years now, we have been planning the activities for this year’s hosting of Apec Women and Economic Fora. It will finally unfold from September 16 to 18 at the Philippine International Convention Center. Though it is invitational as with all Apec events, we think it is important to share that private sector has a voice in shaping the policies of not only our economy, but of 21 other economies. In shaping policies for women’s advancement in all industries and finally closing the gender pay gap still present in many economies.
On September 15 Filipina women, led by Filipino-American Irene Natividad, will be opening and striking the opening bell at the Philippine Stock Exchange. This crowd attraction has been Irene’s trademark as we have opened stock exchanges in all the places where the Global Summit of Women (another annual, but private event) has been hosted. I have personally attended the openings in Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur. It makes for good press and promotion of women’s role in leadership of various industries and promotes women participation as corporate directors in public companies, as well as in private ones.
Around that week of September 15 to 18, you will see a lot of woman leaders, influencers and celebrities gracing the print pages and the airwaves of broadcast media. And maybe we can take yet another look at the power these women have. The power to change our world to be a better place for women and the next generation. The power to collaborate for finding solutions to global challenges. The power to influence our kind to stand up and be counted.
That is Apec Women and Economy Fora. And if you wish to witness these events, tune in to TV and radio during these days—September 15 to 18 and be informed. Men, as well as women, of course, will have something to think about to give women the stage to change the world. It is never too late. The Philippine Declaration may yet be another milestone in Apec history.
This article reflects the author’s opinion and is not the official stand of the BPW Makati. Women Stepping Up is a rotating column of members of BPW Makati and comes out twice a month. For more information on BPW Makati, visit www.womensteppingup.org.