Honoured to be appointed, with Associate Professor Susan Harris-Rimmer, as Australia’s first representatives on the Women20 (W20) Engagement Group, to contribute to discussions on “promoting gender-inclusive economic growth”, for submission to the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Turkey later this year. A great opportunity for discussions on enhancing womens’ financial inclusion and education. Article in “The Australian” newspaper:
W20 an opportunity to put women at the top
- By ANNE FULWOOD
Is it only me, or have you felt a renewed surge of confidence and optimism in recent weeks?
It may have something to do with the constructive, well-articulated leadership on display by women, walking their talk as senior ministers in the Turnbull government.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, a polished performer on the world stage, has asserted Australia’s contribution across areas of international security and regional co-operation at the UN this past week, and declared Australia would devote itself to abolishing the death penalty and empower women and girls across the world, should it win a seat on the UN Human Rights council. Defending and advancing the interests of women and girls is certainly a focus for Ms Bishop, who in December 2013 appointed Natasha Stott Despoja as Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls.
Minister for Women Michaelia Cash staked her position with the first significant policy announcement by the Turnbull government — a $100m commitment to combat violence against women.
Health Minister Sussan Ley is asserting her control as chief facilitator in the conversation about Medicare. Kelly O’Dwyer, as Small Business Minister, is evidence the government means business when it comes to enterprising women.
These few examples lay important foundations for Australia to make a significant contribution to leadership by and for women at the upcoming G20 Leaders’ Summit in Turkey in November.
Susan Harris-Rimmer from the Griffith Law School and I have been appointed as Australia’s two representatives to the W20, which will meet in Istanbul on October 16-17. We are the first Australian women to be appointed to the W20, which is one of six outreach or engagement groups, tasked with reporting to the Leaders at the G20 Summit in November. The other groups are Business 20 (B20), Civil 20 (C20), Labour 20 (L20), Youth 20 (Y20), and Think 20 (T20).
The W20 secretariat has identified 11 policy priorities to promote growth. The overarching theme is that “gender inclusiveness and gender equality are essential for strong, sustainable and balanced growth”.
Australia has been tasked to focus on two of the 11 priorities: to address women’s economic empowerment through links between education, employment and entrepreneurship, and to increase women in both public sector and private sector leadership positions. The W20 has a clear preference to business women, both at the small and medium enterprise level as well as women in global corporations. There has been significant buy-in from important women’s organisations in Turkey, including the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey, which will chair the W20. Many international brands have also demonstrated commitment to the W20, such as McKinsey, Google, Strategy&, EY, Vodafone and GE. Some of the global think tanks have been slower off the mark but Chatham House in Britain and G8/G20 Research Group in Toronto are long-time champions of the idea.
It is likely that China will continue Turkey’s investment in the W20 when it hosts the G20 in 2016. The Chinese representatives to the W20 are the All-China Women’s Federation, the Chinese Women’s Research Society and the China Association of Women Entrepreneurs, all three important actors in Asia with enormous scale and access to decision-makers.
From my point of view, this is a huge opportunity to build momentum in the area of women and enterprise at all levels, keeping in mind that technology, the digital economy, is at the centre of everything we do. Working as I have done for more than a decade with the SME and women in business sector, I see opportunity for the empowerment of women through two channels.
The first is a deeper focus on training girls and women of all ages to communicate with confidence. The importance of good communication skills, as part of an organisational strategy to reach gender targets or bring more women into the workforce, is often overlooked. Technical skills are certainly a requirement, but it is the so-called “soft skills” that will often put you ahead of the competition. In addition to leadership courses and mentoring programs, I believe there must be an equal investment in training women to communicate with authority and confidence. A co-ordinated approach to training in communications can focus on increasing women in both public sector and private sector leadership positions.
In the area of financial literacy, a number of corporate-led programs are in place: for example, the National Financial Literacy Strategy via ASIC. At the grassroots level, education and employment programs are delivered by charitable organisations, to help women retrain to learn the basics of banking, finance and money management. Benevolent Society, Salvation Army and Anglicare programs come to mind. Certainly a national strategy, perhaps as part of or in partnership with vocational education initiatives, will deliver positive outcomes enabling women, young and mature, to enter or re-enter the workforce.
This will enable a deeper understanding of areas many take for granted: access to finance; management of credit cards and debt; superannuation, wealth and investment strategies; wills and estate planning; and further down the track, planning for retirement.
These are indeed times of opportunity for women in leadership and in enterprise. We will do what we can to make a significant contribution to the W20 in the coming weeks.
In the words of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop: “It is impossible to transform the world, unless the place of women in it is transformed.”
Anne Fulwood is Founder & CEO of Fulworks Australia Pty Ltd