News & Media

Women to play much bigger SOE role in Take Back PNG agenda

The Marape Government’s Take Back PNG agenda will increasingly be powered by women, State Enterprise Minister Sasindran Muthuvel told business leaders today.

In a speech to the Papua New Guinea Institute of Directors, he said he is introducing a pro-woman policy in State-Owned Enterprises, with an immediate starting point of at least one woman on each board.

He pointed out that at present there are only two women on the nine boards he is responsible for – a shocking statistic that highlights Papua New Guinea’s very poor performance on gender equality and diversity.

“One woman on each board is just a starting point,” he said. “Clearly, we need to do better.”

Minister Muthuvel, whose speech was to mark International Women’s Day, said a broad range of studies have shown that more equal female participation in the economy pays off in strong economic growth.

“Harnessing the potential of women in the economy … can release substantial economic potential. In an Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation working paper released in December 2012, it was found that eliminating the gap between male and female labor participation, as measured in 2010, would create a growth dividend of 12 percent by 2030.”

“Closing this gap by just 50 percent would provide a six percent growth boost across the OECD.”

Mr Muthuvel cited a number of proverbs on the subject of gender equality by prominent world leaders:

  • Mao Zedong “Women Hold Up Half The Sky.”
  • Margaret Thatcher “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a women.”

Mr Muthuvel said he will consider a formal target for future SOE boards to reinforce the Marape Government’s commitment to equality and diversity, and he expects other business and government sectors will make a similar commitment.

He was disappointed to find that in the current round of SOE board appointments, there were only six applications by women out of 224 in total. Clearly there are many obstacles in the path of skilled and dedicated women – “for too long it has been a boys’ club,” he said.

“Successfully overcoming these obstacles will lead not only to improved business and economic returns, but also a more stable, prosperous society.”

“Practical steps … can include removing discriminatory legal and financial barriers, increasing access to education, business networks and government supply programs, and developing frameworks that address the demands of work-life balance and supporting PNGID in developing potential future women directors.”

Mr Muthuvel said Kumul Consolidated Holdings is developing a skills matrix for each of the SOE boards as part of its campaign to lift the bar on governance, accountability, transparency and diversity. “If we get the boards right – the flow-on to the management of these SOEs will be a natural outcome,” he said.

“Women will in future play a critical role in improving the capacity of SOEs and their ability to deliver efficient, reliable and affordable infrastructure and services across the nation.”

“The people of Papua New Guinea, who have been suffering for a long time, expect a better quality of life than they experience today. I remain steadfast in ensuring SOEs provide the services that the people of PNG deserve.”