Women should have hard head, soft heart
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Asia must lead the way in encouraging more female leaders for the future, said Jenny Shipley, former prime minister of New Zealand, at the opening of the 2010 Global Women’s Leadership Conference, Monday.
“We are at the right moment historically when we are seeing more women leaders. Asia must lead. We must have some women leaders come through in Asia because this is the area of massive population and economic growth,” said Shipley, who was New Zealand’s first female prime minister.
Shipley said it is important for governments, and both men and women to join together in fostering women leadership. “A country that chooses to not have women at the fore in this level of decision making is losing a massive opportunity,” she said.
Co-organized by The Hankook Ilbo and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, the Global Women’s Leadership Conference opened at the Shilla Hotel.
First lady Kim Yoon-ok said the conference was a good opportunity to encourage women’s leadership, especially in Korea.
“We should move away from male-centric society and encourage more women participation... Women should be at the lead moving forward,” said Lee Jong-seoung, president of The Hankook Ilbo.
Looking back at her experiences as a female leader, as well as a mother and wife, Shipley offered some advice for Korean women who may be considering public office. Women should have vision, preparedness to lead, belief, commitment, skills, knowledge, resilience and passion.
Shipley said women should have a “hard head, soft heart,” learn to collaborate and be focused on solutions. “It is matter of whether you are able to dare to dream what’s possible... I dared to dream and I was willing to do the hard work,” she said.
The conference also featured discussions on the global economy, women leaders in Asia and making government more effective and responsive to women’s causes.
Korea’s low ranking on the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index was also widely discussed by American economist Laura Tyson and Lucy P. Marcus, CEO of Marcus Venture Consulting.
“The report finds the gaps in education, health, political representation and advancement... One thing that stands out is Korea, ranked 22 in global competitiveness, and a strong global player. But in terms of global gender equality, it is 104th out of 134 countries. This is a challenge for Korea,” Tyson said.
Marcus said Korea is already 22nd in world competitiveness, yet the potential of its women workforce is not yet fully realized. She noted Koreans should use this Global Gender Gap index ranking as a challenge to get more women in the workforce and into leadership positions in the future. “Be the engines of growth and bring the ranking much higher... I am inspired by the number, think of where you can go if you can harness all the potential (of women),” she said.
Meanwhile, Najla Al Awadhi, one of the first female members of the United Arab Emirates parliament, said women are becoming more empowered in the Arab Gulf countries, but glass ceilings such as retrogressive interpretations of religion and tradition and legal discrimination remain.
“Every challenge also represents a great opportunity. It all depends on our approach and our vision. We have to be innovative enough to see that a new reality for women is possible, and it is attainable... You break the glass ceiling not with words, but with hard work, ethics and achievements in life,” Al Awadhi said.