The IOE&IT, WTO and ITC unite to encourage more women to work in international trade
The heads of three international trade bodies delivered a shared message on female empowerment today (29 September) at a World Trade Organization Public Forum in Geneva.
World Trade Organisation (WTO) director general Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, International Trade Centre (ITC) executive director, Pamela Coke-Hamilton and Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) director general Marco Forgione united to deliver a clear message on gender equality.
Female business journeys
A panel discussion at the annual WTO public forum, entitled ‘Breaking into male-dominated sectors’, was organised by the ITC and the WTO in collaboration with the IOE&IT.
The three organisations worked together to highlight four female entrepreneurs as part of the SheTrades initiative. During the public forum, the IOE&IT has been delighted to sponsor four female entrepreneurs from the ITC SheTrades initiative to attend the event and tell their stories.
These women from Bangladesh, Rwanda, Mexico and Uruguay came to Geneva, and told their stories and shared the challenges they have faced in their business lives with the Public Forum.
The panel speakers shone a light on the inspiring journeys of three women leaders who have defied the odds and broken into the textile, laser manufacturing, and science and technology sectors.
Breaking down barriers
Opening the session, Dr Okonjo-Iweala said: “we have put cracks in the glass ceiling, but we still haven’t shattered it.”
“The World Economic Forum estimates at the current rate of progress, it would take 132 years to close the current gender gap and 151 years to close the economic participation and opportunity gap. This is unacceptable.”
Coke-Hamilton added: “International trade is a predominantly male-dominated sector. We’re working on breaking this down.”
“If half of the global population is systematically excluded from participating equally in the economy, how are we to recover in a sustainable fashion?”
Female business leaders
Entrepreneurs Kohinoor Yeasmin and Jessica Madrid Lugo both shared their lessons and experiences in developing and scaling their business.
Yeasmin is the CEO of Tarango, a company that specialises in the production of home décor and fashion accessories.
She said: “In Bangladesh, the textiles sector is fully dominated by men, with very small percentages of women working there. I took on the challenge. If men can do it, why can’t I?”
Adding: “We should all work together to stand up beside women. If we all stand together to support women, we’ll get results.”
Madrid Lugo is the founder and CEO of Laser & Manufacturing, a Mexican company she set up when she was just 22, that performs laser cutting and other industrial processes.
She said: “When I started, I was a very young woman. It was very difficult, there were a lot of challenges.”
“I knew I was going to work in a male-dominated sector. I had the technical skills to do what it takes and have worked hard to be where I am. It’s been a battle, but the truth is I am here as a woman, a mother and with a husband but I’m also here as a businesswoman. I didn’t have to choose or drop anything. Sometimes, the barriers are not just outside of us, they’re inside of us.”
Gender equality a ‘must’
Marco Forgione director general of the IOE&IT concluded by saying: “Gender equality in trade is not an option, it is a must. In order to make a significant impact, you need to have more women involved in trade.
“When you have businesses led by women, you’re transforming communities much more than with male-led businesses. Investing to support and develop female entrepreneurs has a disproportionate impact on the whole of that community and that society. All countries need to adopt a gender inclusive approach to trade and today the IOE&IT, ITC and WTO have stood shoulder to shoulder to deliver that message to the world.”