Asian women are believed to own as much as one-third of small- to medium-sized enterprises across the region, according to the Asia Foundation, although hard statistics are not available. With entrepreneurship as the fastest-growing segment of the Asian economy and a powerhouse of economic growth, women are poised to play a large and growing role in economic development.
The Summit was designed to share best practices and promote the status of women in business and socio-economic endeavors. Despite the growing number of women entrepreneurs in Asia, as elsewhere, women are often at a disadvantage in making key contacts, obtaining information and support, and gaining access to capital to expand their businesses.
More than 900 high-calibre business, political, academic and professional women leaders from 70 economies attended the Summit, which had as its theme, “Women in Asia: Driving the Global Economy.”
A roster of high-level government officials from Southeast Asia and abroad also attended, including Anna Cabral, US Treasurer; Truong My Hoa, former Vice President of Vietnam; and Magdalena Alvarez Arza, Spain’s Development Minister. From the business side, many top executives were present, notably Yasmin Mahmood, Managing Director of Microsoft Malaysia; Yukako Uchinaga, CEO of Berlitz International; and Yen Dang, Chairwoman of Tan Tao Investment and Industry Corporation, Vietnam.
A pre-summit roundtable addressed public-private partnerships to advance economic opportunities for girls and women. Breakout sessions were held on a range of topics, from expanding micro enterprises to closing the wage gap between men and women, and how to enlist young women as tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.
During the three-day event, VCCI, with the support of ICC and the International Labor Organization (ILO), presented the 2008 ASEAN Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur Award to honour women who have made outstanding contributions to the socio-economic development of ASEAN countries.
ICC Asia Director Lee Ju Song was a member of the Organizing Committee and Selection Committee for the ASEAN award, which was set up by VCCI.
The President of Myanmar Women Entrepreneurs Association, Daw Khin Myint Myint, received the award. She is also Vice Chairwoman of AA Medical Products, the country’s largest private pharmaceuticals importer.
“ASEAN Woman Entrepreneurs have come a long way − from successful home-making to creating wealth and generating new jobs and business opportunities,” Mrs Lee said.
The first woman Prime Minister of Mozambique, Luisa Dias Diogo, took home the Summit’s Global Women’s Leadership Award, for her tireless efforts to accelerate poverty reduction, ensure public health, attain gender equality, and foster employment of women.