Not Only the Right Thing, but the Smart Thing

Farmers, filmmakers, engineers and business leaders fill the clubhouse at the Australian Embassy Complex in Yangon. These Myanmar women have gathered to listen to inspirational speakers and network as part of IFC’s Powered by Women initiative to celebrate women working in non-traditional sectors. The event was co-organized by the Yangon Film School and Austcham Myanmar to mark International Women’s Day.

“When I think of Myanmar women, I think of trailblazers,” says Ellen Maynes, an IFC Gender Officer in Yangon who co-leads the Powered by Women initiative with renewable energy companies. “Powered by Women leverages their role as leaders, employees, customers and community stakeholders to help companies gain competitive and business advantages.”

The companies taking up the Powered by Women challenge make a commitment to close gender gaps in their organizations. This includes increasing the number of women in leadership and in non-traditional jobs, conducting gender sensitive stakeholder engagement in the communities in which they work, and promoting respectful workplaces free from bullying and sexual harassment. The program is supported by the government of Australia.

“Gender equality is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing,” says Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner, who spoke to the gathering about how gender smart policies generate opportunities for women while also contributing to companies' bottom lines, productivity, and growth. “Without women, our companies and sectors miss huge opportunities for profitability and innovation.”

Statistics show companies with gender smart policies have more engaged and productive employees who take less time off and are more likely to stay with the company, saving in absenteeism and the cost of recruitment and training. It’s also good for a company’s reputation, and can help attract the most talented people, as well as investors and international lenders.

Nwe Nwe Win, Head of the Design Research Department at Shwe Taung Engineering & Construction, says her company has benefited from Powered by Women’s guidance in increasing the role of women in their stakeholder engagements. “Sometimes the women in the villages don’t want to talk in front of the men, so now we have two focal points – a man and a woman – and hold separate focus groups for women where they can freely express their views,” she says. The result has been more inclusive decision making on key issues such as community compensation and resettlement.

“Each of our member companies has its own needs, but they share common challenges,” according to Kate Lazarus, Team Leader of IFC’s Hydro Advisory. “With Powered by Women we support them through roundtables, webinars, capacity building workshops, networking opportunities, and by providing research and resources as needed.”

Myanmar filmmaker Aye Nilar Kyaw, whose film, Child of the Revolution,
received the 2017 Goethe Institut Myanmar Jade Documentary Award.

This is more than just good business for the women at this gathering. It’s personal. “Last year I had the opportunity to go to Australia for a media summit,” says Aye Nilar Kyaw, director of Child of the Revolution, which received the 2017 Goethe Institut Myanmar Jade Documentary Award. “I saw a new perspective: that women can do any job. I want people in my country to think the same way. Myanmar woman can be good leaders and I hope we’ll get the same equal rights and opportunity as men to try. By working together we can make this positive change.”