Full house of would-be women directors in training workshop

Samoa’s 28 public bodies are governed by 187 directors, and only 43 of those are women. 

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) would like to see that change, and have enlisted the Ministry of Public Enterprises (MPE) and the Samoa Institute of Directors (SID) to help.

In the professional programme for directors, women are invited to learn the basics of a director’s role, responsibility, and take a hard look at the legislation that governs their role. In July, when a new round of applications opens up director’s positions, perhaps the participants will apply.

SID Chief Executive Officer Funemalafai Ono Fuatai said delivering the workshop is all about the details of the role.

“A lot of women have their normal responsibilities every day, but with governance of organisations they need special training. Not just women, but men also,” said Funemalafai.

“You can be a doctor or engineer but to be director you need a special set of skills.”

Financial and strategic planning, constitutional knowledge and importantly how to read a financial report are all topics covered in the three-day workshop.

UNDP and Women in Leadership Samoa (WILS) ensuring this programme for aspiring women directors exists does not mean only women should be trained in directorship. The specific skills are needed for anyone in the role, Funemalafai said.

Without training, directors may “simply show up to meetings, say yes to all the board papers brought in without doing due diligence, without understanding their duty of care,” she said.

The ability to communicate effectively, and being the "organiser" in the family are two key skills many women can already bring to a director position, she added.

“But they need to step up and become leaders.”

MPE Assistant Chief Executive Officer (Public Bodies Governance) Manu’a Dr Cam Wendt said while small numbers of women are applying, Samoa cannot expect to see a growth in female directors.

“The whole point of this is to give them an idea of what it’s like, to pique their interest, and at the end I’ll outline the process of how to go about applying, where they can get an application form from, what is the selection criteria,” said Manu’a.

“What we want is to bump this number up.”

Manu’a said it isn’t clear why there are small numbers of women applying for director roles, but access to information can help such as when the job cycles begin, and where to even apply.

“Maybe the information just isn’t getting out. I would hate to think it is because they think a chance of getting onto a board is really low,” he said.

There is currently a requirement to have at least one woman on each of the public bodies’ boards.

At least 40 women filled the Central Bank of Samoa conference room for the workshop, from all walks of life – some already directors and looking to improve, and others CEO’s, or leaders in their industries looking to go further in their careers.

The participants also receive a certificate for attending the workshop which can help them in their efforts to being appointed as directors.

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