Tag Archives: leadership

In Celebration of International Women’s Day


Women comprise the majority of world’s population, are heads of households, have outpaced their male peers in educational attainment and contribute to the social and economic wellbeing of their families, communities, and countries.

Yet, for all of these advances, women in leadership position are still a minority. According to the latest estimates, women comprise just 20.2 percent of corporate board members of Fortune 500 companies, representing a slight increase over previous years. And just 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies are headed by female CEOs. In terms of political leadership, the United Nations estimates that women hold just 22 percent of parliament seats globally. Currently, there are 10 female heads of state and 14 heads of government among the 195 UN member states. Finally, women hold only 17 percent of posts globally at the ministerial level, mainly in the education and health sectors.

Much has been written about how women could overcome the myriad of obstacles that stand in their way to personal and professional success. Whether it’s to take a seat at the table, find a mentor, or a sponsor and lean-in, these techniques fall short of naming the real reason women are shut out of professional opportunities in many societies.

The simple answer is that women must work within the confines of rules and regulations that were institutionalized without their input. When women have agency in their personal and professional lives, they have the ability to change norms, rules and regulations and to fully participate in decision-making processes in the government, public and private sectors.

Inclusive and participatory decision-making is at the heart of democratic governance and yields better social, political and economic outcomes. Economic empowerment is one of the most important means of attaining global gender parity and should be a central point of discussion. When women become breadwinners, they have real decision-making power within their families and communities. Women’s entrepreneurship and participation in the workforce are avenues for their political participation and ability to influence how rules are made and laws passed.

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Building a Future for Syria’s Youth

My colleague Peako Jenkins and I recently visited Kilis, Turkey, where CIPE is supporting a civic education program for young Syrians displaced by the conflict in their country. The course, conducted by CIPE’s local partner organization the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills. We are on our way to reaching 600 students in this first phase of the project, with the potential to create broader institutional change in the way that young Syrians are educated in the future. The curriculum helps prepare students to actively engage in society and imparts skills they can use to better their communities today and contribute to Syria’s eventual reconstruction.

Check out this short video above about the course which includes some of our conversations with recent graduates and our colleagues at SEF. With the support and encouragement of the private sector, these inspiring young people have the ability to write a new chapter in Syria’s history, defined not by tragedy but by peace and prosperity. CIPE is proud to share their stories with you.

For more insights from our visit, please be sure to read Peako’s recent post on the program.

Stephen Rosenlund is a Program Officer for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE. Peako Jenkins is a Program Assistant for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.

Being the Change-Maker You Want to See in the World

Feb2015 Lawrence

Lawrence Yealue, II is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at Accountability Lab

Throughout history, people have continually sought positive social and economic change, and found creative ways to make it happen. This change has been driven by a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo, for example in the case of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and the anti-Apartheid efforts in South Africa. But the list is endless.

Our societies have evolved and will continue to do so because there are many sources of dissatisfaction in every corner of the world, including terrible acts of suppression, segregation, and discrimination that threaten human dignity. I believe that humans are by nature kind, loving, and fair – but a lack of honesty, transparency, and accountability can create negative dynamics that lead to unacceptable behaviors.

For me, there is nothing more satisfying that seeing a change-maker leading the change they want to see. Some of my own greatest heroes include the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

I see countless change-makers of this mold emerging through young leadership programs across the world. In particular, the program I am now part of, the CIPE-Atlas Corps fellowship. The overall objective of the program is to bring young leaders from across the world to research institutions in the US in order to build the skills and capacity they need to drive reform. This empowers them to create even greater change when they return to their home countries.

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One Woman’s Leadership Journey

On April 7, 2012, entrepreneur and longtime women’s right activist Joyce Banda became Malawi’s first female president – and only second on the African continent – after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika propelled her from the vice presidency to the country’s highest office. In 2014, she placed 40th on the Forbes list of 100 Women Who Lead the World.

What path led her to that meteoric rise and how did she manage to capitalize on her strengths as a woman leader to both overcome personal challenges and face the challenges in front of her country? Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Banda for a candid interview where she talked about her story and its lessons for aspiring women leaders in Africa and around the world.

Before entering politics in 1999 to run for Parliament, Banda started a number of successful businesses and in 1990 founded the National Association of Business Women (NABW). With CIPE support, the organization grew to more than 15,000 members and made an important difference in the lives of women entrepreneurs in Malawi.

What inspired her to become active in business and then in politics? “In 1981, I walked out on an abusive marriage and looking back it became very clear to me that what had gone wrong is that I hadn’t been economically empowered. So I decided to set myself on a path that would ensure that abuse doesn’t happen again,” she said.

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Engaging Women to Move Societies Forward

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde (Photo: Mount Holyoke College)

At a recent conference on global women’s leadership at the US State Department, the managing director of International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, remarked that the answer to today’s economic crisis is collective action.

“There is no economy in the world, whether low-income countries, emerging markets, middle-income countries or super-advanced economies that will be immune to the crisis that we see not only unfolding but escalating…It is not a crisis that will be resolved by one group of countries taking action. It is going to be hopefully resolved by all countries, all regions, all categories of countries actually taking action.”

A holistic approach to solving global challenges is needed, she said, and that includes involving women in the picture.

More than 15 years have passed since the signing of the Beijing Declaration on women’s rights, but women remain under-represented in social, political, and economic spheres. Women hold less than 20 percent of all parliamentary seats. Women’s nominal wages are 17 percent lower than men’s. Moreover, women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor even though they perform over 60 percent of the world’s work.  And the global economic crisis has further exasperated the situation – according to the ILO, the crisis is expected to plunge a further 22 million women into unemployment, raising the female unemployment rate to 7.4 percent (versus 7 percent male unemployment).

Yet, just as many leaders and academics have repeatedly argued, societies improve “when women have the power to make their own economic and social choices. “ CIPE recognizes that building a healthy democracy requires ensuring fair and open economic, political, and civic participation of women. As Secretary Hillary Clinton recently stated, gender equity isn’t simply about fairness, but about expanding the talent pool to help tackle the world challenges in a democratic fashion.

“If you’re trying to solve a problem, whether it is fighting corruption or strengthening the rule of law or sparking economic growth, you are more likely to succeed if you widen the circle to include a broader range of expertise, experience, and ideas. So as [the world works] to solve… problems, we need more women at the table and in the halls of parliament and government ministries where these debates are occurring…”

But changing society’s mindset takes time and effort, and it needs everyone – the government, private sector, and civil society – to work together.

To this end, CIPE works with various actors to create environments that enable the removal of institutional barriers to women’s participation. In Bangladesh, CIPE worked with the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who were advocating for a change in banking rules to ease access to credit for women entrepreneurs. Due to these changes, nearly $23 million has been provided to over 3,000 women entrepreneurs, helping to create around 20,000 new jobs.

Similarly in Pakistan, CIPE worked with chambers of commerce who were trying to reform the national trade ordinance law in 2006. For the first time in the country’s history, women are now allowed to establish their own associations without male sponsorship. And this new regulation produced a positive effect – by 2010, more than more than 2,000 members had joined eight women’s chambers throughout the country, and the number of women executives in major chambers and associations in Pakistan grew to 60, when nearly none had existed in prior years.

As the eurozone crisis intensifies, Tunisia leads the way for Arab democracy, and former Soviet countries such as the Kyrgyz Republic slowly become more market-oriented and hold democratic elections, societies throughout the world must re-examine how women can play a role in improving social and economic conditions. We can’t afford to overlook women’s lack of participation as simply “cultural barriers.”  Engaging with women – and involving more women into dialogues – is key for societies to move forward.

Best way to lead is by example

Map of African governance with darker shades indicating better quality of governance (Source: www.moibrahimfoundation.org)

After two years of withholding the award due to shortage of deserving candidates, the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership finally went earlier this month to Cape Verde’s former President Pedro Verona Pires. The award coincided with the release of 2011 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, the continent’s leading assessment of governance indicators in four core categories: safety and rule of law; participation and human rights; sustainable economic opportunity; and human development.

This year the top five countries out of the 53 evaluated were Mauritius, Cape Verde, Botswana, Seychelles, and South Africa. At the bottom of the list were the Central African Republic, Congo, Zimbabwe, Chad, and Somalia. But the index reveals more than just country ranking. In its fifth edition, the index shows a strong link between balanced approach to improving all categories of governance and long-term economic performance. In other words, the most economically successful African countries also consistently achieve high scores across all four governance categories.

As Lord Cairns, member of the board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, put it, “freedom to participate in the creation of economic wealth is a key right for all citizens and governments have an overwhelming duty to develop an enabling framework.” Creating that enabling framework is what good governance is all about. Therefore, governments that restrict political participation or repress human rights not surprisingly have a hard time with providing an environment for inclusive opportunity for their people even if they manage to achieve a measure of macroeconomic growth.

That should be a lesson for the African leaders who fall short when it comes to the traits sought by the Ibrahim Prize. In the words of Mo Ibrahim, “if economic progress is not translated into better quality of life and respect for citizens’ rights, we will witness more Tahrir Squares in Africa.”

Putting the ‘business’ in business association

Hammad Siddiqui, CIPE Program Manager, facilitating a workshop for women's business associations in Pakistan. (Photo: CIPE)

After having worked with over 100 business associations (chambers, trade association, women chambers) in Pakistan and several international locations such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan etc, I can confidently say that the missing piece of the puzzle for many chambers is their marketing function.

In the developing countries, bringing professionalism and reducing politicization in business associations is a daunting task. In such countries business associations are generally formed by a group of influential business people, and despite several years of election process, what I call “Founder’s Syndrome” remains the dominating factor. Elected leadership is still bound to take ‘guidance’ from the founders who are now retired and have little interest in providing service to members.

Astonishingly, most founders I have interacted with do not consider business associations a business. Their concept of non-profit is an organization that is NOT required to make profits and run more like a charity! As a result, many of the chambers I have encountered over the years are lacking in key business functions.

As Peter Drucker says, “Any business enterprise has two and only two, basic functions – marketing and innovation. Peter emphasises on the importance of marketing: “Any organization in which marketing is either absent or incidental is not a business.” My opinion is that business associations are required to focus on two major areas: service and marketing.

Innovation, service, marketing and branding are closely intertwined. Innovation introduces products or services, marketing understands these products or services and creates a brand value for this customers, in case of business associations, their members.

In my view, there is a need to engage business associations in debate on becoming “innovative” and forward looking organizations and essentially introducing a completely integrated marketing function within. That perhaps is the best route to bring these business associations in tandem with the modern dynamics of business organizations.