Indonesia – Cambridge IFA, under its WOMANProgramme, held the WOMANi Symposium in Jakarta. It was inspiring to see many women hailing from different parts of the world, some holding senior positions and others influencing and changing mindsets. WOMANi has been celebrating the success & achievements of leading women in Islamic Business & Finance for almost a decade. The WOMANi Symposium hosted leading women from different parts of the world for policy discussions and improving the leadership gap in diverse sectors of the global Islamic economy.

The world is grasping the concept that women empowerment is key to the economic growth of any nation. Inclusion of women in the financial net has been the goal of the banking sector for years. There is a need to identify the lack of inclusion and opportunities for women, while also drafting policy measures that can lead countries to a better economic growth by enhancing the role of women in society.

Even in this decade of scientific evolution, women are more likely than men to be unemployed, are overrepresented in low-wage jobs, and hold fewer managerial and leadership positions. On the contrary, women leadership is not a new phenomenon as throughout history, women were critical problem solvers, leading militaries during the pre-colonial period, freedom fighters during independence movements, transitional leaders during post-conflict periods, and leaders during some of the worst economic, political, and health crises of the 21st century.

WOMANi believes that greater gender equality has the potential to contribute to inclusive growth when it is achieved in education, employment and other valued resources, as the world is starting to grasp that there is no policy more effective than the empowerment of women and girls.

The first panel was on Women Empowerment and Inclusion - a Determination of Economic Growth, moderated by Sheeza Ahmed, Head of Marketing & Corporate Communications, HABIBMETRO BANK. The esteemed panelists included, Fayruz Mohamed, National Chairperson of SANZAF (South African National Zakah Fund); Joann Enriquez, Chief Executive Officer, Investment Account Platform; and Yunita Resmi Sari, Head of MSME Development and Consumer Protection Department, Bank Indonesia.

Research suggests that female entrepreneurship is an untapped source of growth, prosperity and poverty reduction, as well as being key to creating more equitable societies. Malaysian women are already occupying high level positions in organisations. The speakers discussed the opportunities presented by the country and the role of Islamic finance in allowing women to not only build businesses but expand them also. In the respect, Islamic microfinance can play a leading role which, however, also depends on mentorship. Mentorship is key to financially including women, women empowerment and bringing equality and equity. Women supporting women can become a driving force for female entrepreneurship.

We all like to believe that women participation in decision-making at all levels of business needs to be supported to strengthen diversity, inclusion and empowerment at the workplace and more and more organisations are stepping up to this. In order, to bring the benefit of women participation to all levels of society, financial literacy has to make it to the top of the ladder.

Empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Gender disparity in financing is one other factor that is hindering the achievement of SDGs with regard to women empowerment. Women find it twice as hard to find financing for their businesses and personal finances. This is an important aspect for Islamic banks to look into and one that has huge potential.

The second panel discussion was on Developing Top-Level Woman Leadership in Islamic Banking and Finance. This session was moderated by Siti Fatahiyah Mahamood, Head of Quality Unit, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM); Anita Menon, Chief Risk Officer, Prudential BSN Takaful Berhad, Angelia Chin-Sharpe, Chief Executive Officer, BNP Paribas Asset Management, and Dr Murniati Mukhlisin, Rector, Tazkia Islamic University College Indonesia.

Today, businesses are more into sustainability and addressing climate issues. Having more women at board level is proven to assist businesses make responsible decisions and be more profitable in the long run. Countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are already accessing the potential of women leaders in board room and making way for more.

It is equally important for companies and banks in general to make inclusion growth a key goal in their operations, placing special attention to equality. The speakers also made the difference between equality and equity clear. In the top-level leadership, equity is needed and regulators need to bring about policies that give not only space but equal opportunity for women.

All speakers agreed that these conversations need to continue. We have come a long way but still have a tough journey ahead. Men and women will have to work side by side, supporting each other in driving success for all.


About Cambridge IFA:

Cambridge IFA is a financial services intelligence house that specialises in developing and utilising powerful cutting-edge analytical tools to evaluate business data, assess macroeconomic indicators and understand market trends, leadership positioning and brand development relevant to the development of the financial services industry globally.

The principal activity of Cambridge IFA is developing performance indicators specific to alternative practices of banking and finance. It also aims to provide strategic advice to governments, financial institutions and multilateral organisations in the development of financial markets including alternative banking and finance products, procedures, practices and policies.

Through our strong and invaluable relations with policymakers and private sector industries, we have insights into market and business trends as well as policy changes. This allows us to identify and prioritise common issues and provide perspectives and solutions that are practical, focused and effective; which will increase the competitive advantage of our clients.

Cambridge IFA is a member of the Cambridge-Edbiz Group of Companies headquartered in London.