A one-day women entrepreneurs conference intended to raise awareness on the benefits of having a diverse board and supporting the need for targeting more women to become actively involved in business, will be held today by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in partnership with the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC).
The conference will bring together women entrepreneurs, executive leaders, experts, as well as government officials to discuss the challenges faced by women in accessing boards and more formal business spaces. The conference will also consider strategies for proactive progress in diverse board agenda.
Mrs. Motimah M. Neufville, program officer at the LCC, who spoke to our Business Desk yesterday via phone, said diversity and inclusion is a major issue in businesses in Liberia and within the Liberian Chamber of Commerce.
According to her, there is strong evidence globally that the inclusion of women in decision-making has a demonstrable effect in improving the performance of organizations (companies); and in doing so, it positively impacts on the sector and general national economic growth.
Quoting the IFC report, Madam Neufville said women in the country are much more likely than men to be self-employed (69 percent of women compared to 56 percent of men). However, the majority of female entrepreneurs in Liberia continue to work informally and in low-productivity sectors, “mainly in small retail and trade.”
Among entrepreneurs, she said women are more likely than men to own completely informal enterprises (60 percent of women compared to 45 percent of men). She said wholesale and retail trade, the second-most important sector for overall employment in Liberia after agriculture, employs around 35 percent of the female workforce (compared to just 15 percent of employed men).
“The Liberia Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to being the most representative business association and a trusted voice of the private sector in Liberia. Since the establishment of the Chamber in 1951 (66 years ago), there has not been a female president, although there have been two female vice chairs. At the recent election of its new corps of officers in March, not one female was nominated nor elected to the Executive Council, which includes past presidents (all males),” she said.
Madam Neufville further disclosed that close to 300 top companies and business associations form the chamber’s membership.
“However, less than 5 percent of our members are female-owned. This lack of diversity and inclusion with business member organizations and boards of companies is not unique to the LCC, it applies across the board in Liberia,” she said.