The IOE and IT, WTO and ITC unite to encourage more women to work in international trade

Thu 29 Sept 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News


The heads of three international trade bodies delivered a shared message on female empowerment today (29 September) at a major conference in Geneva.

World Trade Organization (WTO) director general Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, International Trade Centre (ITC) executive director Pamela Coke-Hamilton and Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) director general Marco Forgione united to deliver a clear message on gender equality.

Female business journeys

A panel discussion at the annual WTO public forum, entitled ‘Breaking into male-dominated sectors’, was organised by the ITC and the WTO in collaboration with the IOE&IT.

As covered previously by the IOE&IT Daily Update, the three organisations worked together to highlight four female entrepreneurs as part of the SheTrades initiative.

The panel speakers shone a light on the inspiring journeys of three women leaders who have defied the odds and broken into the textile, laser manufacturing, and science and technology sectors.

Breaking down barriers

Opening the session, Dr Okonjo-Iweala said: “we have put cracks in the glass ceiling, but we still haven’t shattered it.”

“The World Economic Forum estimates at the current rate of progress, it would take 132 years to close the current gender gap and 151 years to close the economic participation and opportunity gap. This is unacceptable.”

Breaking down barriers

Coke-Hamilton added: “International trade is a predominantly male-dominated sector. We’re working on breaking this down.”

“If half of the global population is systematically excluded from participating equally in the economy, how are we to recover in a sustainable fashion?”

Female business leaders

Entrepreneurs Kohinoor Yeasmin and Jessica Madrid Lugo both shared their lessons and experiences in developing and scaling their business.

Yeasmin is the CEO of Tarango, a company that specialises in the production of home décor and fashion accessories.

She said: “In Bangladesh, the textiles sector is fully dominated by men, with very small percentages of women working there. I took on the challenge. If men can do it, why can’t I?”

Skills and hard work

Madrid Lugo is the founder and CEO of Laser & Manufacturing, a Mexican company she set up when she was just 22, that performs laser cutting and other industrial processes.

She said: “When I started, I was a very young woman. It was very difficult, there were a lot of challenges.”

“I knew I was going to work in a male-dominated sector. I had the technical skills to do what it takes and have worked hard to be where I am.”

Gender equality a ‘must’

Forgione concluded by saying: “Gender equality in trade is not an option, it is a must. In order to make a significant impact, you need to have more women involved in trade.

“When you have businesses led by women, you’re transforming communities much more than with male-led businesses. Investing to support and develop female entrepreneurs has a disproportionate impact on the whole of that community and that society.”

You can read more about the work of four SheTrades ambassadors, including Yeasmin and Madrid Lugo, at the WTO Public Forum here.