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Woman power from Ghana to Iceland

, November 28, 2018, 0 Comments

women powerThe Women Leaders Global Forum in Reykjavik brings together extraordinary women from around the world. A new index shows there’s still much work to be done when it comes to the perception of women in leadership posts.

“My father was the first feminist I know.” Sarah Adwoa Safo beams as she says that. The 37-year-old is Ghana’s minister for public procurement. A lawyer by trade, she recounts how her father, a preacher, motivated her early on to speak in front of large audiences in their congregation. “I don’t know stage fright,” she says. She is convinced that it was her father, who laid the foundation for her professional and political success.

Opportunities for girls

Speaking to DW, she emphasizes how important a good education is for girls. “This year, 120,000 additional students are attending senior high schools because they are free of charge in Ghana now,” she says. “This creates new opportunities for girls as well.”

Before the fees were waived in Ghana, tuition rates for senior high school ranged from $1,000 to $1,200 (€886 to €1,063) per year. For many families that was too much, and if money was tight, oftentimes the boys were given priority when it came to education. Adwoa Safo says that is changing because the only obstacle now for students wanting to attend a secondary school in Ghana is the admissions exam.

“In our newly approved budget, 60 percent of the money goes to education,” the minister says proudly. But she doesn’t shy away from the problems either — classrooms are overcrowded and teachers often aren’t sufficiently trained.women power

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta; at the Women Leaders Global Forum, Reykjavik

“Ghana has been a regional leader in the delivery of education for all, reaching the education Millennium Development Goals well ahead of the 2015 deadline,” the UN children’s fund, UNICEF, states.

Woman power

Adwoa Safo has come to Iceland to present her government’s new education initiative but also to cultivate networks. At the Women Leaders Forum in Reykjavik, she is on the podium for a discussion of digitization — together with Mari Kiviniemi, Finland’s former prime minister and current deputy secretary general of the OECD, as well as Ana Birchall, the deputy prime minister of Romania.

Hundreds of women from all around the world who hold top posts in business and politics are taking the opportunity for an intense exchange of ideas. There was so much interest in attending the conference that the event even stopped accepting registrations for a while. Nobody here talks about “woman power,” but you can sense it everywhere.

Reykjavik Index for Leadership

However, prejudices against women in leadership positions still persist,  according to a new index presented at the Reykjavik conference.

Kantar, one of the world’s leading data, insight and consultancy companies, conducted an extensive investigation for the leaders forum looking at the perception of women in leadership roles in G7 countries.

The data experts considered 100 points the ideal, signifying “that across society, there is complete agreement that women and men are equally suited to leadership in all sectors.”

But, in fact, the overall score came to just 66 points — that’s like wanting to drive 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour but only making it to 66. The results also varied significantly between male and female respondents.women power

The Harpa Congress Centre, Reykjavik, venue for the Women Leaders Global Forum

“Across the G7, the Reykjavik Index for Leadership is higher for women (67) than it is for men (61),” explains Michelle Harrison, Global CEO for Kantar Public. “This means that women in the G7 are more likely than men to view men and women as equally suitable for leadership roles.”

Unexpected outcome for Germany

The results for Germany came as a surprise: “In Germany, men are more likely to be perpetuating stereotypes about who should lead in professional sectors,” Harrison says. The perception in France and the UK was significantly better.

So far, there has not been an investigation for Africa , but in the long term, Kantar wants to measure the perception of women and men on all continents.

In the meantime, Sarah Adwoa Safo, the government minister from Ghana, continues to build on her networks. In Reykjavik, she met with representatives of the World Bank. Her goal: to secure more support for Ghana’s education initiative.