Growth Has To Be Inclusive, Women Leaders Should Have A Crucial Role: Catherine Gallagher

The minister commercial, Australian High Commission-New Delhi, and head of Austrade South Asia believes women in business will contribute immensely in post-pandemic economic recovery

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Austrade has been facilitating two-way business capabilities under the Australian government’s Australia India Business Exchange Program (AIBX). AIBX is the flagship program to strengthen Australia-India commercial links. It’s designed to give businesses from both side’s confidence and capability to engage across the two markets.

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In the current environment, AIBX is a digital-first program that will provide actionable market insights, including through video and written case studies and sector reports on market and partnership strategies, and directly connect companies on both sides to foster commercial partnerships through industry roundtables, dialogues, and masterclasses.

The AIBX platform is delivering business matching and insight sessions in areas such as water-sensitive urban design, rail infrastructure, and circular economy.

“We have got an extensive agenda to strengthen commercial links in agrifoods, education, mining, infrastructure, health, energy, and fintech as we are working more closely together in areas of geo-strategic importance such as defence, cyber and critical minerals. In 2019-20, India was our eighth largest trading partner, with two-way trade of A$26 billion as two-way investment was valued at more than A$36 billion. We want to build bilateral business literacy to support commercial success,” said Catherine Gallagher, minister commercial, Australian High Commission New Delhi, and head, Austrade South Asia, while stating how the establishment plays a part in revolutionizing India's commerce.

Gallagher believes that the program recognizes the importance of inclusive growth and economic development where women business leaders have a crucial role to play in ensuring inclusive and productive economic recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to reflect on women as leaders, change-makers, and innovators. Globally, women are leading COVID responses: as policymakers, activists, healthcare workers, community organizers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders, and at the helm of institutions. Australia is supporting women’s leadership in the Indo-Pacific through many women-centric programs and their political and economic advocacy.

The current focus includes promoting women’s leadership in politics, funding leadership interventions and exploring new ways to support women and girls’ leadership participation, and adjusting existing women’s economic empowerment initiatives to support women as they shoulder much of the economic burden of the pandemic.

As Peter Varghese reported in his India Economic Strategy, India’s economy has more to gain by achieving gender parity than any other in the world.

The Indian government has committed to boosting female labor force participation and has adopted policies to promote inclusive workforce participation.

India is an important economic partner for Australia but it’s fair to say there is significant potential for further growth in the relationship and women business leaders will be central to ensuring future growth in our economic partnership, she said.

As an agency, they are focused on fostering mutually beneficial partnerships for businesses across geographies. The platform wants to make positive contributions to the communities they serve. Its external focus is on gender equality as well as supporting Australian indigenous businesses to go international.

They claim their aim is to drive a higher representation of women engaging and succeeding in international business. In line with the same they are promoting women-only business exporting: In 2018, Austrade engaged with 17 per cent of businesses that were operated, owned, and managed by women. Building landing-pad programs to foster and promote women in business in specific sectors and providing tailored support to women-owned businesses that are looking to export to markets where restrictions may apply, therefore increasing representation of women in the marketplace. For example, organizations like Power ledger, a blockchain renewable energy trading platform led by Dr. Jemma Green, succeeded by finding the right partner with an electricity distributor in India. Another example is Australian exporter Cochlear, a leader in implantable hearing devices, who have achieved success by localizing for the Indian market. There are a number of females led businesses such Margaret Faux from Synapse, Darlene Wray from OBE Organics among others who have succeeded in the Indian market.

According to Gallagher, Australia is supporting women’s leadership and decision-making in multiple ways. Their development partnerships focus on promoting women’s leadership in politics, funding targeted leadership interventions, and exploring new ways to support women and girls’ leadership and participation in decision making, during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic; adjusting existing women’s economic empowerment initiatives to support women as they shoulder much of the economic burden of the pandemic, and supporting women’s economic resilience; and supporting partners to respond to increased gender-based violence in challenging operating environments, and to mitigate the impact of this violence on women and girls’ participation in private, professional and community arenas.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) leads Australian Government business gender diversity policies and provides advice, practical tools and education to help businesses improve their gender performance, she explained.

“The pandemic has seen an unprecedented impact on our lives and livelihood. While we are still dealing with this change, one big lesson I saw women leaders across countries and businesses is that with resilience to resolve and a problem-solving approach nothing can stop your growth and prosperity,” Gallagher further shared.