Tuesday, June 7, 2011

[pima.nius] "Humble and self effacing" says Forum's most senior woman

12:57 PM |

"Humble and self effacing" says Forum's most senior woman

Updated June 7, 2011 08:35:50

Andie Fong Toy is back at the Pacific Island's Forum having been recently appointed its first ever female Deputy Secretary General.

In 2008 she left the Forum after serving 14 years, and having risen to the post of the director of politics and security.

In her new role she'll have to help coordinate the region's major economic negotiations including the Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement and PACER Plus.


Presenter:Geraldine Coutts
Speaker:Andie Fong Toy, Deputy Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

FONG TOY: I'd like to think I'm a very humble and self-effacing person so being the first woman I suppose on a personal basis I try not to think too much about it, but I realise the significance for many women in the Pacific about me being appointed to this position. I've been gratified by the many expressions of support and I must say both male and female on my appointment.

COUTTS: Well I've already made this point this morning, it's the 21st century, why I we still having to applaud ourselves for getting these jobs?

FONG TOY: That's a good point Geraldine and I suppose when I was appointed to the position that was not something that was high on my radar, it was only after I was appointed that many people pointed this out, that I was the first female appointed to this executive position. I would prefer to think that I've been appointed more on merit rather than the gender, it just happened to be a coincidence that I happen to be a female.

COUTTS: Is there a glass ceiling for women in the Pacific?

FONG TOY: I suppose if you look at the statistics I would say most probably, there's a glass ceiling in the sense that if you look for example at the number of female MPs, and at the moment we don't have a sort of female leader, there is obviously a glass ceiling. We could talk for a long time about if you look at specific sectors of that the reasons for that. At the same time I think when we look at the history of the Pacific we tend to forget that we are still what I'd like to say in probably the first generation, into the first generation of post-independence. So we're still when you compare us to developed countries, we're still the first generation of university graduates. I think it's great when I look back at my own experience of going to university and we were very much in the minority as women. But I look now at USB and I suspect they're actually more women than men, and that's just taken one generation to get to that point.

COUTTS: Well to continue that point, we are valuing meritocracy a lot more, and so how much longer is it going to be before we see more Pacific women in leadership roles because of the very points that you've just made, that they're only getting through university now?

FONG TOY: I think if I look across at the officials level and my experience I must say is very much at the regional level rather than the national level, there is a very good representation of women, I mean I would say it's 50-50 if we look at the women that come to for example our meetings, that attend our workshops, that are taking quite significant senior official roles.

COUTTS: But at what level, you're talking region, but these participants are they actually in roles of significance though?

FONG TOY: Yes we've got pretty senior women for example in foreign affairs, and I must say that's been my experience, although I'm now the DSG for economic growth and security, my experience to date has been more in the sort of the political level in terms of dealing with foreign affairs. And that's my observation is that women are rising through ranks.

COUTTS: An observation, it's only observation from a distance, that women of Polynesia tend to rise up through the ranks and hold jobs of significance more so than in Micronesia? Is that your observation as well?

FONG TOY: Yes I would say that's my observation. But I suppose with the proviso that's just based on a general observation rather than statistics.

COUTTS: Alright so healthy future for women then right across the region?

FONG TOY: I would hope so Geraldine.

COUTTS: Alright can we get down to your role now, you're going to be doing some fairly hefty negotiating in your new role, major economic negotiations, including the economic partnership and agreement and Pacer Plus. How will you be forging progress in those areas?

FONG TOY: Bear in mind that I've just been in the job for two weeks Geraldine, my understanding is that at the trade ministers meeting in Samoa about three weeks ago before I arrived at the Secretariat, that the trade ministers have given us a mandate to try and conclude the EPA by the end of the year, which is a sort of significant task for us. So we will obviously be putting a lot of effort into trying to conclude those negotiations.

COUTTS: And speaking of negotiations it's been a difficult path that the trade ministers have had to forge because perhaps they're not as experienced in these kinds of high level negotiations, and the suggestion that some parties to the agreement are taking advantage of that. Have you been briefed on that by the trade ministers?

FONG TOY: Sorry can you clarify what you mean by some parties have been taken advantage of?

COUTTS: Well some parties to the agreement are taking advantage of the others in the agreement because some are not as well versed in negotiating skills as the ones who are taking advantage?

FONG TOY: I'm not aware of that, the specifics of that Geraldine, but I suppose in the general sort of environment of the region that yes I mean we have a number of small island states and the Forum Island countries relative to the bigger partners, we would naturally have a disadvantage I think, and that's not just in trade, I think that's right across the board.


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aotearoa, new zealand
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pacific islands media association
pima.nius@gmail.com
aotearoa, new zealand
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The pima.nius googlegroup is a facility for discussion and distributing information. Content sent by this googlegroup are forwarded from various networks and media publications.
 
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