The Women in Leadership (WIL) initiative of the public service has undoubtedly been the most enjoyable project that I have been involved in since retiring from politics. The 40th Anniversary Forum for Women in the Public Service was a most fitting climax for Phase 2 of WIL. Many Women in Leadership Forums are held in Papua New Guinea but this was the first time that a forum has been dedicated solely to women in the public service.
When planning for the forum there was a level of trepidation would there be interest? Would women attend with enthusiasm? Too often there is cynicism about the public service and public servants. I arrived at the venue early and was greeted by women already there long before start time. And they continued to arrive until the room was filled to capacity. The comradery and commitment shown by women from different agencies plus a few from the provinces was overwhelming and the hunger to hear about and learn from our public service women pioneers and present champions was inspiring and at times brought tears to the eyes of many present.
This Report captures just some of the wisdom and knowledge that circulated in the Forum plus some of the challenges made by senior public servants who spoke with frankness and courage about their experiences and observations. One thing was very clear – unanimously the public servants present wanted the initiative of bringing women public servants together for forums to be continued and at all levels of government.
Much attention has been given to women in parliament and women in business and the private sector. All sectors of women in leadership are important but it is essential that equal attention is given to women in leadership in the public service. Traditionally women were the implementers in Papua New Guinea. The public service is the implementation machinery of government and I have no doubt that that machinery will benefit as more women attain positions of leadership and lead with fairness and humility.
I trust that serious note will be taken of this Forum Report and its key resolutions and that it will be the beginning of a repository of knowledge, technical expertise and wisdom of our senior women in the public service from the past, the present and into the future. “Power can be our greatest enemy – keep humility at the forefront. Get a second and third opinion. And always remember that we are serving our country and the people of Papua New Guinea.” Betty Palaso, CEO, Internal Revenue Commission, Women Public Servants’ Forum 2015.
Dame Carol Kidu, DBE, Dr (Hon)
Patron for Women in Leadership Network