International Women’s Day 2023: Driving Economic Empowerment for PNG Women through Digital Accessibility and Innovation

by Anna Moegerlein & Bree Morel

The digital gender gap sees 250 million fewer women online than men, amounting to a loss of one trillion dollars from the GDP of low and middle-income countries.

Getting more women online is essential, not only to women’s economic dignity and empowerment, but to economic development across the board.

Our latest post explores how simple digital tools helped women all over PNG access TDi’s vital holistic business coaching, keeping their businesses alive during the worst months of economic downturn and industry closures.

Digital accessibility to inner development coaching vital to PNG women's economic empowerment

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Developing Economies

As we approach International Women’s Day each year in March, we reflect on the importance of empowering women in developing economies, and particularly women entrepreneurs. There’s a net benefit in supporting women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment; we know that when women succeed in their businesses that families, communities, and local economies rise as well.

But there are barriers to the success of women-owned businesses, particularly in places like Papua New Guinea, where women face unique challenges due to complex family and cultural obligations, as well as structural barriers that can prevent their full participation and inclusion for success in the marketplace. 

Our most recent work in PNG demonstrated the value of comprehensive Inner Development coaching as a way of overcoming these unique challenges, and as an essential element of successful Enterprise Development. We recently released two in-depth case studies on this work, showcasing how we innovated to deliver our coaching method at scale, to nurture and grow a local network of coaches. 

The successful delivery and scalability of this program would have been impossible without the ability of these women to access simple digital tools, so we’re using this year’s IWD theme of ‘Innovation for Gender Equality’ to highlight one of the most important programs in our history, and the role that women’s access to digital media played in its success – particularly during a pandemic. 

Digital accessibility to inner development coaching vital to PNG women's economic empowerment
How digital inclusion and online coaching for PNG women MSMEs contributed to economic empowerment

Overcoming Unique Challenges Faced by Women Entrepreneurs in PNG

We’ve worked with women business owners in PNG for over five years, and we’ve seen that the most common form of support available is short-term technical training (i.e. basic financial literacy, marketing, etc). These basic programs do little to empower women to overcome the multiple, complex challenges of running a business because they don’t address the underlying issues. 

During the last three years the pandemic has increased these challenges: PNG women business owners have also been grappling with economic downturn and limited mobility, as well as cultural constraints. Consequently, demand for business support increased, but our ability to provide it faced some practical hurdles. We realised we needed a more innovative, scalable, low-cost model to reach more women entrepreneurs without losing the power of our method. We also realised that it was time to act on our desire to build the capacity of local talent to offer high quality business support locally.

Inner Development Coaching key to Successful Enterprise Development

We partnered with the Women’s Business Resource Centre (who recruited participants through their network) to deliver a dual-purpose program: providing coaching and small business support to over 100 women-owned MSME’s across PNG, while concurrently training a cohort of Local Business Coaches in our whole-of-person method to ensure access to support would remain available ongoing. 

Our coaching model and framework for a whole-of-person approach to working with entrepreneurs was developed in partnership with Kate Wilson from Resources Reimagined. It focuses on both Inner Development and technical Enterprise Development challenges – a blended approach we designed to better respond to the multiple complex needs faced by women business owners in PNG. The program used a unique coaching model that blends both mindset and business coaching into one modality.

Because of this, the change was deeper and more enduring: women business owners gained access to practical business support as well as a safe space to heal and detach from internalised, limiting views which distorted and suffocated their business decisions, creativity, and energy. It also supported them to find greater freedom and empowerment in their day-to-day life and relationships. 

We’ll unpack our method more thouroughly in a future blog post, but results from our program clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach. You can read more detail on how we applied this, and the results, in our case studies, or download our in-depth report.

Digital Accessibility Vital for the Success of Inner Development Coaching in PNG

The 116 women business owners came from across PNG, and whilst a large cohort were from Port Moresby, over 50% were from more remote areas. Online access to quality business support was essential for these women, as travel to certain areas of PNG can be both time consuming, and expensive. Of course, adding the complications of travel bans and lockdowns due to COVID19 meant that the only way to deliver our coaching model was online.

Delivering a program like this during a pandemic was not without its challenges. We needed to embrace technological pivots by making our coaching accessible via video, phone, and text. This approach enabled us to assist a larger and broader cohort of women from across PNG. Delivering this program with the help of digital tools has been critical in ensuring that women in remote areas can access the coaching and support.

The practical assets we have gained from this experience are invaluable moving forward, as we seek to deliver more programs across the Pacific to a wider cohort of business owners. We’re excited about the prospect of continuing to deliver this vital Inner Development work, both in person, and with the support of technology – the importance of women across the Pacific having access to technological tools (including the education required to use them) cannot be overstated. 

Kate Wilson, TDi Team, and local PNG business coaches.
TDi Coaches and PNG Local Business Coaches during a remote coaching session in 2020

Embracing Technological Innovation to Promote Gender Equality

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, we reflect not only on the critical role of Inner Development in empowering women in Australia and the Pacific, but also on the need to ensure women are adequately resourced to access this kind of coaching in the first place. The use of technology has been crucial in TDi delivering these programs during the pandemic. By embracing technological innovation and digital inclusion to promote gender equality, we can continue to ensure that appropriate business capability programs can reach more women, supporting their economic empowerment and nurturing economic justice for entire communities.

Let’s continue to work towards a world where all women have the skills, confidence, and resources they need to thrive.

Together, we can build a more equitable and just world for all.

Happy International Women’s Day 2023!

We worked with Abt Associates’ Inclusive Economic Development team on behalf of the Australian Government (through the PNG-Aus Partnership) and delivered this coaching program in partnership with the PNG Women’s Business Resource Centre [WBRC], CIPE, and Resources Reimagined. 

If you’re looking for a capability partner in the Pacific region, please get in touch to explore the possibilities.

Anna Moegerlein is TDi’s Deputy CEO & Pacific Lead; Bree Morel is our Communications Coordinator.

Meet the rest of our team here.

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