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Southeast Asia Strategic Forum

“Women, Business, and Economic Growth in Southeast Asia”

14 – 16 April 2016
at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford

Organised in association with dinconsulting

No nation can achieve the kind of growth that we all want and need if half the population never gets to compete. And we cannot afford any longer to exclude the energy and talent that women add to our economies.”

– Hillary Clinton, 17 November 2012, at Singapore Management University

The Southeast Asia Strategic Forum is part of the Southeast Asian Studies Symposium. Spaces are limited. Register now to avoid disappointment.

Download a promotional flyer.

Women in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is extremely diverse. The eleven Southeast Asian countries differ widely in economic, political, and cultural development. Nonetheless, broad patterns are evident. Women in pre-modern Southeast Asia enjoyed a relatively favourable position in comparison with neighbouring regions in Asia. Over time, the rise of centralized states and the spread of imported religions and philosophies increasingly privileged males and stressed female subordination. Colonialism reinforced this, recruiting women for cheap wage labour, “reforming” customary laws that had given women considerable autonomy, and instituting structures which formalised male authority. Women played active roles in independence movements, and all post-colonial regimes except Laos and Vietnam have signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and have made advances promoting gender equality, but this has not translated into reality. Women remain marginalised politically. Entrenched attitudes perpetuate gender stereotypes that see women’s roles as that of wife and mother. Some religious teachings continue to emphasise female subordination.

Nevertheless, the continuing acceptance of the idea that a woman can generate and control her own income is still generally evident, although women receive less pay than men for the same work and the options for unskilled workers are limited. In poorer countries and impoverished regions this is apparent in the prevalence of prostitution and the disturbing trafficking of women. From the mid 1960s, as Southeast Asian countries gradually shifted to export-oriented economies, lower-paid women have become essential to factory work. In consequence, women have been more active in labour movements. As overseas domestic workers, they have also been increasingly important to national economies, remitting large amounts of money to their families. Educational opportunities are rising. This has contributed to the blossoming of female-oriented Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) since the 1980s. Several Southeast Asian countries have had female leaders, although all are or have been the daughter, sister, or wife of a famous man.

With the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community, an opportunity lies in front of Southeast Asia. In recognition of this, Project Southeast Asia is addressing the issue in its inaugural Southeast Asia Strategic Forum (SSF). The SSF aims to bring together political, business, academia, and civil society leaders for dialogue and collaboration, with the aim of producing a concrete roadmap that can form the basis for action towards positive outcomes. We invite participation from scholars from all disciplinary backgrounds that would illuminate the historical and contemporary dynamics that impacting female economic participation in Southeast Asia. This may include expertise in areas relating to the intersection of gender with business, entrepreneurism, education, law, culture, or any other related area.

The SSF is envisioned not a singular event but a collaborative process which aims to understand an issue, set goals, create a workable roadmap, and build towards further research and development, with the ultimate goal of delivering concrete results. Participants are asked to participate from September 2015 onwards, subject to their own availability, in shaping the SSF agenda. Following the SSF in April 2016, participants will be expected to collaborate on the production of the roadmap, which is expected to lead to funded international collaborative research projects.

The Southeast Asian Strategic Forum

The Southeast Asian Strategic Forum (SSF) is a three day multi-sectoral forum, convened in conjunction with the Southeast Asian Studies Symposium. Unlike the Symposium, which is primarily a broad-based academic conference, the Strategic Forum focuses on a single theme, seeks to bring together leaders from different sectors (business, politics, academia, and civil society) into a constructive discussion aimed at producing a clear map for producing positive outcomes and contributing solutions to our most pressing issues.

The guiding principle of the Southeast Asian Strategic Forum is results. The Forum is focused on providing concrete steps for participants to execute. All sessions should be arranged with this outcome in mind. This does not preclude informational or sharing sessions, but these should be kept to a minimum and used to enhance the impact of the outcome-driven sessions, not serve as the main focus. Three questions will shape the sessions:

  1. What is the current state of the issue? Sessions focusing on this question should seek to define the question as well as to inventory resources and information.
  2. What is the goal/solution? In light of the problem, these sessions should seek to frame a clear goal(s) that would form an acceptable outcome on an acceptable timescale.
  3. How do we get there? These sessions should focus on working on what needs to be done to achieve the goal. What data needs to be gathered, and how do we gather it? What structures or institutions need to be created? What information needs to be disseminated?

Ideally, participants in the forum should depart with a clear plan in mind to execute to achieve the goal – e.g., three steps they need to take in the next year, or the outline of a project that will produce the data needed for further action.


The following themes will be addressed:

  1. Innovation and Technology: How we advance women as innovators and technology leaders? How can we advance women to be equal architects in leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution? How innovation and technology can empower women and create opportunities?
  2. Financial Inclusion and Empowerment: eg Responsible and dignified growth; Cultural change; Third sector participation; Women’s Rights; the historical context and progress made; Technology’s role the importance of understanding local culture for appropriate and effective solutions; gender segregation; the appropriateness of imposing “western” solutions on Southeast Asia.
  3. Entrepreneurship Growth: eg Connectivity across Southeast Asia and with international trade, access to finance, skills, mentorship, and networking; Moving from micro-enterprise to SME status, especially via the financial and banking system (eg using property and chattels as collateral, changing scoring and risk-assessment models, building credit history, place in the global supply chain, accessing finance); skills development, technical assistance, childcare support; Transforming female exploitative economies to female empowerment
  4. Women in Leadership: eg developing future women leaders; obstacles to women leaders, the ability of women to access institutions – women on corporate boards, women in parliament, women in local governments; Improving equality in representation and policy outcomes; how to allocate talent more effectively; female leadership and traditional commercial culture; changing gender based attitudes and social bias.


Interwoven into the themes would be different approaches towards solving the problems. These may include:

  1. Legal parity, and change
  2. Policy change
  3. Developing education/skills
  4. Capital and investment
  5. Increasing connectivity
  6. Technological solutions


Thursday 14th April 2016 

0900 – 0915 Opening

  • Welcome Address by Maria Jaschok (Director, International Gender Studies Centre, Oxford)

0915 – 1030 The Road to Empowerment (Panel and Q&A)

  • The household and education  at the centre of gendered economic development
  • Legal systems and law – helpful or detrimental?
  • Fintech as a driver for change


  • Chair: Maria Jaschok (Director, International Gender Studies Centre, Oxford)
  • Juanita Elias (Associate Professor in International Political Economy, University of Warwick)
  • Rashila Ramli (Professor of Political Science, National University of Malaysia)
  • Georgia Hannias (Head of Global Communications and Diversity Lead, Innovate Finance)

1030 – 1100 Coffee

1100 – 1230 Southeast Asian Symposium Opening Plenary Session

  • Keynote: “Timor-Leste and Southeast Asia, democracy and human rights”
    José Ramos-Horta (former President of Timor-Leste and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize)

1230 – 1330 Lunch

1330 – 1445 Advancing Women in Innovation & Technology (Panel and Q&A)

  • Innovation, technological development, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution transforming societies worldwide
  • How we advance women as innovators and technology leaders
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution and how we advance women to be equal architects in leading this revolution
  • How innovation and technology can empower women and create opportunities


  • Chair: Analisa Balares (CEO & Chief Innovation Officer, Womensphere; Co-Chair, YGL5050; Young Global Leader)
  • Helene Donegan (Vice President, Innovation Practice, Nielsen)
  • Georgia Hannias (Head of Global Communications and Diversity Lead, Innovate Finance)
  • Mary Lou Nolan (Commercial Director and Head of EMEA, Intellectual Ventures)

1500 – 1615 Financial Inclusion and Empowerment (Panel and Q&A)

  • Shaping inclusive finance transformation
  • Public private partnerships enabling empowerment
  • The role for women philanthropists


  • Chair: Lena Rethel (Associate Professor of International Political Economy, University of Warwick)
  • Payal Dalal (Head of Community Programmes, Standard Chartered Bank)
  • Mei Sim Lai (Founder Charter member, Pan Asian Women’s Association; Founder & Principal of LaiPeters & Co)
  • Sevi Simavi (CEO, Cherie Blair Foundation For Women)
  • Kieran Garvey (Policy Programme Manager, Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge)

1615  – 1630 Coffee

1630 – 1745 Entrepreneurship Growth (Panel and Q&A)

  • The landscape, visible and invisible barriers to growth
  • Gendered structures of capitalism and impact on entrepreneurship growth
  • Enabling enterprise growth and increasing participation


  • Chair: Sandar Win (Senior Lecturer in Banking and Finance, University of Bedfordshire)
  • Daw Zarchi Tin (Executive Director, Yoma Bank)
  • Amelia (Aimee) Alado  (Attorney-at-law)
  • Wilson Ng (Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Studies, University of Roehampton)

1745 – 1815 Wrap up

1830 – 2000 Buffet Dinner

2000 – 2100 A Concert for Cambodia in aid of the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children, Cambodia


Friday 15th April 2016

0900 – 0915 Summary Recapture of Discussion of 14th April

0915 – 1030 Women in Leadership (Panel and Q&A)

  • Closing the Gender Gap – changes required
  • Developing and promoting a gender diversity ecosystem
  • How women can get to the top and what leadership means
  • Gendered Structures of capitalism and impact on leadership


  • Chair: Sabila Din (CEO & Founder, Din Consultants)
  • Fenella Porter (Research and Curriculum Development Officer, Ruskin College)
  • Diana Chan (CEO, Euro CCP)
  • Elizabeth Lee (Senior Executive Director, Sunway Education Group)
  • Nora Abd Manaf (Group Chief Human Capital Officer, Maybank)

1030 – 1100 Coffee break

1100 – 1230 Workshops: Attendees choose between workshops on each of the four topics: Innovation, Financial Inclusion, Leadership, and Entrepreneurship

1230 – 1330 Lunch

1330 – 1430 Workshops

1430 – 1445 Coffee

1445 – 1615 Presentations on Workshops – 15 min each, followed by Q&A/Discussion

1615 – 1630 Coffee

1630 – 1720 Closing Plenary: Conclusions and Young Leaders Rising

 The symposium’s discussion viewed through the lens of World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders, the next generation of global leaders dedicated to making positive and sustainable impact. The closing session will also launch YLG5050, the global initiatives of the Young Global Leaders community to empower women and girls, and build a more gender-equal world. 

  • Chair: Pingtjin Thum (Coordinator, Project Southeast Asia, University of Oxford; Young Global Leader)
  • Analisa Balares (CEO & Chief Innovation Officer, Womensphere; Co-Chair, YGL5050; Young Global Leader)
  • Stephen Frost (Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, KPMG;  Young Global Leader)
  • Rain Newton-Smith (Director of Economics, Confederation of British Industries (CBI); Young Global Leader)
  • Vivian Claire Liew (Founder, PhilanthropyWorks; Young Global Leader)

1720 – 1745 Closing Remarks

  • Chair: Pingtjin Thum (Coordinator, Project Southeast Asia, University of Oxford; Young Global Leader)
  • Forum Rapporteur: Phyllis Ferguson (Transitional Justice, University of Oxford)

1830 – 1930 Reception

1930 – 2200 Symposium Gala Dinner

Speaker: Elizabeth Pisani (Author of the critically acclaimed Indonesia etc.)

A full account of the discussion and conclusions will be produced by the Forum Rapporteur and posted on the Project Southeast Asia website. Opportunities for informal discussion and socialising are also provided.



  • A report on the discussion and conclusions of the forum, with a plan for further research needed on the subject of gender equality in Southeast Asia
  • A calendar of steps and goals for each stakeholder group or organisation: What steps will be taken, and what goals will be achieved, within 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, and long term?

Who should attend

The Strategic Forum should be attended by senior executives from financial institutions, telecommunication and technology firms, innovators seeking to start-up new businesses, management consultants, professional advisors, think tanks, charities,  policy makers, students together with politicians, regulators,  philanthropists, academics, gender related networks, and business incubators.

How to book

The Strategic Forum on Women, Business and Economic Development
14-15 April 2016 at the Mathemical Institute, University of Oxford

Ticket prices: £525 (corporate), £299 (academics), £199 (students and concessions).

Book online by credit or debit cards at

Spaces are limited. Early booking is highly recommended due to the popularity.

The ticket entitles you to attend the Southeast Asia Strategic Forum on Women, Business and Economic Development on 14–15 April as well as:

  • The Southeast Asian Studies Symposium (14–16 April 2016) –
  • The Southeast Asia Investment Forum (14–15 April 2016) –
  • The Festival of Southeast Asia in Oxford (29 March–24 April 2016) –
  • The Southeast Asian Documentary Film Festival (15–17 April 2016) –
  • Discounts from selected Southeast Asian restaurants in Oxford

For more information on the Forum please visit or email Dr Pingtjin Thum,