Mr Simon Vaughan, HSBC Bank
Ms Giuliana Isolani, Nestlé
Members of the Judging Panel
First of all, I have to thank the organisers and sponsors for the invitation extended to me and my wife to participate in this event, and to acknowledge with you the very important role that businesswomen play in our economy and our community.
We are also here to celebrate our shared goal of gender equality.
While we will be shortly conferring awards to winners, I wish today to commend all businesswomen in Malta, with no exception – both those who have been nominated as well as all the others who continued to work in silence and without fanfare.
I also have in mind the foreign businesswomen present here in Malta who, together with us all, pitched in to keep the wheels turning.
Against the backdrop of the merciless pandemic which we are still going through – all of you, all of us, are winners – as you have overcome the several obstacles that came your way, unannounced and in quick succession.
We all agree that COVID-19 brought with it many lessons.
One of them was that while everyone faced unprecedented challenges – the situation of women globally has suffered a severe blow.
A cursory look at figures on employment worldwide reveals that women lost their jobs, more than men did.
A study by the United Nations shows that the counter-pandemic measures are resulting in a very high rise in women’s unemployment figures – when compared to those of men – combined also with a decrease in overall working time.
Likewise, the poverty surge brought about by COVID-19 will unfortunately also result in the further widening of the gender poverty gap.
Moving on specifically to the world of business, the World Economic Forum discloses that recent surveys highlight a disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on businesses owned by women.
The situation is one where women now struggle even more than before to keep up with developments on the ground.
The global trend indicates that COVID has increased higher care responsibilities in the family unit, created job precariousness, reduced further the access to digital means, and very regrettably too – resulted in rising domestic and workplace abuse and violence.
On a very pragmatic, day-to-day level, there was also an impending sense of uncertainty on the very existence of the business itself, questions of whether to invest as well as very difficult choices on the future of employment.
All this happened against the backdrop of varying degrees of mental health issues, that should not be underestimated even in the longer run.
All these factors could have a snowball effect that, if left unaddressed, will also further widen differences in access to health, education, and capital, way beyond the duration of the pandemic itself.
While I am no expert in the field, I urge all of you involved in the private and business sectors to consider the introduction or implementation of further measures that could ascertain that women have a role in our joint recovery.
One of them is surely the support of remote working or flexible hour schedules that enable women to find a balance between work and home responsibilities.
The recruitment and promotion of women will also be important to prevent loss of talent and experience garnered along the years.
At the same time, ensuring access to capital and to a viable digital infrastructure are also necessary for more inclusive business structures during and after the pandemic.
We all have something to contribute to achieve a more level playing field – from governments, to legislators, to CEOs, to investors, to human resource managers.
All of you here in this room, I am sure can adopt hands-on solutions that benefit your businesses and give female businessowners and employees alike, all the tools and space to grow and thrive.
My last few words go to the prospective winners of the Awards this afternoon.
I ask you to make of today’s occasion, not only a well-deserved recognition of your achievements, but also an opportunity to stand out as an example for others to follow.
Be selfless with your knowledge and experiences so that others can benefit from your successes and learn from the hurdles you have had to overcome.
Make it your ‘business’ [excuse the pun] to uphold the values of inclusion, mutual respect, social responsibility and compassion as well as a sense of belonging, a sense of pride in your endeavours, and a sense of fulfilment of your ambitions.
I congratulate all of you – both the winners and the nominees – and wish you every success in your endeavours.
The last word of thanks also to the members of the judging panel for the decisions they make, and I imagine that it was not quite an easy decision to make to choose between all those nominees. Thank you very much for your work.