Leading the charge for gender diversity in Samoa

Once upon a time, imagining a bank where more than 80 per cent of leaders were female might have seemed improbable. But this reality is not only tangible, it’s delivering business benefits for ANZ Samoa.

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Samoa has undergone a profound shift in gender dynamics, within both families and the workforce. Post pandemic, there has been a marked shift in female participation in the workforce.

"The role of women within the Samoan family has changed just as much as the role of women in the workforce,” - Rita Tugia Enesa, ANZ Samoa Talent and Culture Business Partner

Since 2022, the number of women entering the workforce in Samoa has increased significantly.

Females entering the workforce, rising exponentially since 2022

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In fact, women held the fort in Samoa’s labour market through the pandemic years and post COVID. Those who lost jobs in the tourism accommodation sector due to closed borders were absorbed into other sectors such as the public service, education, commerce and business services.

Over the past few decades, there has been a shift within Samoan families too.

Samoan culture

Rita Tugia Enesa, ANZ Samoa Talent & Culture Business Partner, told me when she was growing up, women primarily had domestic roles.

“The role of women within the Samoan family has changed just as much as the role of women in the workforce,” she said.

“My father was the matai, or the chief, a complex role interwoven deep into the fabric of Samoan culture. Matai are very respected and often have duties within the community. Until around 30 years ago, only matai where able to vote in Parliamentary elections.”

“My mother on the other hand, had the Samoan role of Tautua. Tautua is also a leadership figure, whose role is to care for children.”

“In my family, as well as many other families in Samoa, the decision maker was the father,” Rita said. “My generation and the ones that came later are more open-minded and are willing to swap roles for the betterment of their families.”

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Sucharu (centre right) with Rita (centre left) and other members of the ANZ Samoa team.

Samoan traditions

I am proud to say ANZ Samoa’s female participation rates are well ahead of global peers in the financial sector. We have embraced the strength of diversity and benefited from the changing role women play in Samoan culture.

We have embraced the parts of Samoan culture where things are done together with a focus on aiga (family). Within the aiga, giving and receiving tautua (service), fa’aaloalo (respect) and alofa (love) are the norm.

Bringing these elements into the business is helping us attract and retain talent.

ANZ Samoa continues to focus on growing and developing female talent and removing barriers which have historically limited women from progressing into senior roles.

Not only is it the right thing to do but it also paves the way for other dimensions of diversity and ultimately drives better business, customer and community outcomes. The business case is clear cut: a vibrant, diverse and inclusive workforce brings benefits to customers and the bottom line.

There are eight women on the ANZ Samoa Leadership team now (67 per cent) and the representation of women in management is 80 per cent.

Employment data across the local organisation is looking promising too. “Since the border reopened in 2022, more females have joined the formal workforce, taking the total female participation to an all-time high,” said Kishti Sen, International Economist at ANZ.

Employment in Samoa

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Women in Samoa continue to achieve success in all fields – from business, to academia, to public health, to sport. Talented women who are experts in their field and who have significant contributions to make include the Prime Minister, Central Bank Governor, CEO of the Ministry of Finance and CEO of Samoa International Cricket association.

We need to create more visibility for women doing well and champion their success to inspire younger generations – if you can see it, you can be it.

Samoa is set to play a bigger role on the global stage, hosting the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October.

We are looking forward to showcasing how ANZ Samoa is supporting local businesses and connecting business leaders across our Pacific network.

Sucharu Tandon is Country Head at ANZ Samoa

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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