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FEATURE STORY March 5, 2018

Inspiring women in the Pacific: Swashna's story


The World Bank

As part of our ongoing series, #PacificPossible, we are sharing insights from some of the region’s young and emerging leaders, for their take on what’s possible for the future of the Pacific Islands. For International Women’s Day 2018, we are getting to know some of the young women leaders that are making an impact across the Pacific. Swashna Deo works as an ICT sales manager for Digicel in Fiji. For a few years she was the only woman on the team, but she says that has now changed and more women have been recruited, a sign that women are becoming increasingly empowered within organizations.

How would you describe your work?

I manage the ICT sales team for Digicel Fiji. My team reaches out to customers, both existing and potential, to consult and supply business solutions that meet their requirements. The core of my job is to supervise these consultations and negotiations to ensure that they fully meet the needs of both the customers and our business.

Managing pricing, processes and protocols of all negotiations is key to ensuring that our business makes a profit. My work also involves negotiating with our international vendors on cross-selling and re-selling.

What do you see as the main impediment to women being seen as leaders in the Pacific?

I think in the Pacific people generally have a pre-determined perspective about women. Some think that women are mostly meant to be doing administrative work in offices, while other women are judged and bound through culture and tradition. Therefore, visioning women as leaders is quite diluted in the Pacific. I would say that this is a global issue, but we in the Pacific face it at large. Organizations often make gender diversity a priority during recruitment and training and development drives but nothing happens much afterwards.  This is often due to a mismatch between experiences associated with leaders and their capabilities. Women would often rank lower due to the education and cultural cycle.

How can that be overcome?

I think you have to continuously fight to prove yourself. Women leaders need to step out and empower more women to come out of their comfort zones and do the best of their abilities. Education is key. We need to empower more women to apply for roles and to enroll in education. The context is to embrace the willpower to lead and hopefully enable more women to feel encouraged and empowered. But over the past few years, there has been a substantial amount of female graduates throughout the Pacific, so females are conquering.

What do you see as the future for ICT in Fiji?

It’s evolving with the global rise of internet and data demand. Fiji is very close to data usage demand, in comparison with Australia and New Zealand. And we are now a hub for the Pacific for most global businesses. We’ve had global requests coming from really large organizations. ICT is evolving rapidly in Fiji, the population is very literate and aware of the global transformation of information and technology. Infrastructure in Fiji is expanding as more businesses are investing. The country has a lot to offer to the world as it is a very prominent destination for business due to its location and time zone.

Looking ahead 25 years, in the Pacific, what do you see?

The Pacific nations are not far behind from the globe. Every nation is close in its path to achieving sustainability and transformation.

With the support from the globe, I believe the Pacific will see more female leaders as more women are getting better education and support. The culture and diversity will also attract enormous investors and the world will embrace and celebrate the Pacific.


The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group and its employees.