In March of 2022 the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) hosted a conference with representatives from the United States of America to discuss the role of women in business. After identifying the increased demand for advanced training programs for women in the commercial sphere, Kazakhstan and the US agreed to develop educational programs to expand economic opportunities for women across all areas of the commercial world.
Significant focus was placed on women in small business. In order to aid women in developing modern business processes, new products and additional competencies, the National Commission of Kazakhstan has promised to implement programs prioritising female entrepreneurs throughout the country. Three US backed projects have been prioritised, with the aim of fostering bilateral relations for women empowerment.
One such program is the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, in which female run businesses are provided with support to adapt to changing economic conditions. The AIFC is leading plans to expand the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan. Another exciting initiative is the collaboration with USAID to provide training for female entrepreneurs in relation to start-ups, expansion and the creation of online communities. The third initiative is the Providing Opportunities for Women’s Economic Rise (POWER) project, which connects the US private sector with international programs that aid in supporting female entrepreneurs. POWER is working with the US embassy in Kazakhstan to support female-led businesses that promote traditional crafts and heritage, aiming to expose the wider world to Kazakh culture.
The meeting between US and Kazakh representatives in March was followed by the Astana Finance Days 2022, in which female economic empowerment was a central topic of discussion. Influential female businesswomen, politicians and legal practitioners all weighed in to discuss promoting female entrepreneurship through the AIFC, particularly for women in the IT industry. For more on this topic, and for other news from the Astana Finance Days, click here.
The efforts of these conferences have not been in vain as serious improvements for women’s standing in the commercial world are reflected in the World Economic Forum’s recent Global Gender Gap Report, in which Kazakhstan has risen 15 places internationally in respect of gender equality. The report considers economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival in evaluating gender equality in a country.
Kazakhstan has been a pioneer in reducing gender inequality in Central Asia. Under educational attainment, a measure which highlights the highest level of education that can be completed, Kazakhstan provides the joint best opportunity for women in the region. Kazakhstan has also improved in economic parity or ‘equal pay for equal work’ and have more women in senior management positions than ever before. The area in which Kazakhstan is yet to see major change is political empowerment, in which there still exists a marginal number of women in parliament and ministerial positions.
The AIFC has played a central role in empowering women in business in wider Kazakhstan. As the host of the meeting with the United States and the Astana Finance Days 2022, the AIFC has managed to lay the groundwork for long-term economic initiatives set to provide structural support to female-run businesses in Kazakhstan for the foreseeable future. The fruits of this labour can already be seen in Kazakhstan’s improved position in the Global Gender Gap Report, but it seems that there is still a long way to go until equality in all aspects of Kazakh society is achieved.
Author – Matt Davies
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