On November 27, 2023, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, with significant support from both the public and private sectors, hosted a pivotal symposium in Bangkok, Thailand. This event was a part of the "Canadian Women-only Business Mission to South Korea and Thailand." Titled "Unleashing the Full Potential of Women in International Trade," the event aimed to spotlight the role of Canadian women entrepreneurs in the cleantech, health tech, and ICT sectors. It also sought to strengthen gender-inclusive trade and international partnerships between Canada and key Asian markets.
The symposium, held at Thammasat University's Sriburapha Auditorium Hall, featured an array of distinguished speakers and insightful discussions. The event began with welcoming remarks from Ms. Gasinee Witoonchart, Rector of Thammasat University, and an introduction by Ms. Christine Nakamura, Vice-President at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. Keynote addresses included a recorded welcome message from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and The Hon. Mary Ng, Minister of Export Promotion, International Trade, and Economic Development.
A highlight of the event was the Fireside Chat titled "A New Generation of Leadership," moderated by Ms. Peerapan Tungsuwan. It featured prominent figures such as H.E. Ping Kitnikone, Ms. Hye June Park, and Lisa Pierce. These leaders shared their unique experiences and perspectives on leadership and diversity in various industries.
The fireside chat focused on the role of women in entrepreneurship, particularly in ESG issues, and the challenges and opportunities in adapting to different business cultures, especially in Southeast Asia. The discussion concluded with an emphasis on the importance of continuous learning, curiosity, and balancing human connections and technology. The panelists encouraged embracing challenges and being unafraid to pioneer new paths.
The panel "Policies Driving Women’s Economic Advancement," moderated by Ms. Nakamura, included insights from Dr. Nahathai Thewphaingarm, Ms. Sara Wilshaw, Ms. Sittharmanin Susamawathanakun, and Dr. Patnaree Srisuphaolarn.
This panel covered various topics related to women's roles in different sectors. Key points included the necessity of female empowerment in academia and politics, the evolution of workplace policies in the Foreign Service to support women, challenges and successes in transforming traditional family businesses, and the importance of equitable access to financial services for business growth. Additionally, the discussion highlighted educational reforms, advocating for equitable access to education and promoting lifelong learning, with a focus on increasing women's participation in STEM fields and supporting women entrepreneurs through government programs. The conversation underscored the significance of policy reforms and cultural shifts in enhancing women's economic opportunities.
The second panel, "Supporting Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship," led by Dr. Allison Sekuler, featured Ms. Ruth Vachon, Ms. Oranuch Lerdsuwankij, Dr. Bronwyn Bridges, and Dr. Natenapha Wallerdsak (Yabushita).
This panel highlighted various aspects of women's roles and challenges in the technology and entrepreneurial sectors. It encompassed diverse backgrounds, from academia to digital health, focusing on leveraging opportunities and integrating information for academic leadership and research in aging. The panelists shared their journeys, including transitions from academic pursuits to entrepreneurship, and the development of digital health platforms. Key themes included overcoming traditional gender expectations in tech and business, the importance of female leadership in various sectors, and the necessity for equitable access to resources and mentorship. The panelists emphasized the significance of passion, determination, adaptability, and continuous learning for success in entrepreneurship. They also discussed the role of mentorship and sponsorship in fostering women's careers, stressing the importance of visibility and support systems to encourage and promote women in leadership roles. Furthermore, the conversation touched on the challenges of balancing professional and personal responsibilities, particularly for women, and the importance of creating inclusive and supportive environments in the tech industry. The panel served as a platform to inspire and empower the next generation of female entrepreneurs and leaders in technology and related fields.
The symposium concluded with closing remarks from Ms. Nakamura and Ms. Witoonchart, marking the end of a successful half-day event that not only celebrated the achievements of Canadian women in technology and entrepreneurship but also fostered meaningful dialogues on enhancing women's economic empowerment in international trade.
This symposium is part of APF Canada's 2023-2025 mission series "Northeast X Southeast: Advancing Partnerships Between Canada and Asia." It has already facilitated the internationalization of over 100 Canadian women-led businesses and engaged more than 4,000 stakeholders in supporting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. The event received generous support from the Government of Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, and Air Canada.