WCO publishes outcomes of Women in Customs, Trade and Leadership Conference

28 November 2013

The WCO is pleased to announce the publication of the outcomes document for the Women in Customs, Trade and Leadership Conference held at WCO headquarters on 1 July 2013.  

During the Conference, speakers addressed a range of challenges facing women traders, along with a number of initiatives, including Customs reform that the international donor community is undertaking to address these challenges. They also spoke of the importance of engaging men in discussions on gender equality, as well as ensuring that a broad range of women’s organizations are engaged in discussions with the international trade community, including Customs, if women are to fully contribute to the social and economic development of their communities and societies through trade.

Customs administrations play an important role in either supporting or hindering the economic empowerment of women, particularly women traders. Those administrations that consult with traders – especially women’s business associations – and provide clear information on Customs procedures can play a very constructive role in supporting the economic empowerment of women, in particular their involvement in international trade. Further initiatives that were suggested at the Conference included commodity-specific Customs information, focusing on commodities that are largely traded by women, as well as special Customs clearance channels for women.

The Conference benefited from specific examples of how feminine leadership plays out at an organizational level both within and outside the Customs community. It was argued at the Conference that feminine leadership can contribute to reduced corruption, increased employee engagement and greater teamwork. Most importantly, delegates heard a number of perspectives on how diverse organizations – those that bring out the best of both masculine and feminine traits – can benefit enormously from the wider range of talents.

Being largely male-dominated, Customs and the international trade community present an interesting case study for the analysis of gender biases in the workplace. By means of example, one of the world’s largest Customs administrations – US Customs and Border Protection – employs a workforce that is 80% male. Nevertheless, the Conference heard of numerous examples of women pioneering change and achieving remarkable success in this administration.

Women leaders themselves spoke of how they overcame ingrained gender biases through the presentation of a confident and competent self-image in the workplace. Conference discussions in this regard focused on means by which women can better understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and apply this self-assessment towards enhancing their confidence and workplace success. Conference discussions closed with an exploration of how today’s women leaders can support the next generation of leaders, with solutions ranging from senior-level sponsorship, women’s networks and mentoring.

This Conference was generously supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Finland, the World Bank and SICPA.

More information