Gender is neither "an issue", nor is it an exclusive concern among women, say delegates from Asian-Pacific economies. In fact, they insist, embedding a gender perspective in all APEC projects and working groups is a precursor to realizing the full economic potential of the region.
At the 6th meeting of the APEC Gender Focal Point Network (GFPN), gender is being addressed as a mutually-affecting concept:
"When we talk about gender equality, we're not only talking about women" explained a delegate of Indonesia. To advance the economic status of women is inextricable to the advancement of men and to the APEC region.
Because economies throughout the region exhibit disparate rates of gender integration, the GFPN provides expert advice on the gender considerations of project proposals and has developed guidelines to facilitate.
For example, APEC's Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) working group has applied these guidelines and - since women account for more than 50 percent of small business owners in certain economies - this is anticipated to have significant regional economic impact.
Some critics say that change occurs too slowly. Janet Stodulka of the Australian Government Office for Women acknowledges that, "Actually quantifying the extent to which women have been integrated in APEC is a difficult task."
GFPN Chair, Dr. Dolores Tasayco responds, "Movements for gender equality have been a series of progress and set backs. This is true throughout history and in all parts of the world."
Rather than expecting imminent results, she says, gender advocates should be diligent and consistent in "following up every action that implies gender equality, women's empowerment and the development of their skills. That is what will make each one of us effective as an agent of change in our own economy."
The achievements of GFPN, an institutional mechanism affecting progress toward the equal participation of women and men in APEC economies, are implemented through senior level participation and political commitment.