August 24, 2018

Women in Innovation - Getting it Done

Prime Minister of Aruba Evelyn Wever-Croes ATIA Women in Leadership

Good morning to all the influential women in the room today. First and foremost, I would like to thank ATIA and its board for the special invitation to be a keynote speaker at this prestigious event and to speak on a topic that is close to my heart. Today we celebrate you. A group of formidable women leaders and innovators committed to driving change on our island.  

We are living in interesting times. I am sure my mother, and yours as well, must be very proud to see what their daughters are doing and achieving nowadays. We do things that they we not allowed to do, some not even allowed to think. And what did they do? Did they give up, settle? No! they changed the way to raise a daughter, they raised us in a different way that they were raised. That is innovation too. Doing things another way. And thank God for that, because that has allowed us to be the leaders we are today. I am very grateful to my parents for raising me, for encouraging me not to settle for less, to make me believe in myself, and not to allow any ceiling, visible nor invisible, hinder my path. 

 It is an honor to be here today as your prime minister, Aruba’s first female prime minister. 

It is also the first time in 20 years that Aruba has a coalition. The negotiations were not easy, but also not impossible. There was a common determination to achieve a general wellbeing in Aruba. 

 One of the reasons I joined politics is because I believe that women political participation results in tangible gains for democracy, including greater responsiveness to citizen needs, increased cooperation across party and ethnic lines, and more sustainable peace. Research indicates that whether a legislator is male or female, has a distinct impact on their policy priorities, making it critical that women are present in politics to represent the concerns of other women. There are many other benefits to female political participation: 

  • Women leadership and conflict resolution styles, women tend to work in more participatory and more collaborative way than male
  • Women are also more likely to work across party lines, even in highly partisan environments. 
  • Women lawmakers are highly responsive to constituent concerns 
  • Women help secure lasting peace, build bridges 
  • Women’s participation encourages citizen confidence in democracy. 
  • Women prioritize education, health & other key development indicators 


The sustainable development goals (SDG’s) seek to change the course of the 21st century, addressing key challenges such as poverty, inequality, and violence.  

SDG 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empowering of all women and girls by: 

  • Ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere 
  • Eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation 

Achieving the SGD’s is a high priority on the Aruba Government’s agenda. 

That is why I invite you to empower girls. One effective way is through education, which is the key to influence and empower. If we create educated girls that are confident, have a high self esteem, and are determined, I am convinced we will have a next generation of powerful leaders. 

 The importance of gatherings focused on women in leadership has become more and more apparent to the community of Aruba in recent years, and an important part in equaling the playing field. And this year’s topic, women in innovation, cannot have come at a better time. A time where our island, Aruba, is facing many challenges, like many others in the region. Our future economy demands a new and fresh perspective to igniting growth and change. With globalization taking the front seat in economic activities and development worldwide, we must realize that there is no time to sit and wait for change to happen and for opportunities to come to us. We can no longer depend on others to bring us jobs.  We can no longer rely on import of innovation. Innovation has to start at home.  

 Although, as Arubans, we are known for our pioneering spirit, it is no secret that we have a lot of work to do to catch up on technological advancements and implement innovative solutions that our country needs. This is why the starting point of our government is to invest in human-centered innovation. To give our people the skills, tools and resources they need to innovate within, and for the growth to come from within. And when it comes to women, and especially our younger generations, we have more opportunity than ever before thanks to technology. Women leaders will play a pivotal role in this new economy catalyzed by innovation. 

 This does not come without adversity. As women we face many challenges, not only in our personal but all too often in our professional careers too. Throughout history, we have been the subject of substantial stereotyping. Many strong women who came before us have fought for equal rights and for inclusion in fields like science, technology, engineering and math what is known as the STEM industries. Sadly, the gender gap in the STEM industries remain large and persistent among the years at all levels including professional scientists, researchers, engineers, mathematicians and also STEM teachers. This is true for both developing countries and developed countries. In Aruba, I believe you will all agree that we have much work to do to close the STEM gender gap. Advocacy and conferences like this one help women to push invisible boundaries and break through the stereotypical mindset that persists in these industries.   

 Awareness of how women could contribute to these industries remain low. Many women tend to stumble into a STEM field rather than explicitly choosing a career in the field of science, technology, engineering or math. On the other hand, as modern societies, we do a poor job in celebrating those women who did opt for a so-called non-traditional career path. But what can we do? We have to get the success stories out there.  

 Let us be inspired by women like Jessica Wade, a physicist who has personally taken upon herself to create more awareness of women in the STEM industries. She noted that particularly in the world of science, on websites we are all familiar with, like Wikipedia, women are predominantly underrepresented. Over 82% of articles and biographies in the field of science are about men. However, she took it upon herself to bridge the underrepresentation gap of women in these industries by personally writing entries for over 300 women scientists from around the globe. By creating awareness through these entries, she hopes to make the impression that women are not active in these industries something of the past. 

 Although the example of Jessica Wade helps in bringing awareness to women thriving in these industries it does not solve the physical gap that still exists in this day and age in the world, and especially in small island communities like Aruba.  

 There is a difference between awareness and action. It has to take real effort to bring women into the STEM field. And not only does it take effort, it requires the training and investment in education programs. Our government and the private sector need to be accountable from the top-down, setting an example and having that example be visible by celebrating our women in innovation. We have to recognize our role models and give them the spotlight or create the spotlight for them. Seeing other women succeeding in STEM and innovation could inspire young women and girls by giving them real-world examples to model themselves after. 

 I urge you as women leaders, innovators and change-makers in our community to come together and more proactively provide girls and young women with the guidance, courses and activities that enhance their innovation capacity and confidence. Community support is key. Based on a recent international study, only 36% of girls will, of their own choice and without parental encouragement, pursue computer science. But when they receive verbal encouragement from their parents, over 65% of middle school girls are likely to study computer science in high school. There is no comparative study yet for Aruba, but the evidence is all around us. I ask all of you to make the effort to help our young women and girls understand how STEM subjects and innovation studies are relevant for their personal and professional pursuits.  

 And why is this so important for our country? Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of our economy. Having an innovation mindset is also a prerequisite to starting a company or running a successful business today. It is no secret that Women in Leadership is good business and good for the bottom line. A recent study shows that female-founded startups outperformed their male counterparts’ in terms of revenue. The women-run companies are returning on average 78 cents per dollar compared to 31 cents for the men. Need I do the math?   

 Innovation is not just a buzz word today, innovation is necessary for survival in the future. Industries are being disrupted and the average company these days lasts about one third of the lifespan of 50 years ago. The future will require us to be more resilient, having an innovation mindset and being open to change. Change will be happening at a faster pace than ever before.  Are we ready for it?  

 This goes to show that not only do we have to do a better job in helping more women to start and run companies, we also have to ensure they will be able to lead in an uncertain future. 

 I believe that the best way to prepare for a future of unknown complexity is to build on the strength of our differences, and that diversity and inclusion are a strategic imperative for innovation and enablers for economic growth. 

 As things stand today, women are heavily underrepresented in fields of STEM in Aruba.  How do we begin to close the gender gap and inspire the next generation of female innovators? At a time when technology continues to rapidly transform the way we live and work, we should make a conscious effort to empower more women and particularly young women to take an active role in that transformation. To catch that wave, to take risk, to be the change you want to see.  

 And perhaps it is fate that today’s conference is called Women in Innovation – Getting it Done! To get it done, in the spirit of today’s theme we are launching the “Stem The Gap” platform, a first of its kind awareness and education program dedicated to inspiring future generations of female innovation leaders, while also bringing together local talent to ideate and develop solutions for challenges that we face on our island, through an innovation lens.  

 As women leaders, it is our duty to inspire our young women and girls and to help advance women as leading voices in innovation. There are no quick fixes here. We have to accept that STEM literacy tomorrow is as important as basic literacy is today. Are we doing enough to stem the gap? If we are to be truly honest with ourselves, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface yet.    

 I encourage you to join the Stem The Gap Aruba movement. Each one of us has to understand how technology impacts our lives, jobs, companies, and industries, and ultimately, to help our island innovate and change the world. 

 In conclusion, I have focused today on the responsibilities being a role model has, why it is important to have women in politics, what we can do to empower our girls, why we ALL need to innovate, because there is not time anymore to sit and wait, how innovation starts at home, how woman leaders will play a pivotal role in this new economy catalyzed by innovation, that we need to focus on the STEM skills, and that we need to work together to STEM the gap, because it is good for the economy and it is good for Aruba. 

So ladies, women in innovation, get it done. 

But I do not want to leave without a personal note. Most women tend to take care of everybody else before themselves, family, children, spouse, parents, friends, neighbors, etc. please, take care of yourself FIRST. The stewardesses and stewards on airplanes remember us always: if oxygen is needed, put on your mask first before helping others. Make sure you have enough oxygen, to take up the challenge through innovation. Find a way that works for you. For me, to get things done, I must have a balance between the four areas in my life: family – work – spirituality – service to the community. This works for me, and I hope you have something like this in your life that work for you too. And ladies, I beg you to continue doing the wonderful things only we as women can do for Aruba. 

Thank you!

– The Prime Minister of Aruba, Evelyn Wever-Croes 

August 24, 2018