Good morning everyone and thank you for joining us today.
I am Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist of AMCHAM T&T and I have the honour of welcoming you to the launch of our 25th Annual Health, Safety, Security, and the Environment (HSSE) Conference.
I would like to start by extending our condolences and sympathy to the families who have lost a loved one due to COVID-19 over the past year. Indeed this past month has been very difficult for a lot of us and we understand and sympathize with the pain and trauma this virus has unleashed. During times like this, we must support each other and trust that our systems will work for us. So, let us each do our part to help flatten the curve once more and save lives. Let’s follow all of the guidelines and make sure that we each get our vaccine jabs when they become available.
Now, in the midst of all of this pain and tragedy, we are gathered today virtually because we believe it is important to recognize the value of leading with health and safety at the heart of all our operations and in everything we do. Certainly, this moment of crisis and tragedy has pushed us even more into recognizing just how important it is to put individual and societal health and well-being at the center of what we do.
Yes, the past year has been difficult. There has been a great deal of loss, longing and letting go with which to come to terms. Yet, even in the middle of any crisis, the human condition has always leaned towards adapting and leading with resilience. And so, slowly but surely, we took ahold of the new normal instead of letting it take control of our lives. We learned to pivot and thereby introduce new methods of doing things once thought to be familiar or routine. We adapted so we could evolve, and we rethink and we reimagine a world so we could thrive.
That's why today as we seek to celebrate 25 years in HSSE leadership and excellence, the theme "Learn, Evolve, Thrive" is most fitting because not only does it shape the narrative of our experiences over this past year but it defines the story of our journey during these past 25 years of promoting HSSE Excellence and Leadership.
Indeed, achieving a 25-year milestone in anything is worth celebrating because you don’t get to such a place without a lot of hard work, commitment, dedication, and most importantly, support. Championing these issues for the past 25 years would mean very little if we didn’t have people and companies willing to invest in taking care of their employee’s health and keeping them safe while doing everything possible to protect the environment for our communities and citizens. That continuous collaboration and support are the biggest achievement we can boast about from these 25 years and that’s what continues to motivate us on this topic.
I want to say a special thank you to all of the companies who have partnered with us on this journey. Today we have Atlantic LNG as our title sponsor once more. We thank them for the leadership they have shown on this issue over the years. Atlantic has built a solid reputation as one of the world's largest producers of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). We know that this achievement could not have happened had it not been for the commitment they have shown towards putting the health and safety of their people first.
And they are joined by so many other companies who have been doing excellent work in this field. We welcome back our Platinum Sponsors – NGC group of companies, bpTT, and Shell our Gold Sponsors - Nu Iron Unlimited and Point Lisas Nitrogen Limited and our session sponsor- Green Engineering. Every year, they are quick to come on board as sponsors because they work tirelessly to invest in people.
The Conference and Exhibition would not be possible without the support of the hard-working AMCHAM T&T HSE committee - chaired by Cindi Nandlal and vice-chairs Balchan Jadoonanan and Travis Gayah. We thank them for their strong leadership on these important issues.
We have also seen this leadership spill across many industries across every sector over these past 25 years. Companies, big and small, have stepped up to the plate and exceeded our expectations as it relates to cultivating a culture of HSSE leadership and excellence within their respective workplaces. And over this past year, we were proud to see how quickly many of these companies adapted to this new normal and secured the safety of their employees. Whether it was transitioning to remote work or pivoting to new safety systems, providing mental health support or just checking in on their employees to make sure they were coping well during these difficult times, to a large extent, companies made sure they put their people first.
That’s exactly what we are saying about health and safety. Implementing new systems and processes, and enforcing new regulations may do well to reduce risk and prevent hazards or injuries but if the central focus of these new measures isn’t placed on people, then all we are doing is just creating more rules. That doesn’t mean that HSSE policies aren’t supposed to be improved or modified to adjust to new realities or unforeseen risks. Quite the opposite. What we are saying is that to make sure that we are always at the forefront of keeping our people safe, we have to constantly learn from our past mistakes, adapt to the new circumstances and be willing to evolve so that we are always preparing for a new normal even if that may be far away on the horizon. We must also create cultures of trust and collaboration.
That’s the reason we have always said that “promoting HSSE excellence doesn’t just make good business sense, it also saves lives.” That’s why this topic remains so important and relevant to all of us at AMCHAM T&T.
This year’s conference will be 100% virtual again because we are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our speakers and attendees. It also shows how quickly we have been able to adapt and evolve as we embrace the challenges of our present circumstances.
We have an exciting line up of top-notch speakers of international acclaim and recognition joining our local experts who have been spearheading the HSSE revolution in T&T for the past 25 years and beyond. Our conference agenda and topics will once more explore how we are embracing the new trends and concepts that have been transitioning HSSE into a new era.
We started this work a couple of years ago when we included important topics such as Mental Health, Cybersecurity, and issues related to Climate Change on the agenda. Today, we know how important these issues are because it is now our current reality, so the conversations aren’t going to stop. Instead, we are going to advance the conversation so that we start seeing a real change to these important and timely issues affecting our world.
Learning and evolving to thrive meant that we must highlight the most influential and forward-thinking leaders who are leading a new wave of theory and practice that have been elevating the conversations we have been having on HSSE policies and the overall safety culture. This is why last year, we brought you Nippin Anand, Sydney Dekker, and Todd Conklin. Their contributions have revolutionized how we approach safety in the workplace and elevated the conversation we are having around HSSE systems and policies. This year we have more dynamic and exciting speakers joining our lineup. That’s how we learn, evolve, and thrive!
As I said, celebrating 25 years of excellence means that we always looking to stay ahead of the curve! That’s what we have been doing with the Caribbean’s leading HSSE Conference for the past 25 years and that’s what we will continue to do for the next 25 years because as we said, at the heart of HSSE is people. Without protecting the safety of our people, we have nothing for which to thrive.
As I conclude, let me remind you to check out the official 25th Annual Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) 2021 Conference Website at www.amchamtt.com. There, you will find all the information about our speakers, sponsors, agenda, sessions, topics, registration details, and much more. We look forward to the support of each of you.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
It is truly an honour to share a few words with you at the virtual launch of our 4th AMCHAM T&T/ IDB Women in Leadership Mentoring Programme.
As we progress through and past the COVID-19 pandemic, the world needs women leaders more than ever. A new future is currently unfolding, one that needs to take into account the skills, leadership and resources provided by women.
According to Harvard Business Review, “companies want leaders who are able to pivot and learn new skills; who emphasize employee development even when times are tough; who display honesty and integrity; and who are sensitive and understanding of the stress, anxiety, and frustration that people are feeling. Our analysis shows that these are traits that are more often being displayed by women.”
These are also the skills many great leaders are known for. Therefore, there is no reason why women should not have a place or position in the boardrooms across every company and corporation in the world. The climb can be steep, and the glass ceiling is real. But that does not mean it can’t be cracked, and one day, fully shattered! And that’s exactly what we hope to accomplish with this Mentorship Programme. We need to create those opportunities where women can see themselves playing a major role and succeeding in positions of leadership.
We see the impact this pandemic is having on women’s employment around the world. Experts are calling it the “she-cession” era where the fear is that more women would remain unemployed once the pandemic is over. So, picking up the pieces and moving forward cannot come at the expense and disposal of our women from the labor force. We have come too far as a society to be making the same mistakes we did in the past. That’s why I am saying that every company today must increase their diversity mandate and ensure that women are retained in their previous positions. But let’s not stop there. Apart from retaining your female employees, how about we start hiring more women and providing leadership opportunities for them?
Mentorship programs helps in this regard because it dismantles the roadblocks women face when they ask for more or try to elevate their positions. Companies providing mentorship as a career accelerator are showing women that they value their contributions, respect their voices, and are willing to invest in women to help them grow and succeed. So, my hope is that we will see more glass ceilings being shattered in a post-pandemic world because when that happens, women will know that the opportunities exist for them to find their voice, claim their space, and lead with success.
According to the Chinese proverb, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. Today marks the beginning of a new journey for each of you as either mentors or mentees. This mentorship program is expected to challenge as well as inspire you to make changes in your lives that will lead you to the path of success. The knowledge, advice and lessons you will learn will hopefully bring a new perspective on how you view yourselves, how you adjust to new situations, and what you believe is possible for your own personal growth and development.
I want to remind you today that every woman is a natural-born leader even if she may not fully believe this. Far too often, as women we allow ourselves to let doubt creep into our minds, convincing us that we are not worthy enough for that raise, or we aren’t deserving enough for that promotion, or we don’t have a voice loud enough that will command respect and authority. When we allow ourselves to believe in these things, we are stripping away our power as natural-born leaders.
To our class of 28 mentees and 26 mentors, let me say thank you for your participation in this year’s mentorship programme. The success of this year’s programme depends on you, and how much you are willing to give and receive. Mentors you have the experience, the knowledge and the wisdom to know what it takes to become a successful and effective leader. We won’t be creating real change if you hold all of these lessons to yourself. As U.S. women’s rights pioneer Margaret Fuller once said, “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” That’s how we create a gender-equal world where everyone has a fair chance to succeed.
And to our mentees, take full advantage of the advice and counsel your mentors will provide. Accept the challenges they may throw at you, don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek clarification when you are unsure about something, and remember to always be willing to learn not just to grow but to inspire. Remember, you may be mentees today but tomorrow you will be someone’s mentor. So, the change starts with you.
At AMCHAM T&T, we are always grateful to partners who share our collective vision and are willing to uphold the principles we adopt. Therefore, once more I would like to thank our partners at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) for their generous support and unwavering commitment to this Mentorship Programme. We would not be here hosting this 4th cohort without your expertise and resources.
I also want to thank my eight Board members who have volunteered to be part of this Mentorship Program. Thank you to our CEO, Nirad Tewarie for continuing to show strong leadership on this very important issue. And I also must thank Miss Rey-Anne Paynter-Mendez and everyone at the Secretariat for their hard work and dedication they have put into this year’s programme.
Thank you so much everyone and please follow the COVID-19 guidelines so that we can all stay safe and protect each other from this virus.
Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T CEO at Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) Conference 2019
Good Morning everyone and thank you for joining us today.
I am Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T and I have the honour of welcoming you to the launch of our annual Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) Conference 2021.
This is our third edition of the Tech Hub Islands Summit or t.h.i.s. Last year, we had a unique edition of the conference where we had to break it up because of the pandemic and so what we did was a series of events as opposed to a single conference. In 2019, we launched t.h.i.s. and by all accounts, it was a resounding success. We exceeded our number of participants with more than 300 people attending, the satisfaction was above 97 % and we had some really stimulating conversations. At the time we thought we were catalysing the digital transformation discussion, but little did we know the discussion would be catalysed even further and faster by the events of 2020.
Before I begin, I would like to take a moment on behalf of the organization and the Board of Directors to offer condolences - because while we talk about the positive impact on business and the digital transformation journey - COVID-19 has reaped havoc on families, it has wreaked havoc in many different ways including the loss of lives and livelihood. It’s not been positive for everyone and what I think as a society we have to try and do is to find ways to help where we can and use the tools we can to soften the impact now and create opportunities after. In the meantime, we each have to play our part and try our best to do what we can to curb the spread of the virus.
Now in the midst of all of that, Trinidad and Tobago has always been a resilient nation. We complain, we love to poke fun, but we adapt. We are always quick to adapt to any storm that is poised to derail whatever plans and hopes we once had for our future. We saw this many times over the past 15 months and we continue to see this. When we were faced with new challenges and changes to our usual habits and customs, the best and the brightest of us shine through in our darkest moments. In fact, that’s a general feature of Caribbean people. There is no reason why this can’t happen again. And that brings us to where we are today.
Three years ago, we brought some of the leading experts in the world of technology into one room. We invited more than 300 companies to be part of this nexus of change and innovation. We wanted to create conversations and collaboration among industry leaders and ultimately build the Tech Hub Islands Summit as the fulcrum of our nation becoming one of the leading tech hubs in the world.
We don’t now have all of the answers. Maybe not even a detailed roadmap to achieve this. At least not yet. So, now is not the time for bold statements from us. I’m not going to try and put forward something revolutionary. It’s just time to do the work.
Our goal is clear. AMCHAM T&T will be the catalyst for making T&T a global tech hub. We will forge the partnerships to enable us to achieve this goal and we will work tirelessly, creatively, and methodically to make this goal a reality.
We will not sit by and hope for diversification ‘to happen’. We will not sit by and hope for investment to come into T&T. We will work hard, and we will work tirelessly to make these a reality. Along the way, we might stumble but we will get back up. We will hold the hands of our partners as we hope they will hold ours. We will find the innovators. We will enable them. And one day soon, we will be able to say that THIS happened. THIS is T&T – a global technology hub!
While we still have some ways to go before we meet this goal, we believe that creating a tech ecosystem will contribute significantly to future growth and sustainability. So, we cannot standstill. We cannot seek to deploy, invest in or adapt technology that, by the time of implementation, becomes old technology. We have to constantly look forward. Developing our tech sector for other markets and earning foreign exchange. Using the new knowledge to transform local businesses. After all, every business today is at least partly a tech business.
This journey would be easier if both the private and public sectors were transforming together. So, we welcome the work being done at the Government level, in particular through the Ministry of Public Administration and Digital Transformation and through agencies such as the TTIFC and iGovTT. Indeed, our own Zia Patton who is the chair of AMCHAM T&T's Digital Transformation Committee also sits on the Cabinet subcommittee of Digitization. Undoubtedly, they are key partners and indeed drivers in the process of developing our Tech Hub Islands and we look forward to continuing to work with them.
As we partner, the dreaming must not stop! That’s why t.h.i.s. is themed “Now and Beyond”. At this year’s Conference, the story we are telling is not about becoming complacent with what seems to work now. Instead, we must consistently and constantly look ahead so that we are always chasing our dreams, while those dreams hurtle us to a brighter future.
Recognizing that technology is growing at a rapid pace and waiting on no one, is crucial to us actually reaping the rewards from investments in a tech ecosystem. Therefore, it isn’t enough to just digitally transform our operations because we’re solving ‘now’ problems, the real success is using technology and digital transformation to take us beyond the ‘now’ problem. That means we must diagnose, deploy and solve for what’s beyond! That’s when we know technology is working for us. And ultimately, we should be developing our Tech Hub Islands because it will contribute to building a future with fewer inequalities and more opportunities for everyone.
So, we want you to move beyond with us and imagine a world where we are not just adopting technology, but where we are also developing the next wave of innovation. This wave will see us relying more heavily on “third platforms” technologies with the convergence of mobile, cloud, internet of things (IoT) blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), big data and robotics that will alter even more how we live, how we perform transactions, and ultimately, how we drive decisions to conduct business and our lives. And we must do this not just as consumers but also as creators.
This year, the conference will be hosted over three interactive days from July 5th to 7th, 2021 and it will be 100% virtual to maintain public health and safety. This shows how quickly we have adapted and embraced the technologies that will allow us to reach a much wider audience and ensure all attendees are safe. Once more, we have invited some of the leading thinkers and influencers in the world of technology who are part of the global tech ecosystem, already reimagining and reinventing businesses, government processes and indeed, entire countries. We have dynamic speakers from companies such as Google, PWC, SAP, VISA, the IDB, Republic Bank, Digicel, World Economic Forum. And many more will be added in the coming weeks.
Our speakers will look at both public and private sector innovation and the accelerated urgency to adapt to the changing circumstances and needs. At t.h.i.s. 2021, we will take a look at where we are right now in our digital transformation journey, where we should be heading, and the steps we need to take now to ensure that we get there and move beyond!
This year we also have a strong lineup of sponsors who are once more supporting us and for whom we are eternally grateful. We welcome back our Title Sponsor, Republic Bank Limited who joined us with a leap of faith in year one and committed to three years of sponsorship and return again this year. Our Platinum Sponsors, PwC and Digicel Business are more than just sponsors. Their ideas, contributions and sponsorship value are highly appreciated and enable us to do all the things we do and attract the kind of speakers that we do. Our Gold Sponsor, The Inter-American Development Bank also has been with us from day one and has been finding innovative ways to continue the partnership with AMCHAM T&T.
We want to thank all our sponsors for their support and partnership on this very important and worthwhile set of issues. Like each of our sponsors, we believe that our nation’s future growth and sustainability is dependent on the right investments being made today and the infusion of technology within all aspects of our society. We hope t.h.i.s. will once more spark great dialogue, worthwhile partnerships and actions that will help us realize a new technological frontier beyond that which we have now.
As I conclude, let me remind you to check out the official t.h.i.s. 2021 Conference Website at www.techislands.net. There, you will find all the information about our speakers, sponsors, agenda, sessions, topics, registration details and much more. We look forward to each of your support.
I must thank you for the invitation to participate today, in the launch of AMCHAM’s “THIS” (Tech Hub Island Summit) webinar series, revolving around the world’s new favourite buzz term: Digital Transformation. I was recently appointed General Manager of Digicel Business, just about 5 months ago; and I distinctly remember the national and global temperature of the business community as many companies successfully navigated toward technology, whilst many others struggled and some even failed. I remember thinking, what can I do to help businesses pivot, and survive as I was now at the helm of one of the region’s largest business telecommunications providers, at a time when the world needed technology the most. And well I figured it out… I needed to encourage collaboration and ensure that I was the best partner that anyone could ask for.
The term Digital transformation was already gaining traction before COVID-19 emerged and now, it is mentioned ad nauseam. Nevertheless, the real question is, have businesses actually leaned into real digital transformation? Think about it.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has had a significant impact on economies around the world, with many, including the economy of Trinidad and Tobago becoming constricted and constrained.
Digicel Business recently surveyed more than 700 companies here in the T&T market and our latest findings are quite telling:
Although working from home, using applications like Microsoft 365 or Teams, is part of Digital Transformation… that is not all. Leveraging technology to its fullest potential lies at the heart of digital transformation - and it is something that we all should be fully committed to as a business community. I can assure you that at Digicel, it’s a priority for us.
This is why, even though we never became complacent in our position as a traditional telecommunications provider in the region, we pivoted our business to align with the trajectory of the market and our customers. Hence, we are now a Digital Operator; and we are focused on helping other companies make the transition by embracing digital transformation, and equipping them with the right tools, service and expertise. We understand the importance of being a good partner to helping the business community transition, and today I urge you to also be good partners. While we’re on the topic of partnership, I also want to emphasize the significance of having great partners like AMCHAM. It’s a partnership that we at Digicel truly appreciate because as we collaborate, we can only be Better Together. Through these kinds of business events hosted by AMCHAM we can create spaces where partnership truly flourishes – and this type of cooperation is necessary to make the digital leap.
The fact is that digital transformation is no longer a nice phrase to be thrown around. It is an economic necessity. Currently the climate in Trinidad & Tobago is one where market segments and people with disposable income have been reduced. One of the major questions companies are now asking themselves is: “How do we innovate to ensure that we can maintain similar pre-pandemic levels of revenue?” The answer is digital transformation – and to be clear, it is not just about some companies doing some activities digitally. It is about looking at your entire business model and the associated processes, to see how you can leverage technology and migrate those processes to becoming digital.
We know it’s possible because we’ve helped SME’s (like small barbershops) to large conglomerates (including some of the largest regional financial and medical institutions) transform their business digitally.
While the State of Emergency curtails the amount of business that can be done physically, and halts the mechanics of others, it creates an opportunity for business activity online. Not to mention, we anticipate that when it is lifted, there will be pent up demand. The companies that will be in a position to leverage supply to these spaces through digital machinery will be successful. And today, I hope that participants get inspired and see the opportunities of how technology can expand your reach, consolidate your footprint, increase your efficiency, streamline your processes and position you for success.
Let’s discuss how we are digitally transforming our economy and how we can all work together toward that common goal.
Welcome to the future, we’re living it…. and it’s digital.
Derwin Howell at AMCHAM T&T's Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) Conference 2019 (file photo)
Good morning everyone.
Over the past year, the global community has become familiar with so many buzzwords - pivot, digital transformation, e-commerce, contactless, virtual and the list goes on - this, in addition to our burgeoning pandemic jargon.
As a result, there are myriad references that tout the virtual space as our new global reality. The fact that we have gathered in this forum virtually is proof of that now ubiquitous online existence. For some of us, this may be a welcome reality, for others, understandably the opposite.
Humans are interactive, social creatures; we value being in the company of others. Since March 2020, we've been forced to ‘shelter in place’ in various forms, as we seek to create an environment that is less hospitable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Fortunately, technology has come to our rescue to bridge the gap between friends and family, between home and work, between consumers and businesses and between governments and citizens.
Not unlike many other businesses across the globe, Republic bank has had to focus on making the "virtual" a deeper part of our reality.
While baffling to some, it's well-known that some customers like to come to branches to complete their transactions, but more importantly, to interact with other customers and employees with whom they have become familiar. And that's a common feature of banking culture in this part of the world, really.
So, the claim that "virtual" is our new reality was and is more of a cultural shift. In the context of the pandemic, the face of banking has changed. Face to face is becoming less and less the reality – and when it does, that face better have a mask on it – the ultimate irony. Banking and other businesses now exist online or as much as our local landscape will allow, but how do we encourage the national community to accept that reality? Not just for banking, but for every facet of life.
In this context I use the term “local landscape” to encompass the local payments system, businesses’ ability to accept and fulfil client requests online, and importantly, government’s ability to transact in an online world.
Several gaps in this landscape have prevented us from pivoting as quickly and as completely as we could to live in this new paradigm and therefore require immediate attention.
The saying ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’ is apt. We should be using the challenges brought on by the pandemic to take a critical look at our local landscape and to bootstrap our various systems to allow for a more efficient society in the post-Covid era; whenever that may be.
Our aim should be rapid national implementation with cross-sector cooperation. No consumer, business or government department should be left behind due to hesitation, lack of resources, or lack of knowledge. And most importantly, the virtual shift should not be viewed as a chore, but as a valued amenity; indeed a national necessity.
For most businesses there are three (3) main aspects that need review:
2. Fulfilment; and
And each comes with its own level of complexity and challenge.
In the case of the government and government agencies, on the payment side there exists legislative hurdles that must be overcome.
I was heartened to see a recently issued circular letter from the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago advising of its consultation with market players on a draft policy proposal document for a payments systems bill for Trinidad and Tobago. Such consultations and the realization of the resulting legislation cannot come fast enough.
Truth be told, though, even in the absence of these legislative enablers for government payments, across the region and here at home, all manner of businesses, small and large, have answered the call to adapt to this new reality, and with varying levels of success have introduced a layer of technology to meet their clients’ needs.
While computer-based technology has been at the forefront of a lot of these changes, I must also mention creativity and innovation are key to some of these approaches even when they don’t involve technology. I am sure that we can all remember the concept of “deconstructed doubles!”
Another example that we at Republic Bank are particularly proud of is the local design and construction of several Isopods by local company Laser Solutions Limited for the country’s Regional Health Authorities.
An Isopod is an Individual Patient Isolation System that helps transport patients who have an infectious disease. While during the pandemic they will largely be used to transport Covid-19 patients they can be also utilized for cancer patients and even burn victims. The key is a willingness to re-think our businesses and come at things from a different direction.
On the services side, I am sure that we have all by now experienced the convenience of the likes of FOODDROP, WiEat and Skip D Line. You can now order groceries for curbside pick up or even home delivery. Even sporting goods store have introduced home delivery of exercise equipment and gear. And for a shameless plug, more recently we would have seen Republic Bank introduce the contactless payment solution ENDCASH and I hope that all of you here have already signed up!
While these changes may be a survival method for most and a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic for others, it proves that Trinidad and Tobago has the potential to make “virtual” a bigger part of our reality. ‘Virtual’ has infiltrated our workplaces, our schools and even our places of worship. For those who may be sceptical and suspicious of a virtual workplace, we should see the digitising of operations not as a threat to employees but as a way of freeing them to do more rewarding work in interacting with our clients. Consumers should see it as a way to save time which they can divert to doing more of the things that they enjoy. Businesses and governments should see it as a way of enhancing employee skillsets and creating a more capable workforce. It is not about removing the human element, but enhancing it by investing in alternative work options, ease of doing business, digital and contactless business solutions and models.
At this weekend’s Ministry of Health briefing on Covid-19, I heard Minister Deyalsingh speak to the spinning up an online system for registration for appointments for the Covid-19 vaccine. Immediately I saw that opportunity for that to be extended to a mobile-based vaccine record system which will allow vaccinated citizens to display a certified record of their vaccination status on their smartphone. Let’s not let a good crisis go to waste and find a way to introduce systems that can have life after the pandemic.
The steps we have taken as a national community towards technological diversification are small and growing, and they represent the willingness and ability to strengthen Trinidad and Tobago's tech ecosystem, to improve the overall efficiency of our society and ultimately to grow our local economy.
Republic Bank stands with AMCHAM and other sponsors to make "virtual" a deeper part of Trinidad and Tobago's reality and it is once again our pleasure to be associated with the TECH HUB ISLANDS SUMMIT!
I thank you.
AMCHAM T&T's WOMEN'S LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE 2021
SPONSOR REMARKS by Wendy-Fae Thompsonmanaging counsel - Americas, Gulf of Mexico, Canada and Trinidadbp
BP Trinidad and Tobago is honoured to once again support the Amcham Women’s Leadership Conference as we commemorate International Women’s Day. March 8 marked the 110th celebration of International Women’s Day. It’s certainly been a long journey to gender parity and whilst the world has been on this journey for a long time and has achieved great progress there is still so much more to be done to reach gender parity. The 2020 World Economic Forum on gender parity advises that at the current pace it will take us close to 100 years to achieve full gender parity. Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t wait that long.
This Conference is significant to us at BP as we aim to be very intentional on how we continue to develop diverse talent within our population and hopefully be an influence to other companies in Trinidad and Tobago. This Conference therefore is not only intended to provide the opportunity for us as women and men to pause and reflect on our journey to date, but also to refresh the call to action beyond this event to ensure that real progress is made now towards the advancement of women in the workplace.
We are meeting at a time in which there is increased focus on violence against women in our society. Women are still struggling for respect and equality not only in the workplace but in our daily lives. The recent protests in Trinidad as a result of Andrea Bharath’s death and the many feminist groups and movements worldwide that are making their voices heard on racial and other injustices are a testament to the fact that the world is becoming less tolerant of inequality and our stakeholders now not only expect us to be more inclusive but will demand it from us.
No doubt our workplace is a microcosm of the society in which we live. Thus, how society views our women and girls invariably transcends how we are treated at work, at home, in school, by our peers, family and our social institutions.
As I reflect on our journey at BPTT, what is clear is that gender equity ambition requires continued regular focus and attention in order to tackle unconscious and conscious bias, dismantle cultural norms and effectively change mindsets.
We have established women’s networks in almost all the jurisdictions in which we operate aimed at focusing on initiatives geared at addressing gender-bias issues. Through the unrelenting push from these organizations we have not only set targets for more female representation at the recruitment stage, front line, middle and senior levels but also in the boardroom. Our current data shows that we are making steady progress towards our ambition.
I feel proud that we are almost at gender parity on our senior leadership team with 5 females and 6 males and a female president. But what’s absolutely clear is that we still have work to do and we need all hands on deck to fully achieve success. It will require our team leaders to ensure they understand and address the challenges women face in their teams; it will require our senior management to deliberately build out opportunities for training and development for our female population especially in disciplines that have typically been filled by males. It will require our male population seeing themselves as allies in the pursuit of gender equity and accepting that progress towards gender equity is not a zero-sum game and that women advancing in their careers does not equate to men losing their power and influence. It will take you and me to be fired up in all aspects of how we operate within our organizations to really move the dial on progress.
Don’t let today’s event be a kumbaya moment where we commiserate, repeat the same promises and merely share experiences. I choose to challenge each of you that it is your responsibility on where we go next on this journey. The ripple effect that benefits everyone occurs in how we think, how we talk and act in our daily lives both at work and outside the workplace.
Over the next few hours, both the organizational and personal facets to women in leadership will be explored. It is important that we find the right balance I look forward to valuable discussion tempered with actions that will achieve real progress that we can report on next time we meet.
To AMCHAM T&T – congratulations on organizing what I am sure will be an insightful conference.
SPONSOR REMARKS by Anya Schnoor
Executive Vice President Caribbean, Central America & Uruguay, International Banking - Scotiabank
Hello everyone. 2021 is now our 7th year partnering with AMCHAM T&T as the platinum sponsor of the Women’s Leadership Conference. This conference is certainly a great opportunity for us to engage with each other, share ideas and experiences, advocate for the advancement of women, and share best practices pertaining to diversity and inclusion.
Choose to challenge is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day. For me, this means challenging norms and calling out gender biases and inequality. We all share this collective responsibility and it is the only way to bring about change and create an inclusive world where everyone feels respected and valued.
As some of you may know, I had the great privilege of working in Trinidad & Tobago between 2012 and 2017, as the then Managing Director of Scotiabank. During my 5 years in the country I grew to admire its people, the rich diversity of its culture, music, and of course food. I so miss Panorama, especially the semi-finals.
During those 5 years I met many young women across the country who were brilliant, ambitious, and hopeful about the future. They saw the struggles that women that came before them had – lack of role models in key industries, and a need for society to have tough conversations about abuse and the stigma of speaking up.
The work continues and I know we still have much to accomplish in the struggle for equality and justice.
When I spoke to AMCHAM in 2014 I was asked then to share some of my views on what it takes to be successful, and what were some of the challenges I’d overcome in my own career. I spoke then about the need to define your own definition of success and not let society or your own doubts about your abilities hold you back from taking a risk with your career. This view has not changed.
When I left Trinidad & Tobago to move to Canada in 2017, I knew then that I was taking another calculated risk with my career. While I was going to still be working for Scotiabank, I was moving to a new country, a new part of the bank, leading a new team. This move created many questions – “Why was the bank promoting someone from the Caribbean”, “What did she know about Canada?”, and “How would she fit in to this country?”. I had my own doubts.
If I was to be completely honest with myself, I never expected to be promoted to the head office of the bank. My own insecurities of growing up in a small town, in a small country, started to creep into my psyche. But then I remembered Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Miss Lou, Calypso Rose, and Jean Pierre, all of whom, charted their own definition of success and let nothing stand in their way.
As one of my heroes Maya Angelou once said, “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” So, I embraced this new challenge and made the best of it. I built a new team, challenged the status quo, and learned new things along the way. I’ve come to appreciate the diversity of Canada, its openness to immigrants, and its willingness to take a chance on new ideas, their appreciation for diversity of thought.
So, when I was asked in November of last year to take on a new challenge and help our Caribbean and Central America region recover from the effects of this global pandemic I jumped at the opportunity.
In some way this new role is me coming back full circle to my home and to the people that I love.
The challenge in front of us as we collectively try to navigate the impact in our various countries is not simple or straightforward. But this is where I feel the Caribbean has such untapped potential.
I have always felt its important to build a diverse team around you. Successful leaders are only as good as the people they surround themselves with. If you only surround yourself with people that think and act like you, then you’ll never get the quality and diversity of ideas you need to be truly great.
Leadership is about inspiring others to see your vision and then helping them go after that vision. To come out on the other side of this pandemic, we are going to need that diversity of thought around us. We are going to need an inclusive culture that embraces different views and seeks to challenge the status quo. We are going to need each other.
I encourage therefore our leaders across the region to work collectively together in a truly one region approach to find solutions for the ravages of this terrible pandemic.
In closing I leave you with a few final thoughts. It has become increasingly important to me as I have progressed in my career that I wanted to work for an organization that truly values diversity and equality in the workplace.
I wanted to work for an organization which allows women the choice to make decisions which best suit them.
It is not by chance that the senior management team of Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago is made up of 50% women. Or that as a publicly listed company we have one of the highest percentages of women represented on our board.
As an organization globally, we have made diversity and inclusion a key strategic priority because we believe that for women to achieve success there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we view women and their importance to the success of any organization.
We have had to recognize that the issues which have prevented women from achieving success are real and are not related to whether men or women make better leaders. The issues will not be addressed overnight and indeed they have taken far too long to come to a conclusion.
However, through better understanding and communication and a lot of hard work we can achieve the success we have all been striving for.
It is important we act now. I choose to challenge for this reason. Because a world without diversity of opinion and a world where people can’t feel respected and valued goes against the type of inclusive world, I want to live in.
I really want to thank you for having me here today and for the team for all their hard work in putting this event together. Enjoy the rest of your celebration.
WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE 2021
By AMCHAM T&T President - Patricia Ghany
Topic: Choose To Challenge
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
It is my distinct pleasure to welcome you to AMCHAM T&T’s 7th Women's Leadership Conference. Every year, I eagerly look at this event as a reinvigorated call to recommit ourselves to making the world a safer and more equitable place for all women.
Last year, upon the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic we unexpectedly had to cancel our 2020 event. Together we come today virtually amidst so much chaos and disruption, to not only celebrate the amazing achievements of women but also to sound the alarm on the many pressing issues that continue to restrict their advancement in our society.
2020, presented unprecedented challenges which threatened the progress the world has made in women’s empowerment. Long before COVID-19 became our norm, we already knew that women were making less, saving less and those working in the informal sector has less secure jobs. Therefore, the capacity to absorb sudden economic shocks during disruptive periods was always going to disproportionately affect more women than men.
From education and healthcare to job security and childcare, women and girls around the globe have been overly burdened by the social and economic impacts of COVID-19. Here are some sobering statistics:
1. More than one-third of working women say their career is on pause because of the pandemic. Of those who remain in the workforce, 60% say feel like they’re underperforming in areas of their life—which is not terribly surprising considering that, among working moms, 39% say they’ve gotten backlash from their supervisors because caretaking duties have created scheduling conflicts.
2. For the past nine years, the PwC Women at Work index showed incremental progress in the number of women employed in OECD (organization for economic cooperation and development) countries. The 2021 update, however, reveals the index has slipped 2.1 points, down to 2017 levels. “If the OECD is to completely recover from Covid-19 by 2030,” the authors write, “progress towards gender equality needs to be twice its historical rate.”
3. Nearly half—49%—of private company boards do not have a female director, Crunchbase recently reported. (Notably, though not one board among companies on the S&P 500 is all-male.)
4. A report from IBM, out this week, shows a recent contraction in the pipeline of women for executive leadership roles: Between 2019 and 2021, the percent of female middle managers dropped 5% to 23%, while the percent of women at the vice president or director role has slipped from 19% to 15%.
Perhaps this is why some are calling this the “shecession” era with so many women either out of work or having to leave or take reduce paid work citing burnout due to company inflexibility, caring responsibilities and stress brought on by the pandemic. Such impacts risk erasing the already fragile progress that women have made in the labor force over the past decades.
As we navigate our recovery from the pandemic and beyond, we have a unique opportunity to redefine leadership, reconstruct workplaces, and create an equal, inclusive and resilient society for women and girls. Employers will need to look at more flexible working arrangements, gender-blind hiring, mentorship and more childcare support for women returning to work. Therefore, a post-pandemic world needs to see women treated as essential workers regardless of where they work or their positions in the organisation because we know that when women are absent from the workplace, our economies do not grow.
The McKinsey report also estimates that if no action is taken to ensure women’s full participation back into the workplace, global GDP growth could be $1 trillion lower by 2030. We need to ensure that the ‘she-cession’ doesn’t set back 30 years of progress.
This year the theme for International Women's Day has asked us to Choose To Challenge. This is a powerful call-out for everyone to work together towards gender equality. The belief is that a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.
So, let’s make some changes:
Let’s choose to challenge workplace inflexibility so that women aren’t punished for attending to childcare obligations while trying to do their jobs.
Let’s choose to challenge discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and start rewarding equal pay for equal work.
Let’s choose to challenge sexism and misogyny so that women aren’t subjected to abuse and violence where they are tragically meeting their demise.
Let’s choose to challenge outdated beliefs and perceptions on gender that teaches us that a woman’s place is in the kitchen while men are the breadwinners.
Let’s choose to challenge gender bias and other stereotypes so that we can see women as our equals and men as our allies in the struggle for gender equality.
Let’s choose to challenge the all-boys club to lead with more diversity and include more women in the boardrooms across our nation.
Waiting for 250 years to dismantle the systemic barriers that make women more vulnerable in crisis and their leadership ascent steeper is not an option. We know that when more women are seated at decision making tables, better decisions are made for the benefit of everyone.
These challenges may seem difficult, but we simply can’t give up. We must embrace these challenges today to create the changes we want. And that’s exactly what we did at AMCHAM T&T. WE CHOSE TO CHALLENGE. Even in a highly challenging year, we were able to secure gender parity on our board. Today, I am happy to announce that there is now an equal number of men and women sitting on our board serving the interest of the entire business community of T&T.
I am extremely honored to work with these remarkable women: Giselle Thompson, Karri-Anne Hepburn, Caroline Sirju Ramnarine, Greer Quan, Katische Serrette, Andrea Davis and Angelique Parisot-Potter who are all powerhouses of talent, energy and ability. Our goal for gender parity has been strongly supported by our fellow male Board members who are all very unique and enlightened individuals.
Over the past two years, you have also heard me speak about our Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme. I am extremely proud of this programme because, with the assistance from our partners at the IADB, we created a space for young female professionals to have guidance and counsel that will prepare them for the next step in their career paths. And what better way than having senior executives – both male and female – acting as mentors to the next generation of leaders?
Our mentorship cohort increased from seven mentees in 2018 to thirty-nine in 2020. I am delighted to report that our partners at the IADB are once more back on board with us and we are currently seeking applications for both mentors and mentees. So, if you are interested, please do not hesitate to get the application forms through our Secretariat.
Over the last month, our nation was plunged into a state of national mourning over the senseless murder of one of our daughters. The horrific killing of Andrea Bharath sparked a collective outcry of anger, pain, and outrage from all citizens. The words of the former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, "the measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls" strongly resonates today as we find ourselves at a crisis moment where once more our women and girls are under attack.
AMCHAM T&T has taken up this call-to-action with our recently launched GBV Workshop because we know that not only do, we (the business community) need to do more to protect our women but protecting women at the workplace means providing increased opportunities for women to succeed not only in their careers but in their lives. The result of which can improve a woman's economic and social circumstances so that she is allowed to choose her own path to success. What we need is stronger, bolder, and tougher action from the state, law enforcement, the business community, and civil society to treat this burning issue as another deadly pandemic that demands urgent relief and support.
In 2019, we had 19 men attend our Conference. Their presence underscored for me the importance of engaging men in the discussion, not simply as allies, but individuals who are also impacted by their gender. I also appreciated that they chose to join our conversation, learn and ask questions about our experiences, and were authentic when sharing their own perspectives. To fully address gender-based violence we need society to create a space for men to understand that it is acceptable to show expressions of fear, sadness, vulnerability and pain without acts of violence.
As we go forward, we must ask ourselves the question ‘What can I do?’. While there have been cracks in the glass ceiling and tremendous strides, we need a better understanding of what equality looks like and what you can we do as an organization (and as an individual) to help.
It can't just be about government creating the change. The onus lies with each of us, both government, companies, NGOs and society working together to help realize the dream of equality for all.
My journey as President of AMCHAM T&T has been filled with many triumphs and challenges. Over the past two and a half years, I have often asked myself: how can I make a meaningful difference in this role?
Whenever I am faced with this daunting question, I usually find comfort in the words of Mother Teresa who once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Change may take a lifetime to occur but it’s often the journey rather than the destination that helps you to be prepared for the change you desire. The path may be long and scary at times. But if you aren’t brave and strong enough to challenge yourself you may never learn the lessons from the journey. And for me, that’s where we create our personal ripples and leave our mark on the world.
That’s the message I want to leave you with today.
Many of you are already on your own journeys and you’re probably already leaving many small ripples that are creating major impacts to many far from where you stand. But whereever you are on that journey, I want you to remember the following:
(1) Challenge the doubts that fuel a sense of inadequacy
The gender confidence gap is real. While not all women lack the confidence to achieve what they want, many do. This is something that even I had to face. And here’s a little secret.. it’s something I still struggle with to this day.
But we must dare ourselves to challenge the negative noises in our head. Those critical voices urging us to think small and play safe. Remember, your attitude will determine your altitude.
(2) Challenge the limits and labels others put on you
We all know that women can be labelled bossy for acting with equal assertiveness to the men beside them. Or that the word ‘ambition’ is negatively correlated for women (but not for men.)
But I believe a challenged world is one where women are equally praised for their assertiveness and their compassion. This is what makes women so powerful. Our ability to be strong and sensitive are our secret weapons that allow us to move mountains, calm storms, and create the change we desire in our world.
As Vice President Kamala Harris said last November:
“Dream with ambition. Lead with conviction. And see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they've never seen it before.”
And finally, I remind you to:
(3) Challenge other women when they disempower themselves.
We need to proactively go out of our way to lift other women up – to challenge how they see themselves, how they speak about themselves, and what they see as possible for themselves.
So, let us all challenge ourselves to own our value more fully, to defy our doubts more often, and to dare to make the difference our difference makes.
In the words of poet Amanda Gorman,
“We will keep fulfilling this path until the world goes still to say, ‘where there’s will, there’s a woman. And where there’s a woman, there is always a way."
As I conclude, I would like to recognize the unwavering commitment of our CEO Nirad Tewarie and the AMCHAM T&T Secretariat for organizing this event and a very special thank you to Kennedy Maraj and Neerala Boodoo for all their hard work and dedication over the past few months. And thank you to all our sponsors for your continued support over the years.
Remember, together we can all choose to challenge gender bias and inequality everywhere and create an inclusive world for all!
Speech by President of AMCHAM T&T
Ms. Patricia Ghany
AMCHAM T&T’s Economic Outlook Forum 2021
(Thursday, 28th January 2021)
Strategy in Uncertainty
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen.
Welcome to AMCHAM T&T’s first major event of the year – our Economic Outlook Forum for 2021.
Against the backdrop of significant economic dislocation and previously unthinkable restrictions that now form part of our daily reality, how do we even begin to think about “Strategy in what continues to be a period of intense Uncertainty”?
Uncertainty is something that each of us has felt a lot of during this past year.
By every account, we can say that 2020 brought unparalleled disturbances and disruptions. How is your company’s strategic plan working out?
How do we define the strategy to ensure a healthy 2021? The bad news is that there is no specific strategy... no magic bullet. But there are things we can do to be more resilient.
First, let’s look at the current reality. This pandemic has forced us to close many businesses, to shutdown major sectors of our economy, many have been either furloughed or lost their jobs, and then there is the growing death toll. Now somehow, we are asked to pick up the pieces. And we will. Businesses all over will rise to the challenge but it won’t be easy.
Yet, this is in sharp contrast to the promising news at the start of 2020 which started with our economy finally showing signs of returning to growth after years of steady decline. While we knew we weren’t entirely out of the woods just yet, economic turnaround seemed possible.
Today the situation has changed and the outlook for the future remains unknown and uncertain. But as leaders in business, this is not an unfamiliar path for us. How many times have we had to redirect our strategic plans to meet unexpected challenges? In fact, it is moments like this that distinguish the weak from the strong. Our business community is innovative – despite what detractors say. We forge new paths and while the talkers talk, we do. And that’s what we must do now. We must be bold. Think differently. Think big. And Do.
Today, even with this uncertain outlook, we have an opportunity before us to challenge ourselves to be more bold, more innovative, and even more transformative in the way we conduct our business operations.
No one said it will be easy. In fact, we know full recovery will take some time. But we can’t get there unless we have a clear plan or strategy that will take us beyond the pandemic.
Therefore, what today’s situation requires is the fearless and bold visionary leadership to do the improbable. We can’t play it safe or look to surrender. We must meet the moment.
I am not going to talk today about the many things that Government must do to improve the ease of doing business. It is an accepted fact by Governments past and present, by public servants, by the unions and by the business community that our economy is less competitive today than it was 20 years ago.
Being bolder and more innovative; attracting more investment would be easier if the organs of state were more efficient. Just on Tuesday, no less a person than the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr Alvin Hillaire said in an Express article: “one of my biggest issues with T&T, I think, is the way that we do business and the way that we sort of revere bureaucracy, because everything takes a long time, everything. It takes too long. A lot of times, bureaucracy is nonsensical, but we get wedded to it”.
So, there is a lot that Government should do, and these things have been clearly identified before. So now it is up to those in authority to act. What would be useful is a more effective reporting and evaluation framework, ideally as part of the national budget presentation.
But as the private sector, we cannot wait on the Government. We must be bold because regardless of whoever is in office, we have a responsibility to our employees, our customers, our community, our society, our families and yes, to ourselves, to find ways to thrive and grow.
So, boosting our digital economy can help. How many times have we said that digital transformation holds the key to diversification which will lead to long-term growth and sustainability?
Well in a moment of remote work, digital learning and the acceleration of digital adoption happening across many industries, we are finally getting up to speed with the digital age. And while Government must do more and faster in this regard, as the private sector we have to ensure that not only are we identifying and implementing the right technologies, but also that our people are trained to use the new technology effectively.
Investing in technology and in our people is not new to us. Those aren’t bold concepts. But doubling down on training and capital investments in technological capacity in the midst of tight cash flows might well be. Yet we must double down on these things.
COVID-19 may have disrupted a lot of our norms, but it also finally woke us up to the reality that technology is no longer an option but a necessity. Just think of the many opportunities to come out of a fully functioning digitally-enabled economy: faster and more efficient service, new industries built from innovative entrepreneurs and start-ups, creation of new and exciting jobs, and widening the talent pool through innovation and competitiveness.
Therefore, a competitive and progressive T&T depends on a long-term commitment and investment to fully digitize both our public and private sectors.
The results from our Business Survey that we conducted in collaboration with Ernst & Young over the past two months will provide more details on how companies are driving their strategies during these uncertain times and what they require to maintain this into the future.
We know these are challenging times, but we have to remember that what differentiates us from less successful economies are our adaptability, innovation and willingness to explore new opportunities.
Our highly developed energy sector has, at different times, afforded us one of the highest growth rates, highest FDI inflows and highest per capita income in the region. And our manufacturing sector is responsible for providing the region with a significant portion of its consumer products.
So yes, we have achieved great things because of our strategic geographic location, natural resources and highly skilled labor force which means there is no reason why we once more can’t drive growth and sustainable development. Yes, we can. Now is the time to pivot and explore new opportunities even as we face this latest period of uncertainty.
And while certainty will be elusive for several months, the country does need a clear and coherently articulated vaccination plan. With the confirmation of just 25,000 full doses of the vaccine and no clarity around orders of additional doses, T&T is on track to be one of the last countries on the planet for full re-opening. This week we saw the EU being pushed down the schedule for delivery of vaccines due to later confirmation of orders than the UK. We must move swiftly to secure additional doses of the vaccines – moderna, Pfizer, astrazenneca-oxford – and have a plan to ensure that the majority of the population is vaccinated in the shortest possible time, ideally by the middle of the year at latest.
Indeed, as a small and open economy, the rest of the world will likely require vaccinations to enter their countries so, in addition to continued risk to the population and possible moves to limit business activity without widespread vaccination, it is likely that Trinbagonians may go from being stuck abroad to stuck on an island without widespread vaccination.
So, as we seek to build resilience and overcome the challenges over which we have no control, we must be bold. We must seek partnerships as opposed to trying to do everything ourselves – even if that means collaborating with firms who may be the local competition as we go after international business.
We must seek new markets as we attempt to overcome our foreign exchange challenges.
We must diversify within our own businesses. To do this we must take a good look at our business processes to identify intellectual property that we previously overlooked but that we can now commercialize. We must seek to identify unique businesses processes that give us competitive advantages. Massy has done this in the automotive sector and used this to advance in the Colombian market, for example.
What we cannot do is nothing. What we cannot also do is wait – wait for gas production and prices to increase. Even if they do, we can no longer be dependent only on local gas production and advantageous international prices.
As we diversify and grow, so too is our voice amplified with the policymakers. I see thunderstorms ahead but, on my company ship, I am betting on my team and our ability to pivot and execute new strategies. Nationally, I’m betting on all of you, our AMCHAM T&T community, to also pivot, to reinvent yourselves, to dig deep and bounce back stronger.
We have the talent, we have the skills, and we have the people who can help us build that great and prosperous nation we all envision.
One thing this pandemic taught us is that agility and adaptability are essential to survival. We have seen that businesses with inflexible business models and no business continuity plans have either collapsed or barely survived. Conversely, we’ve seen those businesses that were able to pivot, reskill and refocus were able to tread water and even thrive during the pandemic.
We need to ask ourselves, how agile is our business? If 2021 throws us another curveball, will our business survive? Will the “patch” that we used to survive 2020 continue to hold up? Or will one more setback push us under?
I’m not prepared to go under and AMCHAM T&T is here to ensure that you don’t either!
Thank you, everyone!
AMCHAM T&T/IDB Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme 2020
PRESIDENT OF AMCHAM T&T
Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen and Happy New Year to everyone.
It brings me great pleasure to welcome you today to celebrate the completion of another successful AMCHAM T&T/ IDB Women in Leadership Mentorship Program.
I really want to offer my gratitude to our mentees and mentors for making this 3rdMentorship Class the huge success that it was.
I know this past year has been challenging for many of us. So much of what we once knew to be familiar and routine were replaced by new norms and practices that many of us weren’t ready for.
A lot has definitely changed in the last year, but I am happy to see the sheer resilience and commitment that each of you has made towards completing this program in spite of the many disruptions during the past year. You definitely deserve high praise for that.
In her bestselling book, “She Wins, You Win”, Gail Evans, CNN’s first female executive vice president writes “The path to success begins with this single most important rule: Every time a woman succeeds in business, every other woman's chance of succeeding in business increases.”
This is why our Mentorship Programme remains very important to all of us here at AMCHAM T&T and at the IDB. At the launch of this year’s programme, I said to you that if we want gender equality in the workplace and beyond, it is up to women to share knowledge, offer support and guidance, and increase the opportunities for other women if they are in a position to do so.
I continue to believe in this message. If there is one takeaway you have learned from this mentorship, I hope it is this. Because we know, when women commit to supporting each other in the workplace we create the safe spaces women need to shed their fears and doubts, and build trust and confidence in themselves. Once this happens, they are inspired to speak out more, step out of their comfort zones and aspire to senior and leadership roles. Essentially, when women support each other, we are building the next generation of female CEOs and global leaders.
Why is this so important you may ask? Well just look at the story of every woman in the world. It’s a familiar tale of overcoming insurmountable obstacles and barriers to survive and succeed. Whether she is leading a Fortune 500 company or running the household while taking care of the kids, women around the world have had to battle a minefield of inequality, discrimination, and sexism. And sometimes that’s just to get her voice heard.
Certainly, this isn’t the future we want as we hope to transition to a post-COVID-19 world. This pandemic has forced so many to adapt to unfamiliar behavior and explore innovative pivots to stay alive and remain relevant. I expect some things will return to normal but at the same time, there are some things of the past that we must ensure stays in the past.
We should not have to keep talking about a world where gender parity locally has less than 25% female participation at the C-suite level and even less when it comes to representation at the board level.
We should not have to report on women having to fight for equal pay for equal work, losing out on promotions because they made the choice to start a family, or enforcing zero-tolerance policies against sexual harassment and other workplace discrimination.
And we should not have to mourn the tragic loss of yet another woman who falls victim to intimate partner or gender-based violence.
Moving forward we can't just keep talking about these issues with no real change. We must ensure these problems are thrown into the dustbins of history, once and for all. A COVID free world cannot see us continuing to treat women as inferior, unequal, or as property. It’s not even a matter of finding the solution. We know the solution. It’s just a matter of finding the willpower and the humanity to do what we know is right.
I am proud to say at AMCHAM T&T this has really been one of the major pillars of our work and advocacy. I have said it many times before and will say it again. Fighting for equality for us isn’t just a male or female issue but an issue of fairness that just happens to also make good economic sense and is a necessary element towards building a progressive, fully democratic society.
The Women’s Mentorship Programme is just one element of us fulfilling this goal. Today, as I speak to you - our largest cohort of mentees to participate in the programme - I am assured that many see the great value of this initiative and understand why it is we need to support women.
That is why I want to encourage all our mentors and mentees today to continue motivating, continue inspiring and never stop helping your sister who stands in your shadows. Remember she is looking up at you and she is going to need your support to help her overcome her struggles and doubts so that she can realize her dreams and achieve success.
We must know that there is real power in the pack when we stay united. Remember when we raise each other up and channel the power of collaboration, we change the game for all of us!
Earlier, I quoted Gail Evans' message about the path to success. As I close, let me end with another quote from her book. She also says:
“Every time a woman fails in business, every other woman's chance of failure increases.”
So, I want you to remember this the next time you see a younger subordinate struggling or the next time you accept “no” or don’t speak up. As we continue to find a way past this pandemic, I urge you to continue sharing, continue to offer your support and guidance, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. We can only enact sustainable change when we know there is a problem. Nobody wins in silence or when we stand alone.
Before I leave, I want to thank our friends at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) for their commitment once again to partner with us on this mentoring programme. We look forward to the continued collaboration on this initiative. I also want to thank my Board of Directors and CEO, Nirad Tewarie for continuing to show strong leadership on this very important issue. And to Miss Rey-Anne Paynter and everyone at the Secretariat for their hard work and dedication they have put into this programme. And finally, thank you to our class of mentees and mentors. The success of this programme could not have been imagined without your support and participation. I hope this programme proved to be beneficial to your career goals and in many other ways. So, let's stay connected to change the world.
Thank you so much, and please stay safe everyone.
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