WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
DATE: FRIDAY 15TH MARCH 2019
VENUE: HYATT REGENCY TRINIDAD
SPEECH BY: PATRICIA GHANY, PRESIDENT AMCHAM T&T
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen.
I would like to begin my remarks today with a quote by Melinda Gates author of The Moment of Lift. She says that “a world without sexism would be a world with fewer barrier between girls and the women they dream of becoming. We’d see women leading and shaping all aspects of society – fully empowered as decision makers in their families, their communities, their governments and their workplaces.” As President of AMCHAM T&T, I fervently believe this, and I am here today to share a few things we have done at AMCHAM T&T to ensure this vision of women being fully empowered happen today and into the future.
With that, I say welcome everyone to AMCHAM T&T’s 6th Women’s Leadership Conference. It is indeed an honour to be in this room filled with talented women and forward-thinking men.
Each year International Women’s Day is built upon a theme that sparks awareness, and results in encouraging individuals, business and corporations to take action. This year’s theme #Balance For Better invites all men and women globally, to take concrete steps to help accelerate the achievement of Gender Parity. The focus is not only on taking action but also on being accountable.
Six years ago, AMCHAM T&T decided to launch its first Women in Leadership & Networking series, in recognition of International Women’s Day. After the success of our first event “Sowing The Seeds of Change”, we recognised that as a business organisation we had a role to play in initiating and fostering positive change in society. What began as a seminar aimed at networking has evolved into a forum for bold and candid discussions on inclusiveness, diversity and accountability.
Today’s event is a positive step in this direction as we facilitate dialogue, which is needed, if we are to ensure that women are not only inspired but are also able to live in an environment that are fair and equitable.
More specifically, the aim is for women to be able to exist in environments where they can thrive, be ambitious, gain success and not have the concerns of being negatively labelled, sexually harassed, bullied or have workplace bias, colour, cultural background and pregnancy impact their career progression.
However, even with our great aspirations today, it would seem that gender equality still remains a distant dream.
We have all seen the numbers, yes?
If you have not, let me recap some of them for you.
According to World Bank data, globally, we’re heading in the wrong direction, women’s labour force participation fell from 51.3 percent of women in 1990 to 48.4 percent in 2018.
Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (O.C.E.D) estimates that factors stifling the economic potential of women cost the global economy up to $12 trillion. Yes, 12 trillion with a “t” dollars.
The Global Gender Gap Report 2018 published by the World Economic Forum indicated that with the current rate of progress it may take another 202 years to close the economic gender gap.
Locally, while there is gender parity up to middle management, at the C-suite level the ratio falls to less than 25% female participation, and the figures are even less when it comes to representation at the Board level.
These and many other statistics show that even though gender parity is good for business and the economy, the pace with which progress is being achieved is not enough to close the gender gap any time soon.
So, I know what you must be asking yourself “What can we do to change this?”
How can we increase accountability in our businesses and personal spheres of influence, so that we can change 202 years to twenty years – or less?
AMCHAM T&T continues to ask these questions, because we believe that equality is not a female issue, but an issue of fairness that happens to also make good economic sense and is a necessary element of a progressive society.
We recognise that the responsibility in achieving equality does not solely lie with the government but requires true collaboration between government, companies, NGO’s society at large if the 50/50 dream is to be realised. All stakeholders will need to step up, acknowledge the role they play in maintaining the status quo and start to implement crucial actions needed to change it.
We also believe that we must walk the talk and begin to live the things for which AMCHAM T&T advocates. In 2017, we partnered with the IDB to introduce the Women In Leadership Mentorship Programme, where we paired female employees from our member companies, with mentors from the IDB global network of professionals. We are happy to report that after a successful first cohort of seven mentees, this year’s group of mentees has increased to twenty-one. That is an increase of 286%, and what I believe is a testament of the value and need for such a programme.
We also decided that this year we would extend the opportunity of mentorship to members of the AMCHAM T&T Secretariat. It was Mother Theresa who said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family”. We at AMCHAM T&T cannot be a champion of change without instilling that change into the very fabric of our organisation. We must put action to our words and ensure that we lead by example at all levels in our organisation.
Just a year ago, our then President Mitchell De Silva stated that his wish was to hand over the reins of AMCHAM T&T to a female president.
Thanks to the encouragement and support of Past Presidents, Board and committee members, I was elected the 15th President of AMCHAM T&T three months later.
I stand here knowing that my story is part of a larger story. A story that began when some audacious women- U.S. Ambassador Sally Cowell, Nisha Lau and June Maharaj and others came together to conceptualise an organisation that would alter turn into the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad & Tobago.
It is on this history that I will continue the work of all the leaders who came before me. This is something I believe we all have in common. Like me, you carry the hopes of your parents, the hopes of the teacher who believed and encouraged you, the hopes of the mentors, bosses and others who continue to push you to achieve your greatest potential. It is the same way AMCHAM T&T continues to push the agenda of our members, and are unafraid to have bold conversations and take a set at the table where we choose to be a symbol of audacity and strength not only for this nation but for the Americas; not only on this issues but any issue around fairness, equity, transparency and accountability.
After this year’s A.G.M, I expect that AMCHAM T&T will be just shy of parity on our Board as we anticipate that seven of 16 Board Members will be female – extremely well-qualified women at that. So, I would like to throw out a challenge to my colleagues in the business community – if your Board comprises fewer than 35% women, commit to adding at least one woman to your Board every year until you achieve at least that ratio. Although I would argue that parity should be your goal. I have been in business for a long time and I assure you that there is no shortage of capable, well-qualified women. If you need references or recommendations, just ask anyone in this room or connect with me as I am happy to help!
I would like to take the time to acknowledge the men in the room. As Emma Watson said in her speech at Davos 2016, “It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not an opposing set of ideals.” Bringing men into the conversation in a productive and open-minded way is a crucial step to making progress on issues of gender inequality.
We thank you for your support and your willingness to learn. This is the one place that you are outnumbered, but hopefully this begins to change.
To all the talented and amazing women in this room– do not apologise for your uniqueness, your passion and your ideas. Keep pursuing excellence and continue to speak up not only for yourself but for all. Let us see what happens when we all use our voices and institutions to advocate for gender parity, prosperity and a more equitable future.
In closing, I would like to recognize the commitment of our CEO Nirad Tewarie and the AMCHAM T&T Secretariat to organising this event. A special thank you to Francisca Hector for all her hard work and dedication over the past few months. Thank you to all our sponsors for your continued support over the years.
We hope that the conversations today will inspire each of us to take actions to support and drive economic opportunities for women around the world. As we learn a bit more about the landscape of women’s equity issues, strategies for work-life balance, risk-taking and career mobility. I am confident we will exceed our own expectations if we remain committed and accountable.
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