Fri | Apr 28, 2017

Women of Flair

Published:Monday | March 2, 2015 | 3:00 AM
President & CEO of Scotia Group Jamaica, Jacqueline Sharp.
Wenise Davis, commercial operations director, Digicel Jamaica
Chorvelle Johnson, the new CEO of Proven Wealth Limited.
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Over the years, women all over the globe have been breaking the mould and risen to the top of their profession.

They have broken the stereotype of what's a woman's profession and ventured into what was once seen as a 'man's world.' To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, Flair spoke with some of the women in corporate Jamaica who are on top of their game about what role their gender plays in their profession. We salute you, 'women of flair'.

We asked them (1) what role, if any, does gender play in your position, and (2) have we done enough as a country to empower our women?

Chorvelle Johnson

Gender does not play a role in my position. In order to perform in any position there are some key factors that need to be in place whether as a male or female. Some of which are:

1. Understanding the nature of the business.

2. Possessing the leadership skills to lead a team.

3. Recognising that success only comes when it is a team effort versus individual effort.

4. Being able to adjust our relationship and leadership styles when necessary.

I believe there is still more to be done to empower our women. However, we are seeing improvement such as more women in leadership positions (CEOs and chairpersons of boards). The need exists for more mentorship and guidance to ensure that this continues to improve. On another note, it was great to see that the new study by the International Labour Organisation indicated that Jamaica (at 59.3 per cent) has the highest proportion of women managers globally

ahead of more developed

countries.

Jacqueline Sharp

There is no gender bias for this position. The focus is on having the right person, whether male or female, who will effectively execute the job functions. At Scotiabank, gender equality issues are very important to us. Our policies are created to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to realise their potential.

I am fortunate to work with a company that encourages the advancement of women and provides an inclusive and accessible workplace for all employees. I encourage women to be confident about their potential, and be willing to take some risks with their career.

Women have done well in Jamaica relative to many other countries around the world, driven in part by the increased education of women as well as social and legal reforms over the years that support equality for women and that create a work environment that

levelled the playing field for women. There are a number of examples that demonstrates our achievements as it relates to empowerment of women, such as the fact that Jamaica has a female prime minister. More than 70 per cent of the graduates from our tertiary institutions are women. In addition, Jamaica has the highest proportion of female managers in the work place (based on a recent ILO study). There is also growing

visibility of women as board members and as company heads. There is a growing number of female entrepreneurs who run their own successful businesses. So, women in Jamaica have a lot to celebrate.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done. It has been clearly demonstrated through research and in the experiences of many women, that issues of gender-based violence and other social ills continue to restrict the full potential of many women and girls at all levels of the society. We therefore cannot take things for granted. As a country, we must continue to improve access to education, improve the justice system and support structures, and embrace international conventions that support women's integration at all levels of society.

Wenise Davis

At Digicel, none. I have always worked hard at proving myself, though, not in the context of my gender but in the context of a professional, and I have been fortunate in having that level of work acknowledged and rewarded.

I also look around at our society in Jamaica, and I am proud and encouraged by the number of women in key positions in both the

private and public sectors. Our head, the prime minister is a woman for one and there are several large private sector companies with women at the highest level, for example Kelly Tomlin, CEO for JPS and Jacqueline Sharpe the CEO for Scotiabank which indicates that gender should never be a barrier for anyone to succeed and achieve their career goals.

Even here at Digicel, a large per cent of our staff complement are women in management and key decision-making roles, in addition to four members of our executive body being women. Overall, I think that as organisations strive to remain competitive, our collective emphasis is moving towards production and service. So we are becoming more aware of persons as individual contributors rather than focusing on whether they are male or female. I must say kudos to the companies which were ahead of the game in leading this transformation.

I believe that we have come a

far way in Jamaica in empowering ourselves and other women. So, geography and culture are no longer impervious barriers and

prejudices seem to be falling slowly to the wayside. In many cases, women are either the breadwinners of their family or are sharing the role as a team. I have been blessed to have a good partnership with

my husband Mike-Angello and together we work as a team.

However, I still feel that there is more work that can be done, particularly in the area of mentoring. I firmly believe in the African-American proverb, 'each one teach one'. So, whether its women mentoring young women or adult women mentoring their peers, this will help to ensure that we see even more confident and motivated women excelling in their respective areas. I am always

delighted to assist in mentoring young women as future leaders.