Eva Lewis, new head of Women's Leadership Initiative, Jamaica
Eva Lewis, head of corporate and investment banking at Citibank Jamaica, has assumed another leadership role. Lewis was recently elected head of the Jamaican chapter of the Women's Leadership Initiative (WLI), a committee of United Way.
Lewis was elected unanimously by members of the 10-year-old organisation at its recent annual general meeting at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, taking over the reins from Sharon Lake. In accepting the position, Lewis pledged "to advance the organisation's philanthropic programmes; to address health, education and social issues, particularly in relation to women and girls."
Lewis told Flair that at first she was a little hesitant in accepting the post, but through the invaluable guidance and support from her predecessors, and her passion for empowering women and girls, she accepted. "I was a little apprehensive about assuming the position, particularly following in the footsteps of our past chairs - all awesome women in their own right." Some of the women who influenced Lewis were Pat Ramsey, chair emerita, who Lewis said invited her to join the WLI, and past chairs Marcia Erskine, Sharon Lake and past deputy chair Herma McRae.
"They all encouraged me to accept this responsibility and continue to work with me as we pursue our mission. Their endorsement, support and guidance have been invaluable. I reasoned that if they thought I could do it, then I owed it to them to continue their legacy," she expressed.
Lewis previously served as the chair of the mentorship subcommittee where she recalls her most memorable experience of mentoring young girls. "A few years ago, I attended the University of the West Indies graduation ceremony of one of the young women whom we had mentored since she was in high school. At the ceremony, I reflected on how powerful mentorship can be in changing the direction of lives. That particular young woman is now pursuing her master's degree. I would like to think that the WLI played a significant role in her journey. Imagine if we could multiply that influence a thousandfold," she expressed to Flair.
Lewis' parents met at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and after getting married in 1959, they moved to St Lucia where they call home.
The second of three children, Lewis recalls fond memories growing up in the bustling port city of Castries, the capital of St Lucia. She tells Flair that her most memorable experience growing up was hearing her father play the piano, whether classical, jazz or contemporary instrumentals. "He is ill now and has not been able to play for a few years. I miss it dearly," she said sadly.
Lewis also spoke highly of her mother, who - she describes as her biggest role model, simply because she was brilliant, generous, wise, and selfless - an adult educator, community activist, humanitarian and an "amazing mother". "I am blessed to have been her daughter. I would be proud to be even half the woman she was. Despite her passing five years ago, her spirit still guides me today," she said.
After completing her O' level and A' level exams at St Joseph's Convent and Sir Arthur Lewis A level College in Castries, she attended the University of Western Ontario in Canada, where she received a bachelor of science degree in microbiology and immunology. "I actually met my husband, Allan, a Jamaican who was studying at Western as well, and we both settled in Jamaica after graduation," she tells Flair.
Lewis said that prior to pursuing her MBA she toyed with the idea of a career in medical sciences. "I actually worked for two years managing the Caribbean Regional Drug Testing Lab which tested the efficacy of certain drugs and sterility of intravenous fluids prior to their distribution into the market," she said.
Lewis said that after two years in Jamaica, they got married before both decided to complete their general MBA, with Lewis doing hers in health administration, at Temple University in Philadelphia. "On my return to Jamaica in 1987, I joined Citibank Jamaica and have had a wonderful, very diverse and multidisciplinary career in banking, which I still enjoy to this day," she concludes.
Now with her new responsibility, Lewis tells Flair that together with her deputy chair, RenÈe Menzies-McCallum, and her executive committee, her main focus over her two-year tenure is to ensure that WLI continue to work towards its mission of building bridges of cooperation by developing, implementing and sustaining projects which contribute to the well-being of all Jamaicans.
"Our work as a sisterhood of women involves implementing and sustaining projects in the areas of education, health, advocacy, mentorship and women's development," she disclosed.
The WLI chair, who is also the mother of three daughters, Jilliane, Jessica and Justine, said that she has been blessed with good friends and her family.
She still manages to perform her motherly duties, albeit from a distance, and also chairs the family's business - property management and motor vehicle distribution, in St Lucia.
With so much on her plate, she now tries to enjoy quality time with her husband, including going to the movies, or Friday night lymes with her girlfriends. "Any opportunity I get to dance at a party ... I am your girl! For the past few years I have tried to coordinate my trips to St Lucia during carnival or the Jazz festival," she shares.
To help her stay grounded, Lewis exercises six days per week for half-an-hour since she is no longer able to attend dance classes because of her tight schedule.
She defines success as how others speak of you. "It is defined by how my daughters represent what we have taught them. It is defined by those I have coached and mentored in some small way over the years. The impression you make in life is not yours to articulate but that which is felt by others. Hopefully, mine will always be a positive one," she expressed.