Douglas Orane: Contribution of women
Address at Opening of Woman Inc. Trade Fair and Exhibition: October 2003
In my worldwide travels, I’ve been struck by how powerful our women are compared to those in most other countries. This forum gave me the opportunity to congratulate our women for their often unacknowledged contributions.
I do not think that our society generally recognises the tremendous debt that we owe to our women. How many of us consciously recognise the fact that it is our women who have literally held this society together? It is women who have worked and sacrificed and gone without to raise and school their children, very often without either the financial or emotional support of a male partner. How many of our professional persons today – teachers, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, accountants – can claim with pride that they would not have been where they are without their mothers?
Today, women are still carrying the burden of leadership in our country, qualifying themselves in our secondary and tertiary institutions in fantastic numbers, leaving our men folk trailing behind. I do not want to make any judgmental statements on this, except to say that it is fair to predict that the Jamaican society of tomorrow will most likely be quite different from the society of a generation ago, as it is only a matter of time before Jamaican women claim leadership positions in every sector in our country.
I applaud the strength, the courage, the drive and determination of our Jamaican women. For those of my gender who may have a problem with this – my suggestion is that you begin to do what is necessary to change the focus of our young men so that they too become fired with the energy and the vision to learn and to achieve so that they may take their place beside our women as equal partners.
Research has revealed that characteristics which have been traditionally viewed as feminine are increasingly valued as the source of effectiveness in leaders. These include empathy, nurturing, collaboration, connectedness, intuition, humility and patience. This revelation should come as no surprise, since the key competitive advantage in today’s world originates in selecting and motivating individuals to work together in successful teams.
At 60%, Jamaica has the highest proportion of women managers anywhere in the world. That percentage is lower at the most senior levels of management, and it’s only a matter of time before that statistic also changes.
Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has said “I am going to keep saying loud and clear that I am a feminist until it is met with a shrug”. I agree with him. We in Jamaica have the frontrunner advantage – this is our opportunity to make gender equality a given in every sphere of life.