Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Adding a woman's touch to economic growth

Published:Tuesday | November 29, 2016 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill
Patria Kay Aarons

Many young women are unaware of the opportunities available in manufacturing. Outdated and often wrong perceptions of manufacturing have impacted women's desires to join the ranks of manufacturers.

Compounding the issue, many people think of manufacturing jobs as dirty, unskilled, back-breaking labour. But things are changing. Many of the manufacturing roles created over the past few years are neither low-paying nor monotonous. Instead, they are high-tech, six-figure-paying jobs where women excel.

Patria-Kaye Aarons, chief executive officer of Jamaican candy company Sweetie Confectionary, is dedicated to satisfying the sweet tooth of Caribbean people. Lamenting the absence of authentic Jamaican candy flavours, she felt compelled to do something about it.

Sweetie Confectionery started with five bold, authentic island flavours, including guava, jackfruit, mango, June plum and pomegranate. The sweets come individually wrapped and packaged in half-pound and one-pound bags bearing an image of the Jamaican flag.

Aarons said that manufacturing requires a certain level of sensitivity and thoughtfulness that either gender can express.

"I haven't found it more difficult (being a woman in the manufacturing sector), even though in this economic climate it can be tough. As an entrepreneur there are many challenges, and things do not always go the way I want them to go. But, I am committed to the task at hand," Aarons said.

 

limited factory space

 

One of her biggest challenges, she said, is meeting the demands for a business that is constantly growing. Factory space, she said, is crucial but limited and also expensive.

According to Aarons, her business is built on a 'Jamaica first' principle, product excellence and happy employees.

"I am trying to survive in a climate that is expensive. I am trying to build a business where my employees are happy. Our current economic climate is not conducive to employee retention, so I have to always be creative in every aspect of my business to ensure my staff is comfortable," Aarons said.

Aarons said that given the need for creative thinking and tenacity to help grow the economy, more women should be encouraged to join the manufacturing sector. "This is why we need more women in manufacturing today to show women the huge opportunities in this sector, to pave the way for more women in the future, and to ensure the continued success of our manufacturing industry," she said.

Women, she said, must get past the 'talk shop' stage and become more conscious of everything they use on a daily basis, and see how they can become involved in the local manufacturing process of these items. "Women need to wake up, raise the bar and get creative. They need to ask themselves, 'is it made in Jamaica? If no, why isn't it made here?' and find a way that it can be manufactured locally," Aarons said.

Sweetie Confectionery has distribution in 150 Jamaican retail locations and exports to the United States, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com