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Awesome Antonette shatters another glass ceiling - Coast Guard head becomes first woman to be promoted to naval captain in the region

Published:Sunday | May 27, 2018 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis
Captain Antonette Wemyss-Gorman before her promotion.

Over the years, Antonette Wemyss-Gorman has been blazing a path for women, and last week she shattered yet another glass ceiling when she was promoted to the rank of captain (naval).

Wemyss-Gorman, the commanding officer of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard, became the first female in Jamaica and the Caribbean to be promoted to that rank, which is the equivalent to the army rank of colonel.

"It is significant for women in the JDF, so in that respect I am humbled to be afforded the opportunity to blaze the trail, but in terms of how I feel, maybe it hasn't sunk in yet but the significance is more important than me being promoted," Wemyss-Gorman told The Sunday Gleaner.

She has served the JDF for 26 years and counting, but at one point in her life Wemyss-Gorman wanted to do medicine.

According to Wemyss-Gorman, she decided that would have been too much of a financial undertaking to ask her single mother to make and she wanted do something interesting and adventurous with her life.

At 45 years old, Wemyss-Gorman accepts that military life has not been easy, as it is physically and mentally demanding, but she has decided not to focus on the fact that she is a woman who has opted to enter a profession which is male dominated.

"There have been times at sea when it gets very, very dangerous and we questioned whether we are going to make it back, but I have never questioned my choice to join the JDF, and I would do it all over again," said Wemyss-Gorman.

"I think fear is a wasted emotion. If you want to do something just do it. The worst thing that can happen is that you fail and the best thing that can happen is you succeed, and there is no success without failure, so you are wasting your time being afraid," added Wemyss-Gorman.

She told The Sunday Gleaner of a time when she was a young soldier and she was placed in confinement because she refused to be placed anywhere except the Coast Guard.

But she quickly realised that was not the correct way to get her point across; instead she used the proper channel and was eventually given the opportunity to serve there.

"All officers go to sea if you go to the Coast Guard, and that's what I wanted to do ... I went off on course in 1992," said Wemyss-Gorman.

The wife and mother said her legacy will be that she would have opened the door further for women to get to the top.

"Really, my legacy will be demonstrating that women can serve anywhere in the JDF if they put their minds to it and put in the work," said Wemyss-Gorman.

Wemyss-Gorman is a part of The Women's Leadership Initiative and serves on the mentorship committee encouraging women to achieve their full potential.

She said when she leaves the JDF there are quite a few things she would explore, with service high on the list.

"There are many other things that military life would not have allowed you to explore because of your commitment and requirement, so lots of things like entrepreneurship, travelling, just contributing to my country in a different way, wherever that leads me," said Wemyss-Gorman, who is yet to put a date on when she will walk away from the JDF.

"I'm comfortable, I'm happy with what I have achieved, and I'm looking forward to whatever tomorrow brings," declared Wemyss-Gorman.