Jolene Richards - Steadily shattering statistics
When Jolene Richards declared that she was pregnant at the end of a job interview, she thought for sure the chance of landing her dream job at Red Stripe was nil. After leaving her first job at a bauxite company in her early 20s, she was eager for a career change.
"I wanted to enter the marketing world, and where better to do so than at Red Stripe?" said Richards, recalling two rounds of interviews following which she was selected for a post in the procurement department. Though not the position she had applied for, Richards seized the opportunity.
"I was worried at first about taking on a new job in a different industry as category manager for raw material and packaging, working while pregnant, then going on maternity leave after just the first year. But, the feedback in the interview was: 'That's fine! You're amazing; we want to hire you'." It was at that moment Richards knew that she had found her home.
Today, the 33-year-old mother of two is the senior contract manager responsible for overseeing supplier contracts for one of the island's largest manufacturers.
Richards is among the 53 per cent of Red Stripe managers who are women, and part of a growing number of Jamaican female managers who are defying global statistics. Global statistics show that women continue to remain below the much-touted glass ceiling and are generally under-represented in management positions. However, the situation is rather different in Jamaica, where a study showed that in 2015, female managers stood at 59.3 per cent, the highest in the world.
"I can't deny what the statistics say, but where I'm from, it is the ability to perform that matters and not one's gender," said Richards. "Red Stripe is different. But generally in the work world, there's still some way to go in terms of making our presence felt."
A self-professed 'girly-girl' who loves to wear bright colours, the St Catherine native urges young women to focus on their future. "A lot of young girls - even I was guilty of this - think of going to school, then getting a job where they sit at a desk and just look cute. As young women, we need to focus more and think of the bigger picture of how we can contribute to the world and leave a legacy."
MAKING HER MARK
With two career moves in four years, Richards admits to not being surprised by her advancement as she's always believed that hard work pays off. She has won regional awards for setting records in innovation, and department awards for her annual performance. Richards was also recognised by Heineken's global procurement team for driving discipline in procurement spend visibility by reducing unclassified spending. One of six winners, Richards received an all-expense paid trip to see the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix race in Spain this year.
It's a long way from her hometown in rural St Catherine where she grew up. Coming from humble beginnings, she saw the importance in striving for excellence at an early age. "I like the idea of seeing a strong woman in society. I respect any woman I see taking on the corporate world and just balancing - you're a mommy, a wife, a CEO. I believe we can go after everything, because as women, we can do everything and excel at all of them," Richards asserted.
Growing up without a father figure in her household, Richards only met her father when she was 25 years old. "Even though I had my mommy, I was raised by a guardian because she just couldn't afford to take care of all four of us." She explained that because of this, she understood very early the value of having an education, especially since, at times, her family members were not able to assist with school. The St Jago High School graduate had to rely on a scholarship to see to the completion of her tertiary education, and graduated from Northern Caribbean University with a bachelor of science degree in management studies. She was the first person in her family to obtain a tertiary-level education.
The proud mother of eight-year-old Triston and three-year-old Camron, Richards said she tries to inspire them to go after their dreams while creating that all-important work-life balance.