Sat | Nov 27, 2021

Can Women have it all? Pt II

Published:Wednesday | October 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Presenter Colleen Montague (left) greets event moderator Gail Abrahams (right) as Galina Sotirova looks on.
Sheila Segree-White (left) shares a laugh with presenter Therese Turner-Jones, country manager, Inter-American Development Bank.

It's the age-old question for professional women who are also wives and mothers - can we have it all?

Five female powerbrokers shared their thoughts on having it all, in the first event of the Leaders-to-Leaders speaker series for the 2015-2016 season. They were Chorvelle Johnson, president and CEO of Proven Wealth; Minna Israel, distinguished fellow at the Mona School of Business and Management; Audrey Tugwell-Henry, senior general manager, retail banking division, National Commercial Bank; Colleen Montague, principal of Wolmer's High School for Girls; and Therese Turner-Jones, country representative of Inter-American Development Bank.


'Juggling Act'


Held on September 23 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, under the theme 'Juggling Act: towards work-family-life harmony', the event was the first of four for the 2015-16 speaker series season. Today, we bring you part two of our coverage of the event.

Turner-Jones: Facilitating & Fostering Work-Family-Life Harmony: A moral and business imperative

According to Turner-Jones, Jamaican employers need to reinvent the workplace. "Happy staff give you good output," she said, highlighting that employees want flexibility. But, she pointed out, it's a two-way street, and research has shown that only one-third of employees take advantage of policies in the workplace that facilitate that flexibility. Some of these may include flexiwork arrangements, telecommuting, and compressed work weeks.

She notes that many very successful Fortune 500 companies, such as Hewlett-Packard, and Disney, have these policies in place. What matters, she stressed, is what is produced at the end of the day, not micro-managing.

Colleen Montague: Knowing and understanding your value

Montague spoke of her upbringing and the impact it has had in instilling certain values in her. She said that from watching her parents going to work each day, she learnt the value of hard work.

She remembered smelling her mother's bag, and thinking, "When I grow up I want my bag to smell like that." She explained: "Your value is your life - how you walk, talk - it's you. Values are what is inside of you."

Montague revealed that when she was appointed principal of Wolmer's High School for Girls, at first, she had fears and doubts. "I realised I needed to believe. I needed to focus on, 'Why am I a principal? What do you want to do for these girls?" She said that one day she realised that she started sounding a lot like former principal Pamela Harrison. "I had to say, stop it. You have to sound like yourself."

There is no manual for achieving balance and everyone develops their own system.

Montague said she had to:

Let go of guilt

• Become a master in the art of bribing (her children)

• Understand her children and wider family. (If you can't keep a promise, don't make it. If you don't mean it, don't say it).

• Make use of her drive time. (This is valuable time to bond with family)

• Demystify her job. "My work is not a mystery to them (my children)". They know what she does and what she is doing when she is not with them, and as much as possible, if the event permits it, she takes them to school activities.

• Be grounded

• Be confident

She also lives by the motto of her school - 'Whatever you do, do it well'.

Minna Israel - something's gotta give

Israel said that a woman can have it all, but certain sacrifices have to be made. She noted that the biggest challenge to having it all is time. Using episodes from her life and illustrious career, she offered a few pointers to women. She said that on the journey to achieving 'all', hard choices have to be made. "Only you can define your all. My all is not your all," she told the gathering noting that your 'all' changes at different stages of life. Once you decide what constitutes your 'all', everyone has the ability to achieve it if they:

• Choose the best place to work. The best and brightest find their way to the 'best place to work'. The best place to work should bring you joy in the mornings.

• Have a village of support. Maintain a strong social support system of family and friends. Have people who are there when 'life happens'.

• Work smart. Skills, capability and results - not time spent at the office.

• Know when to say no - not stretching yourself too thin.

• Learn from failures while not beating up on yourself if you don't get it right the first time.

• Make some sacrifices along the way. She told of her heartbreaking decision to leave her son in Jamaica when she went to study for her MBA. But making that sacrifice (calculated risk) allowed her to be ahead of the competition.

• Readjust expectations of self and others.

• Celebrate successes - travelling, shopping, dining etc.