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Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange (right) and President, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), Lloyd Distant (centre), listen to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Dr. Elsie Laurence-Chounoune, at the International Women’s Day Breakfast on March 8, at The Courtleigh Hotel and Suites in New Kingston.
Photo: Dave Reid

Story Highlights

  • More Jamaican public and private enterprises are being encouraged to sign on to the Gender Equality Seal (GES) Certification Programme.
  • The GES for public and private enterprises is a collective effort, involving national governments, private-sector companies and civil society, to establish and achieve standards that empower women.
  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-supported initiative seeks to enhance gender equality and mainstreaming in the public and private sectors through the GES certification programme, which has been endorsed by the Government.

More Jamaican public and private enterprises are being encouraged to sign on to the Gender Equality Seal (GES) Certification Programme.

The GES for public and private enterprises is a collective effort, involving national governments, private-sector companies and civil society, to establish and achieve standards that empower women.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-supported initiative seeks to enhance gender equality and mainstreaming in the public and private sectors through the GES certification programme, which has been endorsed by the Government.

Participating entities that successfully complete the certification requirements are awarded the seal to certify that they actively promote equality among their employees.

Six local enterprises – RUBiS Energy Jamaica Limited, Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), Island Grill, Facey Commodity Company Limited and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) – were the first to submit their internal operations for review, revision and strengthening, with the aim of becoming the first in the region to secure the GES.

Four of the six have reached a milestone in the internal review process. The companies recently completed the self-assessment and the staff opinion survey, a requirement in the 10-step certification process.

The next stage will be the development of a work plan by each company, which will be designed based on the findings of the assessment and also on global standards. The UNDP will provide technical support to implement activities of the work plan.

Speaking with JIS News, President of the JCC, Lloyd Distant, says the organisation is committed to the 10-step programme that will lead to receiving the GES certification.

“While we are still some distance away, we have only recently completed step four, that is, what is required of us to do the organisational diagnosis to see where our strengths are, as well as our gaps, and we are now working on preparing the Gender Equality Policy. We are progressing well and we are very much committed to this programme,” he says.

Mr. Distant notes that the JCC intends to work with its member firms to promote gender equality within these bodies.

“Going forward, we want to work with our member firms to see that increasingly more of them will look at the composition of their own Boards and executive bodies and that we will be in a position, as a certified entity, to positively influence and guide them,” he says.

Meanwhile, Human Resource Manager, RUBiS Energy Jamaica Limited, Donnovan Dobson, says the organisational diagnosis has highlighted the positives as well as areas where improvement is needed.

In areas such as inclusive communication and gender sensitivity in the recruitment and selection process, he reports that there is a positive perception by employees of the company’s performance in this respect.

“For the balance of women and men on staff, we currently have a 53 to 47 per cent men to women ratio. By any measure, that is acceptable, but again, we want to look at certain levels within the organisation, because even though we have that kind of ratio, we need to look at where women are at certain levels within the organisation,” he tells JIS News.

Mr. Dobson also notes that the diagnosis highlighted that there is perceived equity in training, providing similar opportunities for both women and men among members of staff.

“There is also the perception of balance in the opportunities for promotion between men and women, and that mechanisms are available and accessible to deal with harassment in the workplace, sexual or otherwise. We have a robust policy around that,” he says.

Resident Representative of the UNDP, Dr. Elsie Laurence-Chounoune, tells JIS News that the programme is a win-win for all participating companies, as it seeks to improve business operations and efficiencies while creating more opportunities for the professional advancement of women.

“The UNDP remains committed to its partnership with the Government in promulgating gender equality values in fulfilment of Sustainable Development Goal number five, which speaks to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls,” she adds.

The key areas for GES certification include eliminating gender-based pay gaps; increasing women’s roles in decision-making; enhancing work-life balance; enhancing women’s access to non-traditional jobs; eradicating sexual harassment at work; and using inclusive, non-sexist communication.

Certification involves learning, sharing and building a culture of equity, including recruitment; hiring and selection of staff; organisational structure; functions and post; wages; times and working hours; training opportunities; care of children, elders and people with disabilities; sexual harassment policies and budgets allocated for gender activities.

Enterprises interested in participating in the GES certification programme must follow 10 steps from commitment to completion.

These are:
• Verify commitment to the programme
• Create a gender equality committee representing all levels of employees
• Train upper management in the certification programme
• Carry out the organisational diagnosis to detect existing strengths and gaps
• Prepare a gender equality policy based on needs presented by the diagnosis
• Apply an action plan to address concerns and close gender equality gaps
• Carry out an internal audit to determine the impact of the action plan
• An external audit must be conducted to evaluate whether a GES seal is merited
• Award the Gender Equality Seal (official recognition)
• Carry out improvement actions and follow-up audits.

Companies must also commit to ongoing improvements to reduce all gender barriers.

For more information on the Gender Equality Seal certification programme, persons may visit www.undp.org