- Only 15 of the country’s 200 private sector and civil society organizations currently have gender-based policies
- Qualified women excluded from developments at the leadership level
- Entities urged to determine the complement of women they want in leadership positions
Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, is encouraging more of Jamaica’s private sector and civil entities to implement gender equality policies, which will facilitate greater opportunities, particularly for women.
Her call comes against the background of a Bureau of Women’s Affairs (BWA) study, which shows that only 15 of the country’s 200 private sector and civil society organizations currently have gender-based policies or initiatives in place.
Speaking at the opening of the inaugural two-day private sector and civil society gender summit, organized by the BWA and Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF), at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on July 30, Senator Falconer noted that while the society has made “great strides” in business and academia, in several instances, women, though qualified, have been excluded from these developments, particularly at the leadership level.
“Many of our women…fail to get a seat around the boardroom table or an office on the executive floor of the corporate office. We have to get to the point where women in leadership roles are not the exception, but the norm,” she said.
Noting that gender is a “cross-cutting” issue, Senator Falconer argued that “mainstreaming” of this area is “not a glib slogan or passing fad.”
“Each (gender) requires different treatment and both men and women must be given equal opportunity and access to participate in the development of their nation; and there must be a developed policy with agreed programmes, which will foster equality throughout the society, within the boardroom, and the halls of political power,” she argued.
The Minister noted that “gender-sensitive” perspectives at the workplace can assist entities to recruit and retain the best employees, make the best use of human resources, and improve productivity and competitiveness, as well as the organization’s public image. She added that “growing” international research points to greater innovation in work teams with equal gender ratios.
Outside of the research, she said, “common sense dictates that the best way forward for any society must be on the basis of increased gender equality.” To do otherwise, she warned, “is to deny ourselves access to the best available stock of human capital – men or women – which the individual firm and the development of the country require.”
Pointing out that attainment of gender equality is among the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targeted for achievement by 2015, Senator Falconer urged entities to determine the complement of women they want in leadership positions and set about to fulfilling this.
“The achievement of gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment is also an accepted development goal in the National ‘Vision 2030’ framework for making Jamaica ‘the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business’. Our women must be given the opportunities and the tools to participate and contribute on an equal footing,” she emphasized.
Against this background, Senator Falconer welcomed the two-day summit, which she said is aimed at building knowledge and capacity on gender issues.
“The knowledge and understanding you will gain from this Summit, will take you a step closer to implementing an integrated approach to gender mainstreaming, eliminating discriminatory practices, and making the progressive steps toward creating gender balanced leadership structures within the private sector,” Senator Falconer said.
The forum is being held under the theme: ‘Gender Equality: A Corporate Performance Driver’, and is attended by a wide cross section of private sector stakeholders. It features presentations by representatives from various corporate, academic, and financial institutions.
The two-day summit continues on July 31, with a forum for stakeholders and representatives from civil society organizations.