I was recruited as a gender advisor in Jamaica beginning in Feburary 2016. CUSO International is a Canadian organisation that matches skilled professionals with local partners to work on development projects that are designed to empower local communities. For the past five years, I have been providing advisory and technical contributions and guidance in the area of gender equality to organisations in Africa, Europe and North America. Due to my experience, skills and abilities, CUSO saw this as a natural fit to support its partner, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC).
Despite the fact that Jamaica has the highest proportion of women managers (60 per cent) globally, there is a long way to go before the country achieves true gender equality in the workplace, especially when it comes to top management positions.
Trevor Fearon, CEO of the JCC, decided that the organisation could play a key role in bringing positive gender-based changes into the corporate world and lead the way by example. However, the JCC itself is consistent with the reality of the society; few women are on the board and too little support is provided to women business owners. This situation is not exclusive to Jamaica, but is a reality for women in many parts of the world.
So here I am, I came to Jamaica with a professional mandate consisting in two key objectives:
(1) To create a gender-balanced work environment within the JCC;
(2) To initiate and develop new activities that support women entrepreneurs. The Women Smart Networking Series is part of this objective.
There are dozens of events for women out there, and I think I have attended most of them since I arrived in Jamaica. However, I have noted that even though those events are great and motivating, they have not provided participants with something concrete that can empower them with a strong take-away plan for implementation.
I wanted to design something different. The Women Smart Networking Series consists of progressive, skill-building activities with modular approaches to strategic networking that focuses on various aspects from building a networking strategy to making a first, good impression. During each event, participants learn something that supports their networking journey.
We received a great response from the community. We could accommodate up to 50 participants per event and we received more than 100 registrations from across the island. We have then decided to serve a greater number of professional women with the launch of a second edition (parallel series). All in all, it means that there is a real need and that it is time for Jamaican society to recognise the key role of women in building a stronger economy for the country. The world is moving fast and Jamaica will be left behind if both genders are not fully involved.
Working on this initiative has been a fulfilling experience. The launch event was a great success and now that it has been implemented, the JCC is continuing with another partner. From this point forward, I can focus on developing new activities that will transform the “old boys’ club” to become more gender inclusive.
You can learn more about Darine and her work by visiting her fantastic blog EasyPoli.com.