Indeed his sentiment encapsulates much of the endemic traditional perspective of a woman’s innate skills being mainly seductive or sexual and a ‘woman’s place’ being subjugated to men’s.
His view confirms that while there have been some cultural shifts which suggest an acceptance of women progressing in their careers and education, the notion that the man is the head is still strongly held - this in spite of an abundance of international and local research showing that organizations with more women at the helm perform substantially better. If the research findings are accepted and “a policy is developed to systematically encourage and support more women to participate in leadership, Jamaica could make tremendous strides in her economic and social development,” notes gender specialist and WROC board member Linnette Vassell. “Proactive measures to bring more women into the boardroom in all sectors and levels, from those in our schools to the corporate level, are critical if Jamaica is to see the transformation in governance it so desperately needs,” stresses Vassell.
However Business Communication Specialist and Observer Columnist Yvonne Grinam Nicholson disagrees with the idea of a structural framework or quota system that stipulates the distribution of each gender. While she believes that more women should be involved in leadership she says “ these things should evolve naturally because what will happen if it becomes legislated is that they will just pick people to go in the position who might not necessarily be qualified just to make sure that they are within the law,” opines Grinam Nicholson during Bloom, a radio programmed aired on RJR recently. Instead of turning to a quota system she says “women need to retrain themselves to perform in these positions and to make themselves more eligible for the opportunities when they arise.”
Vassell contends however that “instituting quotas is one of the chief strategies that several countries have employed in order to increase the participation of women in leadership and benefit from the unique skills that women bring to the table.” Agreeing that women need to prepare themselves, she also emphasizes that “it is not lack of competence or preparation for leadership that is the main obstacles to women’s higher level of participation, but a host of intertwining issues.” Continuing she asserts that “it is not beyond our competence to ensure that qualified, positive women of integrity are selected to serve, furthermore high standards should equally apply to men”, she added.
It is against this background that a position paper on measures to advance women’s leadership is being developed for discussion and presentation to decision-makers. This is being developed by WROC as one of the key outputs of the Strengthening Women’s Leadership in Jamaica (SWLJ) project being funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund and supported by the Canadian International Development Agency CIDA. Following consultations with close to 200 women across the island and the training of an additional 100 plus women to assume leadership positions on Boards and Commissions, the position paper or policy brief will advance “the overall agenda of women’s empowerment and encourage policymakers to take a gendered approach to governance including the use of a quota system as a special temporary measure,” Vassell outlines.
Social Development Consultant Dr. Deborah Duperly Pinks agrees that allowing and encouraging more women to participate in leadership is integral to any credible development agenda. Duperly Pinks stresses that “you cannot have a policy that is inimical to women being debated and decided upon mainly by men… so it’s important to have all the voices as part of the debate and this is the importance of why women need to be involved at that (policy development) level.” Continuing Duperly Pinks reasons that “if you are on the ‘inside’ you have a better chance of bringing your perspective into the decision making process.”
WROC is hoping to impact that decision making process at the level of boards and commissions through the SWLJ project. In addition to the policy brief , a database of more than 100 professional and grassroots women trained and equipped to assume positions on boards and commissions at all levels is being developed and will be completed by March 2011. It is hoped that the draft policy brief will not only encourage and create pathways for more women to participate in leadership but also help “to foster socio-cultural transformation regarding the understanding and acceptance of the roles men and women are expected to perform so that both sexes can take their ‘rightful’ and equal place in our nation’s decision-making process,” says Vassell.
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