The convention, organized by the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC), is a culmination of almost two-years of training and empowerment activities geared at enabling and identifying more than 100 women from across the island for leadership positions on public and private sector Boards and Commissions as well as school boards and other community organizations. The project, funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund, intends to transform Jamaica’s existing leadership landscape and culture.
“We want to see more women in leadership, more women sitting on boards and commissions. And we know that the research shows that women more than men practice transformational leadership and that is why increasing the number of qualified women in leadership is not only a matter of ensuring gender equality but also integral to securing a better future for all Jamaicans,” asserts Executive Director of WROC Dorothy Whyte. Furthermore the research shows that “more women in leadership lead to greater profitability for companies and businesses so policymakers and business leaders really need to recognize that having more women in leadership affects the bottom dollar.” Whyte echoes views posited in the Economist (April 2006) that “women are now the most powerful engine of global growth”…and that “making better use of women’s skills is not just a matter of fairness. Plenty of studies suggest that it is good for business too.”
The upcoming convention, which will see women coming from various sections and sectors of Jamaica, hopes to advance this perspective and achieve a sense of solidarity among women. “This would be signalled by broad support for a position paper with specific ideas on how to advance women’s leadership. This paper will be formally submitted to the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition” says convention planner Samora Bain. Crucially, the position paper calls for a system of quotas to be implemented regarding gender participation / distribution. Specifically, WROC is recommending that no board should have less than 40% of either sex. The upcoming convention aims to build consensus around this recommendation as well as “affirm and support women (and men) who exemplify transformational leadership,” notes Bain.
The call for a quota system has already received support from several individuals and groups including Dr. Dalea Bean from the Institute of Gender Studies, UWI. “It’s a commendable way of getting change… because women have been discriminated against. If we look at our parliament, boards and so on, it is still a very small number of women in these areas, so finding and training women and increasing the quota is obviously a move in the right direction,” opines Dr. Bean.
In addition to building consensus on the position paper, a database of approximately 100 women trained and equipped to sit on Boards and Commissions will be formally launched at the convention with anticipated endorsements from the private sector and civil society. “We want to rule out the whole question of women’s availability, so we are going to be presenting a database of women who are qualified, willing and available to serve,” stresses gender expert and WROC board member Linnette Vassell. The database is made up of women from diverse backgrounds. “Finance, health, emergency services, education, agriculture, business, the church, community development, tourism, telecommunications and law are only a few of the sectors from which these women emerge,” explains Vassell.
In the end the organizers are hoping that in addition to advancing the call for transformational leadership in Jamaica, that women who attend the convention will leave “refreshed, energized, emboldened, empowered and with a sense of togetherness” says Bain. The convention is an important milestone in WROC’s slew of activities geared at advancing women’s rights and observing international women’s month.
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