ALL SHOULD be concerned about the recent report suggesting women lag behind men among senior management positions in the business sector. This report suggests that while we have made strides when it comes to advancing equality, there is more work to be done.
Those strides have been significant. By now we have had a female president, prime minister, House speaker, and Senate president. The recently-concluded Carnival celebration was a visible reminder of the economic and social power of women. But look beneath the surface. According to the American Chamber of Commerce of TT, while there is gender parity up to middle management, at the top executive level this falls to less than 25 per cent of the female population. And as of 2016, 60 per cent of Trinidadian women participated in the workforce, compared to 81 per cent participation from the male population, according to the World Bank.
These figures betray a deeper truth about the economic power that lies behind employment trends. Some studies indicate only 14 per cent of private landowners are female. Carnival itself is a reminder that the problem is social, not just economic. The controversy around Farmer Nappy’s song Hookin Meh is a good demonstration of this, with some expressing the view that its lyrics betrayed a toxic male mindset of female ownership and control, to the extent of unwillingness to accept a woman’s choice to end a relationship.
Whether we agree with this analysis or not, at the very least it is clear that the atmosphere of fear surrounding violence towards women is such as to engender this kind of discussion. That alone is telling.
President Paula-Mae Weekes registered the disparities this week. In a statement issued to commemorate yesterday’s International Women’s Day, she pointed to “the glaring reality of unacceptable high levels of domestic violence against women, teenage pregnancy and sexual harassment in the workplace.”
In this regard, initiatives such as Amcham’s Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme is welcomed. As is Leela Ramdeen’s call for us to embrace innovative ways to foster change.
“We must all be open to transformation,” said the Catholic Commission for Social Justice chairman in a letter to the editor published yesterday.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has also called on young people of all genders to make a difference, even as she herself has been accused of not doing enough during her tenure as prime minister. Regardless of where we stand, and while women enjoy many advantages today that might have been unimaginable a few decades ago, it is clear that for us to advance economically, more needs to be done. Breaking the pay gap and the glass ceiling would be a good way to start.