MINISTER of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy has urged women in leadership to create spaces for others to follow suit.
She made the appeal on Saturday while delivering the feature address at the TT Federation of Women's Institutes' 73rd annual conference at the Canaan/Bon Accord Community Centre, Tobago. The theme of the event was Diversity Our Strength.
Webster-Roy told the delegates about a conversation she had with a well-known women's rights activist in her office, who she said spoke to her "not as an activist talking to as a minister, but as a sister talking to another sister."
The woman, she recalled, observed that women who "sit at the table of leadership" seldom bring another "sister" along.
The Tobago East MP said the activist urged her to reverse that trend.
"That message stood out, and it stuck, because it is important for us as women to ensure we make space at the table for other women, because not only can we support each other, but we bring a different perspective," she told her audience.
"We can challenge the status quo when we bring another woman to the table. And by doing so, we help to bring another child into opportunities of greatness.
"When we bring another sister to the table of leadership, we create opportunities for boys and girls, for women everywhere to have a greater voice. But most importantly, when we bring another woman to the table, we create space for others to move up."
The minister, who is responsible for gender affairs, vowed to take "another sister right beside me" as she grows in leadership.
In this regard, she said the Federation of Women's Institutes has a vital role to play not only in terms of building its membership and strengthening communities but helping to create spaces for women who lead professional lives.
"So, federation, it is your duty to put programmes and policies in place to reach out and hold the hands of women in positions of authority, to give support because many times, we have to make conflicting decisions."
Webster-Roy criticised women who speak disparagingly about other women.
"What is also troubling is that we, as women, can sometimes be abusive to our own. We often are our biggest critics and enemies and I am convinced that you are aware of some of the toxic personalities among you. Women who tear other women down because 'Meh blood just eh take she,' 'She moving up too fast,' 'I doh like how the boss and she does get along.'"
Webster-Roy said women who persist in tearing down others do not gain anything.
"Yes, women, we tend to be our worst enemies and our biggest critics as women, therefore validating the opinions some have that women should not hold positions of power and authority."
She added: "But friends, sisters, I want to encourage us all to work together to lift each other up. We have so many forces against us that we cannot afford to be working against each other. If we stand divided, we are bound to fail. Our strength is in our collective voice, thought and collective effort."