The glass ceiling has not been broken everywhere. But where women have smashed through into leadership positions, they can often fall victim to the glass cliff.
So said Eva Mitchell, acting CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange Ltd (TTSE), on Tuesday at a virtual event.
The glass cliff, she said, is the phenomenon of women leaders being given less opportunity to prove themselves and less recognition for their achievements.
Mitchell said while women are breaking through the glass ceiling, they often risk being held responsible for outcomes that were set in motion way ahead of their appointments.
Mitchell spoke at the Ring the Bell for Gender Equality International Women’s Day 2021 virtual event. UN Women partnered with the TTSE and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), to "ring the bell" to declare their support for women’s equal opportunity.
Mitchell identified another challenge women face as the "leaking pipeline," which she said is prevalent in the financial and tech industries.
"Many women in the pipeline to top management positions drop out along the way," Mitchell said. "Statistics have shown that a gender-based company is more productive, generates better financial results, and is scientifically proven to have a higher retention rate. We need to strengthen the pipeline if we are going to maintain it."
She said other challenges include working from home, caring for children, and balancing work and life. Mitchell said despite these challenges, women have been able to lead some of the most successful responses to the pandemic and many are at the forefront in the fight against it.
"These women demonstrated resilience, strength, adaptability, perseverance, grit, empathy, collaboration, caring, passion and tenacity," Mitchell said. "Together, they were thoughtful, intentional, consultative, inclusive and deliberate in the leadership styles."
This year marks the seventh year of the Ring the Bell for Gender Equality initiative and the first time the event was held in TT.
UN Women's theme for International Women's Day 2021 is "Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a Covid19 World."
The acting CEO said the theme highlights the tremendous efforts shown by women worldwide, especially during the covid19 pandemic.
She referred to a recent study by the UN that women are generally paid up to 11 per cent less than men. In the Caribbean, she said, women faced several barriers that limit their careers, which possibly holds back businesses and economic growth.
In 2017, the average labour force participation rate in the Caribbean was 54.8 per cent for women and 73 per cent for men.
Mitchell identified opportunities for women such as diversity, which she said would foster innovation.
"A diverse workforce is an innovative workforce.
"Another (opportunity) is strengthening of credentials. Advanced education offers a valuable platform for women."
A third opportunity is considering entrepreneurship presents a path for women to close the pay gap and rise to leadership positions.
Rocio Medina-Bolivar, country representative of the IDB Group in TT, said she felt proud to witness this important moment in TT.
She recalled that she gave a presentation sponsored by a local bank last December about why gender equality is a good business.
This Ring the Bell initiative, Medina-Bolivar said, marks a moment to reflect how finance can be a catalyser to close gender gaps.
"Finance has the power to change the world. Women lost twice as many jobs as men during this pandemic. The IDB Group is committed to creating work and better jobs for women in the region," Medina-Bolivar said.
She said the IDB Group launched the first gender bonds in Panama with Banismo, Peru with Caja Arequipa and Colombia with Davivienda.
Cecilia Alemany, deputy regional director, UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean, reiterated that this initiative calls on businesses everywhere to advance women's empowerment and gender equality. It is also working with many other actors, including the International Labour Organization and the European Union, for the Win-Win initiative. This initiative also promotes gender equality.
Head of Capital Markets and Structured Finance, IDB Invest, Carole Sanz-Paris,said the IDB has been the leader in fostering financial innovation toward promoting gender equality.
Sanz-Paris encouraged people to invest in businesses that are led or owned by women and promote gender equalities or women's leadership.