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What a week for women!

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, November 13, 2017

Wha t a week it has been for women. Here in Jamaica, A Cecile Watson, former bank executive and former CEO of National Housing Trust, held a powerful Women's Entrepreneurship Day featuring top influencers last Wednesday. Such trailblazers as Thalia Lyn and Marcia Forbes challenged attendees to be strong and fearless in pursuing their goals. The tone of the conference gave the lie to the belief that women do not support each other.

On Thursday Minna Israel and I felt the warm affirmation of our sisters in the Women's Leadership Initiative, founded by visionary former US Ambassador to Jamaica Sue Cobb. Led by President Chorvelle Johnson and former President Eva Lewis, members applauded our recent awards, honouring our journey through the corporate world and our passion to mentor and serve.Meanwhile, in the recent USA state and local elections women showed their resolve to lead. “Women claimed big victories on Tuesday in a night that marked many firsts and could signal the start of a sea of change for women in politics,” noted the website “The sheer volume of success for women candidates was a surprise to many, mainly because they were running against incumbents, who historically win re-election 90 per cent of the time. But not this year. Incumbents in Georgia, New Jersey and Virginia all lost their seats to women.”

These and steady strides up the corporate ladder have led to the unmasking of sexual predators, formerly strutting big shots of Hollywood, business and politics. This includes a bombshell allegation of paedophilia against Alabama Republican candidate for the Senate Roy Moore.

Statistics show that organisations with a gender balance at board and management levels are significantly more successful. Perhaps it is because in such organizations women are not cowering under the thumbs of abusive bosses. One should note, however, that there are a minority of such incidents involving women bosses, and this is equally offensive. Since this deluge of allegations, we have seen disturbing comments on social media about the high level of sexual harassment locally and regionally. With greater gender balance, these predators will be brought to heel, and organisations will enjoy the success that comes from respectful and professional conduct at all levels of their operations.


Jamaica's fixable challenges

Despite the challenges, Jamaicans have every reason to see the glass as half full, rather than half empty. Hotel bookings indicate a record-breaking upcoming tourist season. Our dollar has strengthened significantly, though Lord knows that we need to see this in reduced gas prices. We hope manufacturers will heed the call of Jamaica Manufacturers' Association President Metry Seaga to adjust their costs as soon as this impacts their imported raw material.

It is important for all of us to recognise that when we speak in a positive way about our country's progress it is not because we are siding with any political party; rather, it is because we understand the true meaning of democracy. When we go to the polls and choose a Government, that Government is elected to govern all of Jamaica, and should be able to depend on us to support positive developments, even as we criticise their shortcomings.

The roads in our rural areas have been neglected from one Administration to the other. Last week we heard of the arrest of an alleged protest organiser in St Thomas who, with fellow residents, had created a roadblock, having been left frustrated by their unanswered pleas. The National Integrity Alliance pointed out that the practice of roadwork being awarded on a political rather than professional basis, which had resulted in this hardship on our people.

A bar operator once told me of the boasts of a man celebrating a road repair contract with his friends and who, after a few strong drinks, started to list several middle men that had to be paid off before he could get to the business of fixing the road. No wonder there is so much shoddy work that can barely withstand one rainy day.

Let us use governance guidelines to prevent more roadblocks. Surely, we should be embarrassed when we see what our fellow Jamaicans face - the elderly unable to access emergency medical care, children taking risky paths to school, and the exorbitant repair bills visited on motorists.


National Baking's 65th anniversary

Congratulations to National Baking Company on achieving 65 years of phenomenal growth. Jamaica has watched this company grow from a modest bakery, founded by visionary Karl Hendrickson at their Central Avenue location, to a giant manufacturer here and abroad, under the leadership of his son Chairman Gary “Butch” Hendrickson.

National's outreach projects reflect Butch's passion for Jamaica's development. Their Little Leaders programme has invested millions in early childhood education and their Bold Ones of Manufacturing programme has seen the strengthening of new businesses and the creating of employment for hundreds.

Under the guidance of Karl and Nell Hendrickson, their other children Lori-Ann Lyn, Kevin Hendrickson and Cathy Kerr have all created new businesses. There is the CB Group and the islandwide Hendrickson group of hotels, including most recently the former Wyndham Hotel. It took a single bakery and a strong family. What a lesson for us all.


KSA Development Initiative

The Kingston and St Andrew Development and Homecoming Foundation rolled out a Student Motivational and Empowerment Programme last week in 40 Corporate Area high schools. Leaders from all walks of life engaged students on such topics as peace, excellence, discipline, ethical conduct, responsible leadership, and developing a commitment to the principles and responsibilities of becoming good and productive citizens of Jamaica.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen and Minister of Education, Youth and Information Senator Ruel Reid have endorsed the initiative by Chairman Custos Steadman Fuller and Custos Dr Patricia Dunwell. Kingston Bookshop Ltd has donated $10 million, while Jamaica National has provided offices for the hard-working foundation led by George Watson.


Congratulations, Olive Senior

Hearty congratulations to author Olive Senior who recently received the honorary Doctor of Literature degree from The University of the West Indies. It was a pleasure to meet with her last week and learn of her plan to bequeath to the government and people of Jamaica, her famous Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage so that a website can be created and maintained for quick reference on all things Jamaican. What a generous gesture from a true patriot.


Happy retirement, Doreen Chin

The Chinese Benevolent Association, led by President Damian Chin, recently honoured its outgoing general manager Doreen Chin, who had served the organisation for 17 years. The many tributes noted that that her keen stewardship resulted in the organization becoming a sustainable entity, a popular meeting place, and a generous donor to the less fortunate. Our family is very proud of my steadfast sister-in-law Doreen. Here's to a happy retirement.