Shared Voices: What will you say #TimesUp on?

— Janice Allen

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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Recently in the United States, the #TimesUp campaign was launched with a bang! The campaign seeks to send a message that the clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace.

I first encountered #TimesUp when I saw a friend's Instagram post. She was clad in black and the picture was captioned: “why I wear black #TimesUp”. Since this friend is quite the progressive, I knew this was something I should take note of, and I started paying keen attention.

Within hours, I saw various Hollywood stars posting messages and using the hashtag #TimesUp and then in no time the red carpet at the Golden Globes became the massive roll-out and official campaign launch. The icing on the cake was Oprah's acceptance speech which reverberated across the world and sent many of us to YouTube to watch it again and again. After that, #TimesUp had my full attention; the message was clear, women and progressive men were no longer satisfied with the status quo and being quiet; they had had enough and were ready to make some noise about it.

It is almost impossible for such powerful statements to be made and for one not to take stock of it all and ask “where in my life do I need to say #TimesUp”? My initial focus has been on inequality in the workplace.

I do not know of one woman who has not been treated unequally in some way, shape or form in the Jamaican workplace. So much so that it happens today and we don't even realise it because it is the norm. We are so used to this inequality that we no longer even get angry, we simply say “so it go,” shrug and move on.

So many of us have gone to interviews for jobs which we are qualified (sometimes overqualified) and ready for, yet are turned down and a man is instead put in that job; a man who often is less qualified or prepared. This has caused many of us to not even bother applying because we know it is such a waste of time. It is no wonder that men in the workplace believe that it is their God-given right to ascend to the top while women believe it is their path to toil and sacrifice and suffer before reaching there. Two amazingly different mindsets.

In 2013, the International Labour Organization ranked Jamaica number one for likelihood of having a female manager/boss, but at the same time, Jamaica ranks poorly when you look at how few women are in the boardroom, let alone sitting in the big chair, chairing the meeting. Why is this? Isn't it #TimesUp on this?

Jamaica is such a paradox. Women are leading households, we are in politics and have even led the nation, we own and run businesses and yet we are treated unequally. Why is that?

As a result of these inequalities that are ingrained in our culture, many women, myself included, refrain from even talking about our skills and what we have accomplished and how much more we are capable of. It is almost uncomfortable for some of us (I say some because there is a younger group of women who encourage me daily with their bold approaches, take-no-prisoner attitudes, some of which I am now emulating) to boldly ask for what we want, demand the salary we deserve and aim for the top.

I know I am guilty of many of these limiting thoughts and behaviours, but #TimesUp on that because I am now ready to tell the world that “Yes, I am smart! I am amazing at what I do and I am about to take 2018 by storm! #TimesUp on limiting beliefs, on doubt, on fear. What's your #TimesUp?

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