Powerful women inspire at UWI conference


Monday, March 25, 2019

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YOUNG women at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, were recently inspired by the words of powerful women like Lisa Hanna and Krystal Tomlinson, who spoke at the inaugural Colour Me Woman conference.

Hanna, who is the Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern, in her keynote address, said that while many women aspire to become leaders, they still tend to shy away from the top positions.

“Why is it that women don't want to be at the top?” she questioned. “In professions, the minute many of you feel that you have to fight too hard or you have to get there in a manner that is going to disrupt your equilibrium, you say 'well, that's not necessarily for me'.”

She used representational politics as an example.

“Many of you don't realise that it is the women who are our workers as members of Parliament,” she pointed out. “The women are our indoor agents, our outdoor, agents, and our runners. It's the women who hold constituencies together. You might not see a lot of women in our Parliament, but the women are the persons who actually keep a constituency going. In addition to that, when I was minister, all of my managers in the Ministry of Culture were women.”

She added: “You have a tenacity that is in your belly. Even if you don't quite figure it out, you know that somewhere along the line you are going to figure it out. You have to become risk-takers. You are living in the most exciting times of your life. You are living in a time where you can be the most creative in your professions. You can be the most innovative, but it's going to require taking risks.”

She underscored the importance of university students not just getting good grades while at school, but becoming involved in other meaningful activities.

“Academics are important, but I'm not going to hire you because of your academia. I want to see all the other things you did. I want to see how you balanced your life. I want to see the way you solve problems. I want to see the lessons you learned,” she said.

Author and communications consultant Krystal Tomlinson spoke on the importance of time management, and leaving situations that are no longer purposeful.

“You continue to pay time to those things that you accept are unfulfilling… to those relationships that you know don't take you any further than you are. If you are truly determined to become a boss at this life, you must be comfortable admitting that 'I have wasted three years doing this, I don't like it, and I'm going to stop and change my mind'. That is a principle you have to learn to apply to everything.

“Learn the art of saying no in ways that don't make you feel as if you're being rough or unkind,” she said.

“Especially us women, we are trained to say yes all the time. They don't process no's from women very well so we have to get into the habit of saying it.”

Allison Morgan of Victoria Mutual Building Society spoke soberly with the young women on matters of financial literacy and investment.

“You need to invest in one of the two things that throughout history have always given guaranteed returns — real estate or stocks,” she urged.

“Income is not wealth. Getting a salary is not wealth. Before I bought a car I bought a house, because that is what builds wealth.”

The women were walked through creating compelling resumes by Anjell Bryan, group life and member services manager at Guardian Life, who also provided practical solutions for overcoming conflicts within the workplace. These skills were coupled with professional headshots by Studio Craft Professional Imaging.

Other presenters included Sallyann Gray, who spoke on leadership; Jodianne Murdock on entrepreneurship; Natassia Wright on mentorship; Cassandra Shannon on domestic violence and self-esteem; Shavelle Mayler on transitioning from university to the working world; and Kemesha Kelly and Kiddist McCoy on personal branding.

There was a marketplace where women could view and purchase books, paintings, cosmetics, jewellery and accessories, and view and sample products from sponsors Woman's Touch, Bags by Bri, Bee Phenomenal, Jesse's Home Décor and Chas E Ramson (Elle & Vire & Alpen).

The Colour Me Woman conference is the culmination of a year-long developmental programme designed by the Office of Student Services at The UWI, to target the women residing at Taylor Hall specifically. In its 66 years of existence, 53 of which women have boarded there, Taylor Hall has never had a female hall chair. This year, however, three of the four candidates who vied for the hall chairman position were women.

Student services and development manager Athol Hamilton said that in his 23 years of association with the hall, it is the first time women outnumbered men in contesting the post, and just the second time he could recall any women at all in the hall chair race. The only male candidate won last Wednesday, however.

But Hamilton believes that the programme plays a vital role in empowering the women in the hall to aspire to leadership.

“It is certainly the first time that we are actually pulling out a specific group, although we have always had developmental programmes for students generally. I am sure it has had an impact on what we are seeing now,” he said.

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