Career & Education

The Big 'O'

Launching Leaders

with Debra Fraser

Sunday, March 10, 2019

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In a world still characterised by patriarchal domination, it's natural that the working world also reflects disparity when it comes to women in top corporate and government positions. That inequity is equally evident when we examine the statistics about equal pay for equal work. However, much has changed over the last few decades, albeit slower than many would prefer.

Having said that, it's both useful and inspirational in observance of International Women's Day (celebrated last Friday) to recognise the impact and contribution of women in business in particular.


We can certainly appreciate the handful of women now leading countries like England and Germany, and champions of industry like Mary T Barra of General Motors or local mavericks like Paymaster's Audrey Marks. Some more household names of pioneering women include iconic fashionista Coco Chanel, Huff Post's Ariana Huffington, and, of course, Oprah — you know you're in another league when you only need one name to be recognisable. Her story of tragedy and triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds — from being abused as a youngster, racially stereotyped, and being paid less as a TV co-anchor for the same workload as her male counterpart — is well known. Oprah is the epitome of a global icon fashioned in her own image. But her rise and continued success is much more about substance than it is about personality. After being headhunted as a budding journalist, she in turn became an employer and also had to utilise talent-acquisition strategies to create the right team to realise the vision for her brand and companies. So while her partnership with Gayle King is well known, to be truly ready to consistently perform at the highest levels, she would have used available manpower or executive search solutions to fill critical roles in her organisation. Even super women need the support of smart, capable people around them. The big 'O' is powered not just by her persona, but the personnel with which she surrounds herself.


The phrase 'dance ah yaad before you dance abroad' comes to mind as a stark reminder of the wealth of local doyennes staking their claim on the Jamaican dream through innovation, industry and just plain grit. It's never been easy navigating in what remains a man's world. Still, it doesn't require too much surveying of the Jamaican landscape to identify women on top of their game. One such standout is Sutherland Global's Odetta Rockhead-Kerr. As vice-president and country head for one of the world's leading business process outsourcing companies, she took control of her own destiny and a male-dominated industry after overcoming great personal and professional challenges from an early age. So much so that by her early thirties she was leading a team of hundreds and generating growth and income levels previously unheard of in the annals of the local business process outsourcing industry.

There are many other awe-inspiring stories about triumph and innovative leadership by women who refuse to be limited or defined by traditional gender expectations. So, as we celebrate women everywhere, we also acknowledge and show appreciation for the men whose partnership and leadership makes greater life and workplace parity possible.

Until next time, Leaders Keep Lookin' Up!

Debra Fraser, MBA, is CEO of Caribbean HR Solutions, a board member of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica, a member of the Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica, and a member of the Society of Human Resources Management in the US. Please direct comments to

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