‘INVITATION to Tea’ was printed on the invitation from GraceKennedy’s Group Chief HR Officer Dr Cassida Jones to her female colleagues. The event, held in the Gold Room at Mona Visitors’ Lodge recently, was broadcast via the web to women gathered at GraceKennedy’s offices in Belize, Trinidad, Canada, the UK, USA, Turks & Caicos Islands and other places.
The event was replete with tasty treats, as well as knowledge sharing, support for sisterhood, positive affirmations, and testimonials of tangible ways in which the GraceKennedy Group shows that it cares for the women in its workforce.
In her welcome and opening remarks, Dr Jones explained that the event aimed to share the success stories of some of the trailblazing women in the GraceKennedy Group with those who were relatively new or at various stages of their professional development. She spoke to the changes that were taking place within GraceKennedy, which served as a mirror of the wider society, with women taking on some important roles that were previously dominated by men, such as sales, merchandising, information technology, and engineering.
Andrea Coy, CEO of GraceKennedy Foods Domestic, whose portfolio includes managing several companies within the group, tackled the topic: “In pursuit of work-life balance, is it possible?” She explained that she made a conscious decision over a decade ago to devote segments of her time between all the very important aspects of her life and to use available technology to schedule time for her husband, her children, herself, her career and personal development. She advised that each woman must take responsibility for finding balance in the interest of health and being her best.
Karen Chin Quee Akin, who recently retired from GraceKennedy limited after serving as chief corporate secretary and general counsel, shared parting advice in her talk on “Laying the foundations for a long and rewarding career.” Akin advised the professionals to communicate with everyone from all walks of life, because everyone has a lesson to teach. She pointed out that in communicating, the ‘why’ is very important. She also advised the gathering to share the knowledge that they have rather than keep it to themselves.
Grace Burnett, CEO of GraceKennedy Financial Group, spoke to the topic “Leaning in: Supporting women and earning the support of women and men in the workplace”. She gave examples of how preparation, confidence and networking were important and shared how she benefited from mentors and coaches within the group, including male mentors.
Denise Spencer, vice-president HR, GraceKennedy Foods (USA) LLC, spoke from her office in New Jersey on the topic “Celebrating diversity, growing together: A global perspective”. One of the key takeaways of her presentation was the importance being placed on cultivating and encouraging diversity, especially in the more developed countries around the world. “Diversity,” she noted, “is a condition that is necessary for life, just like air, food and water.”
Dr Jones also shared the secrets of her success. In her presentation, she shared snippets from her childhood and early working experience which she said helped to mould her. She spoke to the three Ps — Presence, Poise and Posture — and why professional women should always be mindful of these ‘soft skills’, which she said could make the difference between being promoted or not.
Lauded for being “inspirational” and “truly helpful”, the more than 150 women in the room and online left the event empowered to take charge of their personal and professional lives.