WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH: Augusta Payne - Jamaica’s first woman in finance

AUGUSTA Payne could aptly be described as Jamaica’s first woman in finance.

She was the first — and for many years — the only female to walk the hallowed halls of the executive chambers at two financial institutions: first at Barclays International, then later at National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCB).

Possessing a proclivity for numbers, she read financial statements with speed and ease — a talent that worked well with her ability to evaluate the numerous business proposals that came across her desk, making it possible for her to choose winning concepts that produced significant profits for the bank.

Her acumen and agility propelled her to the top ranks of the male-dominated industry. Thus, in 1978, when Barclays Bank transitioned to becoming NCB Jamaica Limited, Payne was appointed to the position of deputy managing director, the second highest position in the organisation.

Her C-suite experience must have looked quite different then. Yet she remained undaunted and focused on the task at hand. It was a skill she had leaned on repeatedly when life swung its blows at her.

Augusta Payne had grit.

When she was a young mother and wife to an ambitious but struggling student, she took on domestic work to supplement her family’s income. While her husband was convalescing, she also attended his post-graduate classes, taking copious notes that allowed him to successfully pass his exams and graduate with his peers.

The financial powerhouse demonstrated exceptional expertise and success in the industry, but her definition of equity went beyond that. Doing her best to balance the challenges of work, family and self, she recognised that additional support would be necessary for other women to thrive. She therefore lobbied for NCB’s first daycare centre, the Augusta Payne House, which laid the foundation for NCB’s Early Childhood Development Centre, now available to employees at NCB today.

For all her accolades, she cherished her role as mother, actively participating in her children’s lives.

She challenged the myth that women do not belong in the lucrative world of finance. She also challenged the stereotype that women cannot balance work and family life successfully, all while helping to pave a path for other women to make their way to the top.

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