A Rally Cry for Women in the Workplace

Women are powerful agents of change, and the far-reaching benefits of gender equity in leadership and decision-making are being increasingly recognised, especially in the workplace. Women have been shattering glass ceilings for quite some time in Jamaica, accounting for 59.3 per cent of all managers in the workplace (International Labour Organisation (2015).

As I contemplated the theme for International Women's Day 2023 — 'Embracing Equity', it has given me room to introspect on how women have experienced the increasing embrace of equity in the workplace, but more so how we envision this theme impacting future generations of female leaders. I have invited my colleagues with whom I will be sharing this column in the future to share their perspectives on some of the issues arising out of the theme, especially as they have experienced it in their own professional journeys.

Allow me to introduce a stellar slate of professionals with outstanding track records in finance and wealth management: Kimberly Martin, assistant vice-president, Corporate Solutions; Tamara Waul-Douglas, assistant vice-president, Wealth Management - Region 1; and Jodi-Ann Bonitto, assistant vice-president, Wealth Management – Region 2.

For us, embracing equity is a lived experience, and it is an experience that impacts how we work, lead, and live. As we shared our thoughts as leaders in the field, we found two consistent themes across our discussions — the need for women to embrace their individuality within the professional experience, and most critically, our roles as mentors of the next generation of women in the workforce.

Nadine Thomas, assistant vice-president – Private Wealth, NCB Capital Markets Limited (Photo: Paul Mullings)

Sometimes, women are pressured to downplay their whole selves in the workplace. How have you been able to embrace your individuality as a leader?

As women, sometimes we might feel pressured to lead in traditional ways or mimic the alpha males in the organisation. The pressure sometimes comes even from ourselves as we try to measure up to these invisible definitions of leadership characteristics. We might feel the need to leave aspects of who we are at home, but that is usually what makes us who we are and allows us to stand out. As women, we need to get to a place where we embrace who we are and come to the table as individuals and professionals. We are mothers, and wives but most importantly, we are individuals with distinct perspectives.

— Jodi-Ann Bonitto, assistant vice-president, Wealth Management - Region 2

What role do you see mentorship playing in your journey as leaders embracing equity?

My role as a mentor for young professionals is now more critical than before. This has impacted the joy I feel in leadership versus the joy I experienced early in my career. Today, I spend more time mentoring young professionals, and I enjoy seeing them demonstrate growth, especially when pushing through a particularly challenging situation at work.

I can now create equitable environments for my team members to thrive based on their unique talent. What is also interesting is that when team members are provided with the latitude to grow, I find that I also get the opportunity to learn from them and their experiences and this has been extremely rewarding as a leader. I also see this issue coming to the fore in my role as a mother, and I will admit that I go to lengths to ensure my girls are equipped to handle the potential inequities that women sometimes face.

— Tamara Waul-Douglas, assistant vice-president, Wealth Management - Region 1

As women there are some distinct challenges that we face. How have you worked through these even as we celebrate another International Women's History Month?

As women there are some unique challenges that we face. There are certain discussions that you perhaps will not be invited to. There are even some discussions that might come up with you that may not come up with your male counterparts. However, we are responsible for our outcomes and our destiny, so it is important to keep your goals in focus. Embrace your unique skills as a woman, your intuition, your compassion, attention to detail, and all your other strengths, and use those to your advantage. Many of us try to do as the men do, but I challenge you to embrace your strengths, embrace your female perspective, and use those tools to blaze your trail.

— Kimberley Martin, assistant vice-president, Corporate Solutions

Tamara Waul-Douglas: I agree, and for that young female executive who might be reading this, one of the techniques I have adopted and kept throughout my career was always keeping my conversations formal and referring to my male clients as 'Mr.' I have found that maintaining a professional tone has helped to reduce the times that conversations detour into less professional areas.

In that same vein, can you share some tips that you have picked up along the way that you would like to share with young female professionals?

You are your best advocate. Because you are close to your dreams, never be afraid to embrace the adventures that your career might offer. Never be afraid to swerve, even if that means reskilling and upskilling to take on more dynamic roles in the workplace. This will set you apart as you deliver value to your stakeholders. I transitioned from marketing to banking and finance, then to corporate banking, then to a start-up, and back to investment banking. This journey has given me invaluable insights that are key differentiators for me as a professional.

— Kimberley Martin

Kimberley Martin, assistant vice-president, Corporate Solutions (Photo: Paul Mullings)

Embracing equity is a pun for us in the wealth management field, but I would like for young female professionals to explore the financial aspect of the theme. Start investing as early as possible and never stop. Your dreams are important, and there is no guarantee that someone else will believe in them as passionately as you do. So, be sure to prepare financially to enable these dreams along the way.

— Jodi Bonitto

Jodi-Ann Bonitto, assistant vice-president, Wealth Management - Region 2 (Photo: Paul Mullings)

You will hear many 'no's' along your journey, some of which might be because of who you are. Experience has taught me to stay focused — create your own strategies, stay in your own lane, and run your OWN race.

— Tamara Waul-Douglas

Tamara Waul-Douglas, assistant vice-president, Wealth Management - Region 1 (Photo: Paul Mullings)

Remember #EmbraceEquity is as much a call to action for women as it is for all of society. We each have the power and capacity to create equitable environments for individuals to shine. As the occasion inspires us to reflect on the theme, ask yourself, how will I make a difference in the life of another woman today?

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