Regional sales director, FedEx Express Latin America & the Caribbean Sonia M Montes

The American Chamber of Commerce of T&T has called for greater female representation on the boards of major private sector companies.

In her address at Amcham T&T’s 8th Women’s Leadership Conference yesterday, the chamber’s president Toni Sirju-Ramnarine noted that half of the companies listed on the T&T Stock Exchange had a minimal female presence.

“The limited options we provide send the message that women are inferior, undeserving, and powerless. Perhaps that’s why 50 per cent or half of the total companies currently listed on the T&T Stock Exchange have a board consisting of less than 25 per cent female directors. This has to change,” Sirju-Ramnarine said.

She pointed to Amcham T&T’s own board which boasted more women than men, “It’s not just about creating a space at the table and making women feel they should be grateful for this seat. It’s about investing in women’s potential that creates more opportunities. It’s about placing value on their contributions. So let’s look forward to seeing more of our country’s boards being comprised of multiple women and not just the token one!”

She stressed breaking the gender bias required a change in attitude concerning recruitment and investment in staff.

“Ultimately, what all of this comes down to is investing in better diversity and inclusion policies since so much of the disparity that women face are experienced in the workplace. It begins in our recruitment and hiring processes and goes all the way to the opportunities, or lack thereof, for the promotion and advancement of women,” she said.

“This is 2022! Surely you know competent women who can serve on boards. If you don’t, ask around. We can help. After all, there are more women currently on the Amcham T&T Board than men – all of whom are extremely competent,” Sirju-Ramnarine.

Director of Sales for FedEx Sonia Montes also called for more women to be involved at the decision-making level of corporate entities.

She said, “The multiplier effect of the woman not only supports the business and her family but also the community and the economy at large. Women can lead with sensitivity and firmness; I think that is a virtue. Together, we can work towards a better future for women by building, supporting and getting involved in groups and practices that protect against gender bias and promote career development opportunities. We also should bring more women in the decision-making process because they bring different perspectives and different competencies to the table.”

Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Scotiabank T&T Gayle Pazos also called for gender bias in the workplace to be addressed, especially following the massive job losses incurred by women as a result of the COVID-19.

Pazos said, “Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough. We need to act. Having women and other diverse voices in leadership roles is good for business and we, as business leaders, are responsible for working towards positive change.”

Pazos also made the call to play a greater role in breaking the bias in the workplace.

“ We also need male allies who understand how vital unbiased behaviours are to the success of the organisation. Strengthening your relationships with both male and female leaders will help you build a solid team committed to speaking up and effecting lasting change. Allyship is also important,” she said.