Observer column for Monday October 30, 2017 - updated
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Last Friday, ten outstanding women leaders strode onto the stage of the international women's Forum annual conference held in Houston. The leader who was inducted in the IWF Hall of Fame was former US Secretary of State and the first ever woman US presidential candidate Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Jamaica's first woman Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller is also an IWF Hall of Famer.
The other nine were honored as "women who make a difference", and Jamaicans should be proud that among them was none other than our own Minna Israel, the second Jamaican to be thus honoured. The first was the IWF Jamaica Founding President the dynamic Pat Ramsay, who received the award five years ago at the San Francisco IWF Conference.
Minna was recognized as the first Caribbean woman to be the country manager of a major Bank and a leader in many other spheres of national life. In 2011 Minna Israel was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of the West Indies and the citation noted that the "fracture which Minna Israel has generated in the proverbial glass ceiling may very well have terminally compromised its structural integrity".
Thirty years ago, banking was a male-dominated field; it must have taken tremendous competence and professionalism for Minna Israel to have moved up the ranks to become Scotiabank's country manager for the Bahamas and later the first woman president of the Jamaica Bankers Association.
This was a quantum leap not only for women in banking, but also for those in other areas of Jamaica's private and public sectors. From Minna, her fellow Jamaican women learned that they could be leaders while still embracing the fine qualities of their gender – dedication, compassion, and resilience. It is no wonder then that in a recent survey, Jamaica was found to have more women managers per capita than any other country in the world.
The photographs out of Houston last Friday showed the tremendous support that Minna received from her Jamaican IWF sisters, led by president Camille Facey, founding president Pat Ramsay and fellow members Patsy Atterbury-Latchman, Valerie Facey, Jeanne Robinson-Foster, Anya Schnoor, Jackie Sharp, Marcia Forbes, Allison Peart, Therese Turner-Jones, Scarlette Gillings, Corinne McLarty and Peta-Rose Hall. The bonds are strong as we celebrate and support each other, checking in ego at the door and stepping into a space of positivity and affirmation.
Jamaica is ahead of the curve in acknowledging gender equality, though lagging in our representation in the highest offices. We in the IWF and other women's organizations such as the St Andrew Business and Professional Women's Club, the Women's Leadership Initiative, Women Business Owners and WMW Jamaica, are not seeking dominance, but rather equality. If more decision-makers were aware that organizations which strive for gender balance are more profitable and successful, we would be leaps ahead.