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Executive Talks ‘Benelovent Sexism’ in Workplaces at International Women’s Day Breakfast

Herma McRae (right), deputy chair, Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), presents Lisa Bell of EXIM Bank with an award recognising the company for having 70 per cent female Board members.

Herma McRae (right), deputy chair, Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), presents Lisa Bell of EXIM Bank with an award recognizing the company for having 70 percent female Board members.

KINGSTON, Jamaica–Historical male dominance in business and cultural biases are among the hindrances to women being appointed to boards of directors and executive positions, according to Therese Turner-Jones, country representative, Inter-American Development Bank.

Addressing a Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) International Women’s Day Breakfast at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Monday— which recognized companies with women on their boards — Turner-Jones said that research has shown that despite studies being made by women “plum assignments still go to men and the myth of work/life balance persists.”

She said that “benevolent sexism” exists in many workplaces and women often “climb the corporate ladder, then vanish”.

Turner-Jones lamented the “paucity of role models for women, lack of gendered career paths and gendered work and the lack of access to networks and sponsors for women”.

Quoting from a number of studies and professional reviews, Turner-Jones identified circumstances that have sustained male dominance on boards and senior executive positions and made recommendations for “bridging the gap”.

She told attendees at the breakfast, including representatives of companies with female board members who were honored at the event, that there was a lot to do to empower women to “move on and up.”

Quoting from the Zinger Folkman (2012) survey of more than 7,000 US top companies’ global data, Turner-Jones noted that women scored higher on 12 of 16 competencies including areas traditionally thought of as male in a US survey which measured leadership effectiveness by gender.

Quoting from another survey (Bart/McQueen 2013), Turner-Jones said that “female directors, with their higher complex moral reasoning skills, appear better able to assess each situation confronting a Board more effectively because they are more open to learning, more inquisitive and they actively try to understand the perspective and reasoning of others.”

Doing so, she explained, “enables them to see more alternatives, opportunities and outcomes. Moreover they appear to be more effective about choosing the right behavior required to deal with a situation because they are simply better at stepping into and understanding the role/perspective of another person.”

Pointing to countries like Norway which mandates 40 percent of board members must be women, Turner-Jones noted that in Jamaica only 24 percent of women are members of the boards of public bodies and 16 percent in private sector.

She commended the 51 percent Coalition for their work in promoting women in partnership for development/empowerment through equity and Senator Imani Duncan-Price for her motion on Advance Woman’s Leadership in Politics and Decision-Making through temporary quotas.

The senator believes that with gender equality, the experiences, abilities and insights of both women and men are a win-win solution for companies and countries.

Turner-Jones made a call for the creation of “safe identity workplaces for learning, experimenting and developing leadership potential” a shift from “mentoring” to “sponsoring other women to make it happen” and greater emphasis on “getting skills right not looking right and networking”.

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