Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
It is truly an honour to share a few words with you at the virtual launch of our 4th AMCHAM T&T/ IDB Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme.
As we progress through and past the COVID-19 pandemic, the world needs women leaders more than ever. A new future is currently unfolding, one that needs to take into account the skills, leadership and resources provided by women.
According to Harvard Business Review, “companies want leaders who are able to pivot and learn new skills; who emphasize employee development even when times are tough; who display honesty and integrity; and who are sensitive and understanding of the stress, anxiety, and frustration that people are feeling. Our analysis shows that these are traits that are more often being displayed by women.”
These are also the skills many great leaders are known for. Therefore, there is no reason why women should not have a place or position in the boardrooms across every company and corporation in the world. The climb can be steep, and the glass ceiling is real. But that does not mean it can’t be cracked, and one day, fully shattered! And that’s exactly what we hope to accomplish with this Mentorship Programme. We need to create those opportunities where women can see themselves playing a major role and succeeding in positions of leadership.
We see the impact this pandemic is having on women’s employment around the world. Experts are calling it the “she-cession” era where the fear is that more women would remain unemployed once the pandemic is over. So, picking up the pieces and moving forward cannot come at the expense and disposal of our women from the labor force. We have come too far as a society to be making the same mistakes we did in the past. That’s why I am saying that every company today must increase their diversity mandate and ensure that women are retained in their previous positions. But let’s not stop there. Apart from retaining your female employees, how about we start hiring more women and providing leadership opportunities for them?
Mentorship programs helps in this regard because it dismantles the roadblocks women face when they ask for more or try to elevate their positions. Companies providing mentorship as a career accelerator are showing women that they value their contributions, respect their voices, and are willing to invest in women to help them grow and succeed. So, my hope is that we will see more glass ceilings being shattered in a post-pandemic world because when that happens, women will know that the opportunities exist for them to find their voice, claim their space, and lead with success.
According to the Chinese proverb, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. Today marks the beginning of a new journey for each of you as either mentors or mentees. This mentorship program is expected to challenge as well as inspire you to make changes in your lives that will lead you to the path of success. The knowledge, advice and lessons you will learn will hopefully bring a new perspective on how you view yourselves, how you adjust to new situations, and what you believe is possible for your own personal growth and development.
I want to remind you today that every woman is a natural-born leader even if she may not fully believe this. Far too often, as women we allow ourselves to let doubt creep into our minds, convincing us that we are not worthy enough for that raise, or we aren’t deserving enough for that promotion, or we don’t have a voice loud enough that will command respect and authority. When we allow ourselves to believe in these things, we are stripping away our power as natural-born leaders.
To our class of 28 mentees and 26 mentors, let me say thank you for your participation in this year’s mentorship programme. The success of this year’s programme depends on you, and how much you are willing to give and receive. Mentors you have the experience, the knowledge and the wisdom to know what it takes to become a successful and effective leader. We won’t be creating real change if you hold all of these lessons to yourself. As U.S. women’s rights pioneer Margaret Fuller once said, “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” That’s how we create a gender-equal world where everyone has a fair chance to succeed.
And to our mentees, take full advantage of the advice and counsel your mentors will provide. Accept the challenges they may throw at you, don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek clarification when you are unsure about something, and remember to always be willing to learn not just to grow but to inspire. Remember, you may be mentees today but tomorrow you will be someone’s mentor. So, the change starts with you.
At AMCHAM T&T, we are always grateful to partners who share our collective vision and are willing to uphold the principles we adopt. Therefore, once more I would like to thank our partners at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) for their generous support and unwavering commitment to this Mentorship Programme. We would not be here hosting this 4th cohort without your expertise and resources.
I also want to thank my eight Board members who have volunteered to be part of this Mentorship Program. Thank you to our CEO, Nirad Tewarie for continuing to show strong leadership on this very important issue. And I also must thank Miss Rey-Anne Paynter-Mendez and everyone at the Secretariat for their hard work and dedication they have put into this year’s programme.
Thank you so much everyone and please follow the COVID-19 guidelines so that we can all stay safe and protect each other from this virus.