AMCHAM 10th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference – President’s Opening Remarks

March 18th, 2024    |   Related To: AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO (AMCHAM T&T)


Inspire Inclusion

Her Excellency Christine Carla Kangaloo ORTT, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago poses with the AMCHAM T&T Board of Directors, CEO, and members of the Secretariat.
Her Excellency Christine Carla Kangaloo ORTT, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago poses with the AMCHAM T&T Board of Directors, CEO, and members of the Secretariat. (l-r) Melissa Pierre – Senior Trade and Policy Specialist (AMCHAM T&T); Anna Henderson – Vice President (AMCHAM T&T) & Chief Executive Officer (AMARANTH Business Solutions); Kieron Bailey – Director (AMCHAM T&T) & Sr Vice President: Country Compliance Officer – Trinidad / LATAM Compliance Monitoring & MCA Lead (Citi); Glenn Hamel-Smith – Director (AMCHAM T&T) & Partner & Head – Banking & Finance (M. Hamel-Smith & Co.); Griselle Smith – Director (AMCHAM T&T) & Caribbean HR Leader – Human
Resources (IBM) ; Nirad Tewarie – CEO (AMCHAM T&T); Her Excellency Christine Carla Kangaloo ORTT, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; Patricia Ghany – Director (AMCHAM T&T) & Chief Financial Officer (Esau Oilfield Supplies & Co Limited); Stuart Franco – President (AMCHAM T&T) & Chief Executive Officer (The TSL Group); Toni Sirju-Ramnarine – Director (AMCHAM T&T) & Vice President, Corporate Operations and Transformation (Atlantic LNG); Greer Quan – Vice President (AMCHAM T&T) & Chief Executive Officer – Caribbean (Pan American Life Insurance Group)
Tricia De La Rosa-Camacho – Treasuer & Director (AMCHAM T&T) & VP, AML/ATF & Compliance (Scotiabank Trinidad & Tobago Limited); Hema Son Son – Accountant (AMCHAM T&T)
Stuart Franco, President, AMCHAM
By Stuart Franco
President, AMCHAM T&T

Welcome!

Good morning, everyone.

I am delighted and honoured to welcome each of you today as we commemorate the 10th Anniversary of AMCHAM T&T’s Annual Women’s Leadership Conference.

For the past decade, we have been on a remarkable journey that saw us celebrating the triumphs and successes of women in our country while shedding light on the numerous challenges that hinder their progress and growth.

I am filled with immense joy and gratitude as I reflect on how this event has evolved over the years, garnering increased attendance, support from sponsors, and building awareness of the issues facing women in our society. It is heartening to witness the growing momentum behind our collective efforts to uplift and empower women in every aspect of our society.

Before I delve further into today’s proceedings, I want to emphasize that our commitment to championing these causes remains unwavering. We are steadfast in our resolve to create a safer, more equitable world where every individual has the opportunity to thrive and fulfil their potential, regardless of gender, race, or preference.

As we come together today, I hope that we can reaffirm our dedication to advancing gender equality, dismantling barriers, and fostering an environment where both women and young ladies can flourish. Together, we can drive meaningful change and build a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

So, let me express my gratitude to all of the companies, leaders, and allies who are present here for their continued support and participation in this important initiative. Here’s to ten years of progress, and to many more years of collective action and impact.

INSPIRE INCLUSION

Today, we are called together to Inspire Inclusion. I love the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations because it highlights something that is needed so much right now in our country and in our world.

When we take a brief glimpse of some of the major issues impacting the lives of citizens and countries today, it doesn’t take long to recognize that our world is heavily divided.

Despite our best efforts, divisions & boundaries along the lines of gender, race, class, sex, religion, and geography, separate and divide us from coming together to solve problems. When this goes unchecked a cycle of endless hate, intolerance, and violence is created which impacts every generation.

Simply put, these divisions not only impede progress but also undermine our collective humanity. That’s why I want to say that it’s so important for each of us to start prioritizing the way we see one another: first and foremost, as human beings deserving of respect and love, regardless of our differences.

I want to note that nothing I have said here is new to anyone in this room. We already know this. The question is: why do our differences continue to divide and undermine our hopes and dreams for an equitable and inclusive future for all?

That’s the question I want us to keep asking ourselves every time someone or something tries to tear us apart. I am not saying all our problems will be solved if we suddenly start showing compassion and love for one another. But it will be a first step that can create the change and future we all desire.

Essentially, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” Romans 13:8

So, what does that future look like?

First, it begins by ensuring that every woman has a basic right to feel safe and protected in both their physical and virtual spaces. Let me say this: it serves nobody’s interest when we live in a country where crime impacts from the tender age of six to senior citizens. Worse is the fact that we have a 42% increase in domestic violence cases since 2021.

When you hear these alarming reports and statistics, it does not augur well for a welcoming and inclusive future. It makes me wonder whether this is what we want for our children and future generations.

Women are far too often the silenced or forgotten victims. This needs to change. Every incident of violence not only inflicts physical harm but also leaves lasting emotional and psychological scars on the victims and their families.

As a society, it is incumbent upon us to stand in solidarity with the victims, offer them support and assistance, and work tirelessly to prevent further acts of violence. Therefore, we must change the language and cultural mindset in which we view women and how crime impacts them. We cannot say we are creating a gender-inclusive society when we continue to say to domestic violence victims “Why did she stay with him” or to sexual assault victims “Look at what she was wearing”.

This entrenched cultural mindset to constantly shame survivors and victims’ shifts the blame away from the real perpetrators and tells women they are not to be believed and that their lives have no value. This is not acceptable!

To the men in the audience. When we hear these reports, I want you to think about your mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, aunts, and nieces and ask yourself if this is the kind of world you want for them.

I am sure the answer is “no”. So, let’s recognize our collective responsibility to protect and safeguard women, while simultaneously fostering an environment where they can find their voice and fulfil their true potential.

As parents, let’s recognize the role we play in shaping the attitude and behaviour of future generations, particularly our sons. Teaching them to reject harmful stereotypes, can help cultivate generations of men who prioritize empathy, equality, and compassion. That’s why acceptance of male violence or male aggression must never be our norm or how we express masculinity.

Finally, let me zero in on the workplace. The reality is, despite the many glass ceilings women have broken, we often hear women complaining about the difficulty they face in the workplace.

Inspiring Inclusion in the workplace isn’t about fulfilling DEI quotas just to boost our corporate image or brand. It’s about creating a workplace culture that values ability and creates a true sense of belonging for every employee. We can achieve this by ensuring fair and equitable opportunities for career advancements, flexible work arrangements, and effective mentoring and sponsorship programs to help all employees excel and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

So, I challenge every company and every leader to ask yourself whether you are doing enough to support equality in the workplace.

Honestly, I would love to see more men in attendance at this conference. We cannot fuel the changes women need in the workplace if the male leaders don’t participate in and support the agenda. We will work on some strategies to boost male participation next year.

Inspiring Inclusion for me means building a diverse workforce where everyone is treated with respect and fairness and is psychologically safe.

We need to foster an environment where leaders not just LISTEN but HEAR what team members are sharing. When we are strong enough to do this, we give voice to all team members who often feel silenced, overlooked, and devalued.

I want to tell you that’s what we did here at AMCHAM T&T. We have been hosting this Conference for the past decade because we made it our responsibility to promote gender equality and provide more spaces to empower all women. But we didn’t stop there. Based on your feedback, we launched the Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme in 2017, which was initially conceptualized by our CEO, Nirad, and brought to life by Carina Cockburn and our friends at the IDB. This programme continues to exceed our expectations every year with 175 women greatly benefiting from it to date. A special thanks to all the mentors as well. This year we had over 60 volunteers.

While women have always been an integral part of our organization, we recognized that there were gaps that needed to be filled especially at the board level. That’s why we made gender parity a strategic goal for our organization. I am proud to say that this goal was met in 2020 with 8 male and 8 female directors serving on our board. We successfully retained gender parity until 2022. Today, we have more women on our board than men. So, as you can see, we didn’t just listen. We heard you and got to work!

As we welcome all the talented speakers to this stage later today, I want you to do more than just listen. Let’s embrace what they are teaching us and take what we learn from today’s conference back to our offices to Inspire Inclusion.

Thank you, and HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY to all the dynamic, powerful, and inspiring women in this room today, and thanks to the men who support them.

Please know that you will always have a voice here at AMCHAM T&T as we continue to seek greater opportunities for women everywhere.
Thank you.

Sponsors

  • Platinum Sponsors – Scotiabank, Proman Trinidad, The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago
  • Gold Sponsors – Methanex Trinidad Limited, Angostura Limited
  • Silver Sponsors – Pan American Life Insurance Group, Kenson Group of Companies, Optometrist Today, Courts Trinidad and Tobago
  • Media Partner – Guardian Media Limited
  • Cocktail Sponsor – Caribbean Bottlers Trinidad and Tobago, Restaurant Holdings Limited.
  • Technology Partner: Balroop Group

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