The women in business conference which opened at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre at Liliendaal yesterday, presents the unique opportunity for females in leadership positions to network — learn from each other and build capacity to expand their work.
Coordinator of the WeLead Caribbean-sponsored conference and local businesswoman, Abbigale Loncke, was keen to make mention of the need for support and encouragement from females in largely male-dominated business spheres.
This is Loncke’s third annual women’s conference which she themed PowHERful Transition from Inspiration to Action.
The conference features a dynamic group of women in business and those in leadership positions including First lady of Guyana Sandra Granger, Ansa McAl Country Head, Beverly Harper, United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, Ethiopian Princess Arianna Makonnen, and Beyonce Publicist Yvette Noel –Schure –who gave the keynote address.
Facilitators of the Conference highlighted the issues affecting women in the workplace including sexual harassment, gender pay inequality and sexual reproductive rights discrimination.
In her address to the gathering, Mrs. Granger noted that if women are to achieve their fullest potential, they must be given equal opportunities. She emphasised the need for more support to be given to women who launch out on their own.
Mrs Granger noted, nonetheless, that there is not even enough data on women in business to provide a guideline of how to support them.
“I was trying to get information on women in business in Guyana, and I called a friend of mine at one organisation, and I got a response that the last time we had (information) was in 1994 to 95. I called the Small Business Unit and I got some slightly more updated information, but I couldn’t get the disaggregated – how many men got loans in relation to how many women? What was the quantum of the loan – males, females, what areas? It means that if you are thinking about developing and growing, you have to start from an information environment if you want to compete in the modern world,” she explained.
According to the First lady, her work with self-reliant and ordinary women in developing and sustaining small businesses in a wide range of areas has garnered success.
The US Ambassador on the other hand, focused on contributions of women in politics and economics.
“I believe that empowerment comes from knowing yourself and the value of what you bring to the table, and as women, we bring a lot. We are one-half of humanity.”
The diplomat pointed to data that supports the notion that women’s involvement in politics and economics increase the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of a country.
“The GDP goes up, and the poverty rates go down. It is proven that companies with more women in higher management positions achieve higher profits.
So it’s not enough to just talk about empowering women, if you’re serious about the political, economic and security of the future. Women need to be involved in every aspect of shaping the world they live in, and they need the tools to do that,” she said.
The Ambassador stressed, nonetheless, that there are still historical barriers and obstacles to women achieving their full potential.
“Sexism is still with us. We’ve all felt it. The meetings where your ideas are ignored, and a man says the same thing and he gets the credit. The banks that won’t extend credit to you because you’re a woman …The direct assaults on women who are attacked and then blamed for wearing the wrong thing or being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Lynch reflected.
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