Excerpts from the speech of Canada’s High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Ms Carla Hogan Rufelds, at the graduation ceremony of Women Innovators Network in the Caribbean (WINC)
Under the umbrella of promoting sustainable business development, Canada has invested CAN$20 Million in the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean, (EPIC) which promotes high growth, inclusive and sustainable entrepreneurship in the Caribbean.
The core activities of this investment include the development of business incubators for digital entrepreneurship, support to women entrepreneurs networks and climate technology. The WINC program is part of the women entrepreneurs network.
We sometimes hear that women prefer to stay home. An International Labour Organisation (ILO) survey asked women their preference between paid work, or care for their families or both . 70% of those surveyed indicated a very clear preference for paid work. Despite this stated option, women participate less in the work force.
In the Caribbean, female labour participation is lower than males’ due to factors including unequal access to opportunity, legal obstacles and wage gaps. The main obstacles are gender roles, lack of transport, work-life balance and lack of affordable care for their dependents.
Research shared by Professor Moore of the University of the West Indies illustrates that less than 20% of entrepreneurial business in the Caribbean are owned by women. Women face more obstacles than men to start businesses including access to finance, crime and corruption.
For employed women the gender pay gap is at 19%.
Most economic opportunities are in largely male dominated sectors. This is compounded by women’s low participation in STEM – Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics, – which translates to low employment opportunities in the sectors which tend to yield higher wages.
A 2016 InterDevelopment Bank (IDB) analysis looking at 70,000 publicly listed companies worldwide, revealed that Caribbean companies have an average of 18% female board members and 29% of female executives.
For all these reasons, programs such as WINC are vital to support the drive for women’s empowerment and the promotion of gender equity in the economic landscape for Caribbean countries.
Canada believes that when women are empowered, they become powerful agents for change capable of transforming their families, communities and their countries. The Canadian government is pleased to continue to provide funding for initiatives such as WINC because we want to build a world in which women’s economic empowerment and the leadership of women are brought to fruition every day.
Maxine Attong is an Organizational Development Consultant, author and coach. If you enjoyed this post, please share with you colleagues, friends and network.