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Female business leaders chime in on significance of first female president

Published: 
Sunday, January 14, 2018
Catherine Kumar

Women in T&T have come a long way over the last 100 years.

In 1918, women over the age of 30 were finally allowed the right to vote in local government elections.

According to the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s website, even this “right” was based on criteria such as residence, the occupation of land and or business premises, or the qualifications of their husbands in order to vote at local government elections.

Fast forward 100 years later to 2018 and a woman, Justice Paula Mae Weekes is the nominee for the position of President of T&T.

Weekes was nominated by the Government almost two weeks ago to be the next President of the Republic.

The United National Congress (UNC) has also supported the nomination which makes Weekes the President Designate of T&T.

Female business leaders spoke to Sunday Business on this big leap and the significance for the country of having the first female president.

BIG STEP

Gillian Wall, co-founder of the Powerful Ladies of T&T (PLOTT) hails Weekes’ nomination as an important step forward for women in the country.

“It is definitely a move in the right direction. We have seen our country’s first female Prime Minister. We have seen a cabinet with the largest representation of females. Now in the presidency there is confirmation that our women can continue to aspire to the highest office in the land. It is not the fact that it is a woman but the fact that a woman has emerged as the best candidate for the post,” she told Sunday Business.

Wall said she hopes this inspires women rise to top leadership positions in the country.

She also referred to the darker issues such as violence against women in society and women receiving less pay than men for the same positions.

“It would have a positive impact.

The timing of this is key as women across the globe has been calling for gender parity. It is a sign that we are making progress. Both sides of our Government, in leadership and in opposition acknowledge the contribution of a woman who has had a sterling track record.”

Catherine Kumar, a co-founder of PLOTT, former banker and also a former T&T Business Chamber head commented: “ This appointment brings joy and excitement to me for two reasons. The office of the President is a very important one and requires a person of integrity, dignity, seriousness, experience and sound values. Madame Mae Weekes possesses all of these as her past shows us. But then comes the added joy.

She is the first female president.”

Kumar also said this empowers other women who are challenged to make the brave move to sit in high office or take up challenges they may think beyond them, to rethink their stand.

“We females have skill sets that are needed to build our nation. Female diversity is not an option but a requirement for the advancement of any business or nation. This appointment would put T&T on the map again joining the first female Prime minister.”

Ingrid Jahra, CEO Cinema One (Digicel IMax, Gemstone and 4DX) said in a brief statement: “The significance of the first female presidential appointment in our twin republic state, against the current international landscape of female empowerment makes it all the more momentous.”

Designer Claudia Pegus said in a brief statement : “A boost to female leadership. Certainly further inspiration for our young girls.”

ROLE MODEL FOR GIRLS

Daphne Bartlett, President of the San Fernando Business Association told Sunday Business that once she takes office, Weekes would serve as a role model for other women in society.

“Many people use to think that the role of the President is only for men and now they would see that a female can become the President and can hold the highest office in the land. We have also had a female Prime Minister. That augurs well for the whole psyche of the nation, young girls and everyone else.”

She describes Weekes’ nomination as a “welcomed change” because all of the presidents in the past have always been male.

“There is nothing that you can say that would prevent a female from being appointed to the highest office in the land. We have very qualified people including women in the country and this is an example of one.”

She opined that the “glass ceiling” is an overused term.

“I always say and believe in a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and equal pay for equal work. Those are two things that I believe in. If a female is qualified for the job they get the same pay and the same respect.”

Bartlett is also confident that Weekes will be an “unbiased” President.

“We expect that in the office. No matter who you are appointed by would be objective. I also hope that she would be given the same respect as by the male counterparts.”

PROFOUND IMPACT

According to Microsoft Country Head, T&T, Racquel Moses, the appointment is relevant both locally and internationally.

“It’s important for little girls, little Trinidadian and Tobagonian girls to know that there is no achievement that is beyond their reach with dedication and hard work. It is an equally important lesson for our little boys, men young and old to learn what should be obvious; girls and women are equals and are not to be underestimated or mistreated in any way.”

She added that this milestone helps to underscore the “criticality of diversity,” stating that “as a country it would be impossible for citizens to reach their true potential if they are only tapping into half of their talent.”

“It is also especially encouraging that this transition was a unanimous one which reinforces the maturity of our democracy. Congratulations Madam Justice Paula Mae Weekes, continue to make us proud,” Moses concluded.