International Women’s Day 2021 continues to build on last year’s theme of Generation Equality. This year, woman across the world stand in solidarity, raising ours hands to assert the right to #ChooseToChallenge gender inequality.

Today, as we recognise International Women’s Day, I exercise my right to #ChooseToChallenge Caribbean organisations, to increase the opportunities for women to access leadership roles in our places of work. I am proud to work in an Organisation in which close to half of our Board consists of women and I head a Secretariat team where over 80% of the employees are women.

Additionally, in a sector which last year rose to the heights of becoming an essential service in many countries, and still largely continues to be the conduit through which education, health, Government, financial and other services are enjoyed; the ICT sector itself is still characterized by insufficient female representation. This is the scenario which I challenge our Caribbean ICT organisations to change, more so as we often claim to be able to provide the technology to fuel societal transformation. In so doing, we may find ourselves leading the charge for inspiring such change in other business sectors.

Throughout history, despite the negativity we face or perhaps driven by the barriers to our success, women have remained resilient. We have faced discrimination, abuse and harassment. But, undaunted, we continue to make a difference.

Although a 2019 ILO Report stated that over the past 20 years, the inclusion of women in the labour market in Latin America and the Caribbean, has allowed over 131 million women to participate in the workforce; it also noted that there was still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the Region. Research has shown that women who work and earn their own income, can positively impact the economy and our societies, yet we continue to fight the uphill battle for wage parity.

Girls and young women, once given the equal chance to access education, possess the knowledge and skills to effectively contribute on the production floor, or in the boardroom and should be remunerated accordingly. I #ChooseToChallenge Caribbean business leaders, to recognise that the underrepresentation of women in key leadership roles, is an unfortunate waste of intelligence that we can no longer afford, either in terms of innovation or decision-making.

The socioeconomic challenges which our Caribbean societies routinely face, and which have been worsened by the pandemic, need all hands onboard to effect meaningful change. Greater gender equality, at all levels, offers the diverse thinking, multidisciplinary knowledge and strategies required if we are to successfully overcome these challenges. To the women (and men) of our Region, #ChooseToChallenge yourself to release old patterns, to speak up and to collaborate with each other to navigate an increasingly complex world, which needs our collective brainpower to create a better and more sustainable future for all.