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Who’s the boss? Bahamian women in leadership

By JEFFARAH GIBSON

Tribune Features Writer

jgibson@tribunemedia.net

TODAY, women all around the world are being celebrated for their advancements, achievements and strides they have made. International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality.

This year the call to action is summed up with the hashtag “BreaktheBias” - a call to rid the world of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. The collective vision is for a world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. A world where differences are valued and celebrated.

All around the globe, women are breaking the mould and glass ceilings, choosing non-traditional career paths, becoming their own bosses through entrepreneurship, and ascending to leadership roles in various companies.

Locally, CG Atlantic is one of few companies that boasts of 100 percent female leadership. In celebration of International Women’s Day, Tribune Woman interviewed five of the women in the top positions.

They spoke about their roles, what significance this day has, the importance of women being highlighted, the women that have inspired them, as well what song they play when they want to activate their inner girl power.


• Lynda Gibson, Executive Vice President and General Manager of CG Atlantic Medical & Life

Mother of two, married for over 40 years, and with CG Atlantic since its inception over 25 years ago.

Q: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A: “I’m so happy that women are being celebrated. Women do a lot of heavy lifting in their careers and there is a lot to balance when you have a family too. As a pioneer in the professional world, I’m elated to see that women are being celebrated on a global scale each year.”

Q: Which female leader, locally or globally, has inspired you and why?

A: “Many Bahamian women have inspired me. But I would have to say my mom; she was self-made, she was an entrepreneur her entire life – a real estate broker who left a legacy for her kids. She was a babysitter to her grandkids; she had gifted hands as she was also a seamstress. She balanced both real estate portfolios along with operating her own clothing store. She was the wind beneath my wings; she was in the gym up to 80 plus years old. Rest in peace Florene Crawley.”

Q: What lessons have you learned as a woman in leadership?

A: “You must be strong, positive, determined. You must be a mentor; possess a sense of urgency in getting the job done. You must be able to multi-task. Most importantly, you must have work/life balance.”

Q: What advice would you give to other women who are currently leaders or hope to one day become a leader?

A: “Live a balanced life. Leadership is really good, but I encourage women to create a balance. Get into a career that you really love so that you don’t feel like you’re doing a task every day. I come to work every day enjoying what I do because my career is one that I truly love.”

Q: Your girl power song?

A: Adele – ‘Hello’. Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross and Whitney are few of my favourite artists.


• Paulette Turner, General Manager of CG Atlantic General

Wife and mother of three; with CG Atlantic for over 14 years.

Q: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A: “Having grown up seeing my mom and other women in more supporting roles rather than roles of leadership, I always knew that I wanted to be different. Why settle? Why not be the pilot, doctor, CEO? I’m proud to see the strides women have made in more leadership roles. All jobs are important, but the message to young girls should be that the choice is yours. You choose what you want to do and go after it. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot accomplish. I have a four-year-old daughter and she will know and believe that the sky is truly the limit for her.”

Q: Why do you think it is important for women to be celebrated on this day?

A: “To take a moment, pause and reflect on and acknowledge the women who came before us and whose shoulders we stand on as well as encourage the future female generation that they can be whatever they choose.

Q: Which female leader, locally or globally, has inspired you and why?

A: “Barbados’ current prime minister, Mia Mottley. Politics has been historically a male-dominated arena, and to see a female who looks like me from an island like I am gain the respect on an international level while having the local support at home has been amazing to witness. She is demonstrating that women can be good leaders despite critics saying otherwise.”

Q: What lessons have you learned as a woman in leadership?

A: “It’s OK to not be superwoman and have it all. Ask for help and support when needed. Many times, we think it’s a sign of weakness or failing to ask for assistance when in fact it’s a sign of strength and wisdom to recognise when you need help and seek it. Balancing work and home life is a constant juggle, and a good support network can make all the difference.”

Q: What advice would you give to other women who are currently leaders or hope to one day become a leader?

A: “Once you are determined, focused and work hard to achieve your goals, I promise the sky is the limit and you will succeed. Always remember to work together and encourage one another as women in the workplace.”

Q: Your girl power song?

A: “ ‘Run the World (Girls)’ by Beyonce.”


• May-kui Butler, Agency Manager for CG Atlantic Agents & Brokers

Mother of two young children, originally from the UK but living in the Bahamas for several years now

Q: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A: “This year’s theme feels especially relevant having a young daughter. She’s four and won’t experience gender parity in her lifetime, as it’s anticipated to be 135 years away! IWD is a great platform to raise awareness of inequality and at the same time highlight accomplishments and success stories, as people all over the world take action to #breakthebias.”

Q: Why do you think it is important for women to be celebrated on this day?

A: “At a local level I’m very proud to be part of a 100 percent female leadership team at CG Atlantic. We don’t shout about this enough and we need to. We should play our part in inspiring young female Bahamians, showing them what is possible. IWD is a great opportunity to highlight that over 85 percent of our workforce is female.”

Q: Which woman leader, locally or globally, has inspired you and why?

A: “My best friend, who left school with no qualifications is the founder and managing directing of an award-winning brand communications agency. If that isn’t inspiring enough, she’s also successfully co-parenting two daughters and she built her business in a way that gives her the work/life balance she needs in her role as mum. A real superwoman.”

Q: What lessons have you learned as a woman in leadership?

A: “You got your position because you deserve it. Not because you were in the right place at the right time, had a lucky break or because you knew someone. As women we can suffer from imposter syndrome, when really, we should just be proud of ourselves and our achievements. You don’t need to sacrifice your career aspirations when starting your family. You can do it both. I won’t pretend it’s easy, but it can be done. Take time to take care of you. Often as working mums in leadership positions our physical and mental well-being isn’t on the agenda. Self-care is something I personally need to start being intentional about.”

Q: What advice would you give to other women who are currently leaders or hope to one day become a leader?

A: “Be willing to start at the bottom, take those sideways moves to develop and grow. Seek constructive feedback and take action to become the best version of you. Be conscious of what you post on social media – I always search online to see if candidates have profiles and first impressions count. Always spell-check that resume and update your cover letter; poorly constructed resumes won’t get you to interview stage. Finally, own your journey to becoming a leader; no one should care about your career as much as you do.”

Q: Your girl power song?

A: “You might spot me driving to work singing along to Mary J Blige’s ‘Just Fine’. It gives feel-good vibes and always brings back memories of a girls’ trip to Miami.”


Shantel Saunders, Operations Manager CG-Atlantic Pensions

She has over 30 years' experience in the financial services industry, and has served both civic and profession organisations, some of which include Junior Achievement, Zonta Club of New Providence and the PACE Foundation

Q: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A: “IWD is meaningful to me as it sets aside a specific day to celebrate the accomplishments of women to highlight and share information not widely known. It serves as an opportunity for women of all ages, allowing them to gain inspiration and motivation that further supports the achievement of complete gender equality both locally and globally.”

Q: Why do you think it is important for women to be celebrated on this day?

A: “It allows for the recognition and honour of those unsung heroes, trailblazers along who those have broken glass ceilings in the continuous battle to remove all discrimination and oppression barriers in the rights of women.”

Q: Which woman leader, locally or globally, has inspired you and why?

A: “Thasunda Brown-Ducett, CEO of Consumer Bamking, JP Morgan Chase, USA. I find her inspiring as she rose from humble beginnings. Like her, I too have had persons and organisations that served as disrupters that put me on path to identifying and eventually finding my passion. Persons such asHelen Turnquest, Janice Knowles, Seretha Cleare and Neville Bowen. Organisations such as Junior Achievement, Key Club and Zonta, to name a few. Like Thasunda, my job title is what I do and my purpose and passion is who I am… Thasunda is in a career that is male-dominated, challenged with diversity and inclusion. Through it all, she continues to burst through the glass ceilings in an effort to open doors for women of colour. She proves that she can hurdle over barriers by remaining her true self.”

Q: What lessons have you learned as a woman in leadership?

A: “Leadership is a mindset and privilege. No one is born with the all the characteristics or skill set required to lead. Leadership cannot be forced, it requires willingness to serve, tenacity, courage, resilience and self-confidence be successful. Being good at what you do is simply not enough, you must be willing to develop others while supporting and inspiring them towards a common goal. It’s not about you…Although there exists a disparity in the ratio of male men to female leaders in some areas, there has been some improvement. Women must continue to encourage and support one another. Make the difficult decisions, speak up, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, ask for help and delegate. A leader must be honest, able to effectively communicate, transparent, objective, empowering, adaptable, and consistently evaluating. Leadership is a life-long journey.”

Q: What advice would you give to other women who are currently leaders or hope to one day become a leader?

A: “Leadership takes hard work, dedication, it’s about being, embracing strengths, seeking self-improvement, asking for help, becoming a mentor, supporting their peers, having a right mindset, being thoughtful of others and practicing good work/life balance.”

Q: Your girl power song?

A: “ ‘I’m Every Woman’ by Chaka Khan.”


• Annastasia Francis, Vice President of Health

Married with two children, she responsible for overall management and coordination of CG Atlantic Medical and Life

Q: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A: “Not only is this a day to celebrate and highlight the accomplishments of women globally, but it’s a day to inspire girls, demonstrating to them that there are no limits on what it is that they hope to become.”

Q: Why do you think it is important for women to be celebrated on this day?

A: “It’s important to celebrate women on this day because women have always played a crucial role in the workplace but have gone unrecognised. Women continue to be vastly under-represented in decision-making in business and in the community at large.”

Q: Which woman leader, locally or globally, has inspired you and why?

A: “(Barbados Prime Minister) Mia Mottley. She is fearless, unapologetic, and more importantly, takes action.”

Q: What lessons have you learned as a woman in leadership?

A: “I think the most important lesson that I have learned as a woman in leadership is that I don’t have to be a part of the boys' club to be successful. Tap into the qualities that you bring as a women, e.g. empathise, develop an emotional connection with those that you lead. This helps you to inspire and transform beliefs leading to higher levels of engagement, productivity and performance.”

Q: What advice would you give to other women who are currently leaders or hope to one day become a leader?

A: “Be yourself, work hard, stay focused and be committed to your goal.”

Q: Your girl power song?

A: “ ‘I’m a survivor’ by Destiny’s Child.”

Comments

John 5 months, 1 week ago

The short and end of it is ‘Happy wife, Happy life!’ And most Bahamian men subscribe to this. They don’t mind their wives being in control of things as long as the hear ‘ Chile I don’t ever make a decision without consulting my husband. Most of the time he would say go ahead baby and do what you decide. But sometimes he would say ‘you sure that’s what’ you want to do? And I would stop and pause. And we would have intense discussion ms. Then he would still say ‘do what you think is best.’ But by now I know how he feels about the matter and also I have his knowledge included when I make the decision.’

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