Dr. Marcia Forbes: There Are Too Few Women in Decision-Making Positions in Jamaica

Here is Dr. Marcia Forbes’ presentation at Jamaica House on International Women’s Day, when the Prime Minister hosted a large group of women for lunch. It is direct and to the point. Marcia tells it like it is! 

A collage of photos from the International Women’s Day event, including the new “Fearless Girl” statue facing down the Wall Street bull; and Marcia Forbes (lower right).

March 8, 2017

Written by Dr. Marcia Forbes

Greetings – Prime Minister, Ministers, Colleagues:

Thanks for inviting me and for offering an opportunity to speak. It is a privilege and an honour.

Prime Minister, Ministers and Colleagues, this is what is trending today. The statue of a little girl fearlessly staring down a charging Bull.

That Bull is a symbol of Wall Street, the Stock Market, the world of money and POWER. I’ll come back to it.

No More Women’s Day

Many of us long for the day when there are no more celebrations of ‘Women’s Day’ because women would have become equal partners in our Jamaican society and in societies across the World.

Sadly this is not so – and based on the pace of change will not be so for decades to come. We have been celebrating International Women’s Day for just over 100 years now. According to the World Economic Forum, it may be another almost 100 years before there is some form of Gender Equality.

There is no Men’s Day – because it’s a man’s world.

Prime Minister, we congratulate you on your support for the UN Women Global Campaign, #HeForShe, as well as on the appointment of some highly competent women to your Cabinet. But you know Prime Minister, women account for less than a quarter (1/4) of the total Cabinet.

So like Oliver Twist, we are saying, “Please Sir, we want some more.”

We women want more, not because we are greedy, Prime Minister, but because so many studies across the world highlight the many ways in which companies and countries do better when more women are involved in decision making at all levels. Like the men, we women want the very best for Jamaica.


Prime Minister, allow me to quote directly from a 2015 report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The ILO noted that “An increasing number of studies illustrate the links between women’s presence in top management and boards, and company results.”

Positive Links!!

Greater Return on Equity

More Profits

Greater Value to Shareholders

Better decision-making

But companies need three or more women on their Board of Directors. Not a token woman or two…and Competent Women!!

Coming back to this picture, yesterday, State Street Global, a $2.5 TRILLION asset manager erected this statue of Fearless Girl in time for today- International Women’s Day – as one way of helping to bring attention to the need for gender diversity in Wall Street companies, meaning getting more women on BOARDS.

Women on Boards in Jamaica

Prime Minister, there are still too many Boards and Commissions in Jamaica with too few women. Certain key Boards are especially in need of gender balance.

Up to July last year (2016) there were still ALL MALE Boards such as:

  • Harmony Cove
  • Betting Gaming & Lotteries Commission
  • At least three sugar companies – St. Thomas, Trelawny and the Sugar Company of Jamaica

Out of 130 Boards, only 23 had women as Chairpersons – Prime Minister, that was less than 20%

Consider these findings when we know that about 70% of University graduates are women. Women are well-educated!

We boast about Jamaica having so many female managers but it is the men who continue to dominate Board Rooms and key decision-making across the public sector and the private sector.


The ILO spoke about Women Board Directors making a difference in the performance of companies, and we know that when companies perform better, countries perform better as more jobs are created.

  • We all know the challenge of high unemployment levels in Jamaica.
  • And we all know the gaping disparities between female and male employment levels in Jamaica.
  • Unemployment among 20 to 34 year old women is almost 30%, compared to 15.5% among the males.

Poor women are disempowered and disenfranchised. They are effectively robbed of their POWER and AUTONOMY.


There are proven links between women’s economic empowerment and their autonomy.

The economically weak have little autonomy – as a country Jamaica knows that very well. And so it is with women. So let’s take a quick look at the continuing wage gap.

Wage gap

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in a March 2016 report noted: “Women receive on average only 9 monetary units for each 100 monetary units received by men….” That’s about 16% less than men.

ECLAC noted: “Comparing wages received by both sexes according to years of schooling, women can earn up to 6 percent less than their male peers in similar conditions.”


We all love our athletes, yes? Well, one report from a Social Psychology Journal highlighted how countries with greater gender equality won more Olympics medals.

They looked at 121 countries, using data from the London 2012 Olympics and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in tandem with the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2014.

Can we imagine what Jamaica’s medal count could look like if we had greater gender equality?

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘BeBoldForChange’

Prime Minister, I have no doubt that every one of the women sitting here would want you to BeBoldForChange, because it is through this that Jamaica will achieve the 5 in 4. Thank you.

Dr. Marcia Forbes (far left) looking very cool in shades, with some of the other women at the Jamaica House luncheon. (Photo: Facebook)


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