More Women in St. Kitts and Nevis Ascend To Top Leadership Positions But Challenges Remain

Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 04, 2016 (SKNIS): St. Kitts and Nevis continues to make strides in the promotion of gender equity with women occupying a large number of senior positions in society, however, Minister of State for Gender Affairs, Senator the Honourable Wendy Phipps said there is still a lot of work to be done.

The minister touched on the matter while appearing on this week’s edition of “Working for You.” Her appearance foreshadows the March 08 commemoration of International Women’s Day which will be observed in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Citing preliminary numbers of persons employed in 2015 from the Social Security Board, Minister Phipps said there were 13,530 females and 12,336 males on the payroll, amounting to some 25,866 persons in total, although this number was provisional. When positions of authority are considered within the public service, women feature quite prominently, she said.

“If you want to look at permanent secretaries, we have done tremendously well,” Senator Phipps said. “Permanent secretaries dominate the gender distribution as it relates to women. For example, you have leadership at the PS level in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Public Works, in the Ministry of Finance – you have the financial secretary, there is also one other permanent secretary. There are two [deputy financial] secretaries in there, one of them is female. Also, in Human Resources you have a female right there and the list goes on.”

Similar examples of women in leadership roles were also cited in schools, faith-based institutions, and non-governmental organizations. Women in the private sector were also mentioned, however, Minister Phipps, who herself achieved much in the private field, said more had to be done to close the gender pay gap.

“When it comes to those types of environment, when salaries are not regulated by statute, what I have found is that women have to fight for what they want,” the minister of state expressed, adding that in most cases the female works twice as hard as her male counterpart in the same position.

She spoke about some of the challenges that women ascending the corporate ladder often face such as name calling, condescending attitudes, and others, noting that more must be done to correct this.

“You seem to be a ‘go getter’ as they call it,” Senator Phipps said, citing an example. “As a female there is another five letter word that begins with a “B” … that they refer to women as if you are a ‘go getter’, but then if you’re a man you have ambition.”

She encouraged women to be more vocal in negotiating and demanding better for themselves and also implored females to be more supportive of each other, particularly in an office setting. The importance of having strong female role models was also mentioned and a special call was made for mothers to fill that spot.

Senator Phipps said Government will continue to create empowerment opportunities for girls and women to advance, and also to uplift men.

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