Dr. Marlene Street Forrest Recipient of The Stella Gregory Award

Managing Director of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) Dr. Marlene Street Forrest, in a virtual ceremony on December 8, 2021, received the Stellar Gregory Award for her role in encouraging the growth of female leadership in Jamaica. She said that while there is still gender equality in Jamaica, things are changing rapidly and implored females to seize the opportunity granted to them through education.

“It is a fact that although educational opportunities are open to all and women have achieved, globally and indeed in Jamaica, there still is not equal representation as captains of industries and within the political arena. We understand that one does not get into a door unless you are given access through lobbying, arduous work at pushing the obstacles down or just seizing an opportunity at the right time when it is presented. We must relentlessly continue to do so,” said Dr. Street Forrest.

Dr. Street Forrest, who became General Manager of the Jamaica Stock Exchange in 2005 and now leads the Group as Managing Director, during this period when the Exchange was recognized as the best performing exchange in the world in 2015 and 2018, said there remains much work to be done. “There is so much more work for us as women to do and that includes paying forward the opportunities that have been given to us, by simply affirming other girls and women, by mentoring, and providing opportunities for them to excel,” she said.

“We must however remember how for years some of the ‘gatekeepers’ have been playing an integral part in assisting to narrow and to remove the gender representation gap. Even in my own advancement, I have risen on the shoulders of some men who have seen the need to have a balance at both the managerial and board levels and have fought hard to assist in having my talent recognized,” she said, arguing that there are those though, who have been equally firm in not providing access to females. “People differ and so the process of marshalling our support from men is continuous,” she added.

Dr. Street Forrest charged women to change their mindsets as they seek recognition for their talents.

“Of equal importance is the engaging of women, some of whom must also change their mindsets into thinking that to improve and increase access for other women is to devalue their own achievements.” I have been interviewed by women and have been asked the question as to my ability to manage and influence because I do not appear to be aggressive. I refused to change who I am to fit into the male stereotype of a successful leader.”

“As women, we should be comfortable in our skins and our progress will be based on our excellence. What prevents a woman leader from being pretty and powerful, and smart, yet sensitive? Nothing!”

Dr. Street Forrest noted the changing dynamics, as females are now increasingly seeking personal wealth, especially in Jamaica. “I am pleased to inform though, that the landscape is changing in Jamaica, as statistic now shows that more women are investing in companies that are listed on the Exchange and are keeping abreast with the market.” This is welcomed news. “More now than ever, the balance has shifted with many thought leaders acknowledging that the soft skills in management and leadership which are more dominant in women, are important to organizations’ longevity and sustainability.”

Dr. Street Forrest praised the Soroptimist global volunteer movement for women for championing the advancement of female leadership. “I can relate to the values and mission of the Soroptimist global volunteer movement for women in business, management, and the professions, which continue to work to transform the lives of women and girls. This was necessary when the movement was founded, and I believe would have taken a certain level of grit and determination to attempt to level a playing field which was heavily stacked against women.”

“I am humbled and honoured to be here accepting the Stella Gregory Soroptimist Award. I am appreciative of the recognition and thank those who have nominated me for this prestigious award. I wish to acknowledge the members of the Selection Committee who have worked hard to execute on this award year after year. Being the recipient of this award means so much to me, because it has allowed me the privilege of being in the esteemed company of previous awardees who have contributed significantly both to their companies and to Jamaica as whole, and most importantly to the upliftment of women across Jamaica,” she said.

The Stella Gregory Award was inaugurated in 1976 to honour the Club’s founder, Stella Gregory, who introduced Soroptimist International as the first service club for business and professional women in Jamaica.

Dr. Marlene Street Forrest is holder of a national award, the commander of the order of distinction for her work in transforming the Jamaica Stock Exchange. Earlier this year she was conferred with an honorary doctorate from the University College of the Caribbean in the field of public policy.