Guest Speaker Mrs. Eva Lewis, Director, Citi Country Officer/Institutional Clients Group Head, at Citi Jamaica, rang the Bell at the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) to signal the Opening of the Market on March 8, 2022 – International Women’s Day. The Ringing of the Bell at the JSE is part of the UN/IDB/Flow Bell Ringing Ceremony to bring attention to gender equality. This year’s International Women’s Day was celebrated under the theme “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”.
In her welcome, Managing Director of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, Dr. Marlene Street Forrest said, “We need to come together to make positive inroads into achieving the waymarks as represented by the UN 17 sustainable development goals, which if we succeed would transform the world for better. Each company should have written within its strategic plan how we can work towards achieving these objectives, as in fact they represent a measure of our ROI.”
Dr Street Forrest highlighted that this year’s Theme puts focus on UN Sustainable Goal 5-Gender Equality, which has very defined targets. The most pressing and relevant ones for Jamaica are to:
- Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.
- End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere and to
- Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
In her remarks, Ms. Tonni-Anne Brodber of the UN Women Multi-Country Office, Caribbean, expressed commendation to the Jamaica Stock Exchange for leading the celebration over the past three years to ‘Ring the Bell for Gender Equality’. Ms Brodber also thanked the organizing teams and collaborating partners, with special acknowledgement of the Inter-American Development Bank and FLOW.
“The Private Sector is a key partner in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women,” stated Miss Brodber. “Among all the challenges and opportunities that exist in the world today, one fact is unquestionable, companies with greater gender equality enjoy higher levels of growth and better performance. “Not only is gender equality better for countries’ economic success, on a macroeconomic level, but research has also shown that companies are intentional, and when they are intentional about the implementation of gender equality and women’s empowerment policies, they are more profitable,” Ms. Brodber added.
Miss Jessica Bedoya, Chief of Staff and Chief Strategy Officer for the Inter-American Development Bank also applauded the Jamaica Stock Exchange for its role in the global initiative for Women and gratitude that stock exchanges in the Region are backing the initiative to close the gender gap.
“Stock Exchanges can play a strategic role in the shift to gender inclusion. They can engage market participants and integrate gender considerations into mainstream financial practices, for example, they can help promote gender disclosures and create gender indices. All of this supports greater gender inclusion,” said Ms. Bedoya.
Ms. Nyree Coke, Director of Customer Experience at FLOW reiterated that the annual celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) provides a useful platform for advancing the discussions and creates an opportunity for the involvement of even more corporate sector entities to address the issues impacting the advancement of women.
“In this regard, we applaud the Jamaica Stock Exchange in its efforts each year to raise awareness and advance the cause for gender equality. It’s now even more imperative that other private sector entities support the fight to challenge gender stereotypes”. Ms. Coke shared that Liberty Latin America (LLA), parent company of Flow, is playing its part.
“Pursuing greater equality, diversity, and inclusion isn’t just about what we do now. This year, Liberty Latin America has included among its areas of focus for IWD, the encouragement of more young women into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers. Encouraging girls and young women into STEM careers is how we ensure better diversity in the future,” said Ms. Coke.
Mrs. Eva Lewis, Guest Speaker, revealed that “Earlier this year, Citi announced a $1 trillion commitment to sustainable finance by 2030, which includes a $500 billion environmental finance goal and a $500 billion social finance goal, both in alignment with the agenda of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”
Mrs. Lewis spoke ardently of the impact of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance). “ESG will advance gender equality as it is adopted by Government’s and organizations as part of their goals and business strategy. That is not to say, that this will be achieved in short order, but it does give us hope that we can educate and engage key stakeholders to integrate gender at a fundamental policy level.
“I am especially proud to be a woman who works at Citi. Our ESG agenda reflects our role and the responsibility we feel as a global bank to solve many of society’s toughest challenges. It’s part of our business model and the products and services we offer. … In Jamaica, I am proud to note that Women account for over 50% percent of Citi’s workforce.
“As we focus on financial inclusion, we need to ensure that financial entities supporting these sectors, through their own ESG policies, include gender specific programs to ensure women are getting equitable access to capital to support their businesses,” advocated Mrs. Lewis.