The boardrooms across the region are, as in most other places across the globe, largely populated by men. There are several prevailing reasons why this is so - the old boy's club and the fact that most women tend to take a few steps back during maternity leave, among others.
According to a 2011 survey of more than 1,000 working women conducted by this networking site, LinkedIn, 1 out of 5 women say they’ve never had a mentor at work. The comparatively low numbers of female managers to females in entry levels offers one explanation.
There is one other reason which, in has been my unfortunate experience, also keeps women from reaching the top in their professions: other women. It has been widely reported that women in established careers tend not to assist women in entry level positions, either because mentorship firstly requires a certain time commitment that most working mothers cannot afford, or secondly because of fear. There are some career women who have absolutely no interest in helping to foster the career of a younger colleague because with the scarcity of positions at the top, their own jobs may be jeopardized by a young fledgling star in the office. Worse yet, some women may attempt to undermine a younger staffer who she correctly or not, perceives as a threat.
In my own personal experience, I once invited a woman who was at the pinnacle of her career to lunch. I wanted to "pick her brain" I told her - as I was considering transitioning within my field, and wanted her take on how she navigated her own similar change, a decade or so earlier. She agreed to meet, and then never showed, or returned any other of my calls. I had no real interest in venturing into the specialized field that she worked in, rather I'd hoped to gain an understanding of how I could make the next phase of my career as smooth as possible for myself. Perhaps she felt threatened at the prospect of another "free agent" in a small market, though I personally have always hoped that she'd simply forgotten, and gotten so caught up in her own busy life that it has never crossed her mind since. One can hope!
Since that ill fated lunch date, I have changed my mind significantly about what works for women trying to get ahead. I no longer actively seek out mentors, as a matter of fact, I actively seek out mentees - young women with potential who need guidance and opportunities - and wherever possible I facilitate it. It is intrinsically rewarding and I believe in my own small way, I am helping to make a change in the way women work in Antigua. For myself, I am now working on aligning myself with professional sponsors. Individuals who will advocate on my behalf - in boardrooms, meetings, at job openings, for brand ambassadorships - whatever, or wherever I envision myself doing next. I'm not limiting myself to females, or even individuals within my industry - as that in itself would be quite shortsighted.
The gender divide may never go away; it is up to women everywhere to navigate their own paths to success - independently.