Women on a mission
Three years on and the organisers of Bermuda’s International Women’s Day are hoping today’s event will be a peaceful, positive and powerful demonstration of progress in the workforce.
The community is invited to the steps of City Hall at 12.30pm to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
Speeches and performances will be followed by a short walk around Hamilton in a bid to make steps towards gender parity. Men are welcome.
“It would be great to see some men in the audience this year,” Wendy Percy, office manager at corporate sponsor Willis Towers Watson (Bermuda) Ltd, said.
“WTW has a core value to establish a truly inclusive culture that leverages a diverse workforce which has shown meaningful increases in the number of women and overall diversity in business leadership.
“We also are excited that we have a chairman that engages our male colleagues to support gender equality, which is becoming more of a trend throughout our re/insurance industry. We’ve got a great global initiative at our office. They want to see the change.”
Ms Percy joined the Willis Group three years ago and remained through the merger with professional services firm Towers Watson.
Now an international company with almost 140,000 employees in 40 countries, Ms Percy is thrilled for the platform. Of their many new committees, she leads the charge on inclusion and diversity.
“We’ve got an IWD committee with employees at both the senior level and administrative level that are also excited about the changes that are occurring,” she said.
“We’re here to accelerate those changes and stride towards achieving gender equality in the workforce.”
She is joined today by a group of “like-minded women”, including Katarina Amann Hoskins, Argus chief executive Alison Hill and Alison Morrison, chairwoman of 100 Women in Finance in Bermuda.
The theme is “Press for Progress”. Proceeds will go to the Women’s Resource Centre.
“We want it to be a positive, non-confrontational movement and get more buy-in from more of the companies, more of the management in the various industries,” she said.
“If you look at our insurance and reinsurance industry, you did not see a lot of female leaders. That is changing in the little bit of time I’ve been here.
“Somebody in our office has just received a humongous promotion on a global level in healthcare. I don’t know that we would have seen that five years ago. That shows me that this is not all for naught.”
Still, she noted: “Statistics show that we have 200 more years to go before gender parity.”
“It’s the norm for us and I can’t accept that. I just can’t,” she said.
Originally from Connecticut, the 54-year-old moved to the island in 1997.
“I worked for [insurance healthcare company] Aetna back in the early nineties in Hartford Connecticut when [African-American tennis great] Arthur Ashe was on the board and inclusion and diversity were just starting to be words that you put together in the workforce,” she said. “I’ve seen the progression slowly moving forward.”
She hopes events such as this will help gather momentum. The event will bring a “diverse” group of speakers and performers, including Heather Nova and Joy Barnum, all-female percussion group Coral Beats and poet Tiffany Paynter. A photo booth will be available for participants to capture the moment and share a special word or message on what the day means to them.
“International Women’s Day is not about a country or group, it belongs to all of us collectively. Everywhere, not just in Bermuda,” she said.
The 2017 hashtag #BeBoldForChange was adopted by the US women’s hockey team.
Sixteen days before the world championships, team-mates announced they would not play until USA Hockey treated them the same as the men and righted wage disparities.
“They chose not to go to the finals in their tournament in Michigan and they were gold contenders,” Ms Percy said. “They did not back down. And they were able to overcome those obstacles.
“We start to see positive affirmation in doing those kinds of dances. They just keep it going, keep it in the spotlight, keep talking about it, keep pressing forward.”
She said she was pleased to see global activism initiatives such as “#MeToo” and “Time’s Up” in the spotlight, but that a radical approach can unfortunately act as a deterrent to many. She hopes today’s event will feel inclusive.
Participants are invited to wear the colour purple, which symbolises the historic plight of the suffragettes. “Brown bag lunches” will also be for sale at $15.
“This is a great opportunity to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and our island to think, act and be gender inclusive. We are hoping that participants will have a strong take away from the event and be able to ask themselves, ‘What am I doing and how can I help press for progress?’”
David Brown, senior partner and regional insurance leader at Ernst & Young said: “EY’s global sponsorship of International Women’s Day demonstrates its commitment to accelerating gender parity globally.
“We are equally passionate about making a difference at the local level as well. That is why EY Bermuda supports the Walk for Change and the Women’s Resource Centre.”
Cordelia Davis added: “Everyone can play a role in redefining opportunities for future generations of women, forging a lasting legacy of growth, increased prosperity and stronger communities throughout the world. It takes the contributions of all people to help build a more inclusive, gender-equal world — a better working world.”
Nick Hoskins, managing director at corporate sponsor Wakefield Quin, said: “IWD is a great opportunity to motivate and unite colleagues, industry, and our island community to think, act and be gender inclusive”.
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