The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

L-R:Rosemary (Mickey Mouse) Gumbs, Sharmain Francois,
Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam, Maeza Demis-Adams
and Nurse Judith Thomas

On Friday morning, March 4, 2022, Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam and four well-known and respected women gathered in the Governor’s office for an informal round-table discussion centred on the 2022 International Women’s Day (IWD) theme of ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.’ IWD is an annual event held on March 8.

Sharing life’s experiences which impacted and shaped their career paths were Maeza Demis-Adams Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Anguilla Health Authority, Sharmaine Francois CEO of the National Caribbean Bank of Anguilla, Rosemary ‘Micky Mouse’ Gumbs owner of the food establishment Mickey’s on The Strip, and Nurse Judith Thomas owner of the Just Tender Care retirement home.

The Governor started the conversation saying, “I thought for IWD, it would be nice to have a sit-down conversation with a range of successful women from across Anguilla in terms of what their journey has been. Life has pivoted for us in different ways. Everyone thinks when they are young that they know exactly what they will do. The path is not straight forward and there are lots of disappointments and challenges. I think it is important for the young people to know that we didn’t necessarily have it all figured out when we began the journey that got us to where we are today.”

All panel members agreed that one of the most influential factors shaping their successful professional trajectory was the guidance and encouragement from their parent(s) and guardians during their youth. Other factors instrumental in shaping their paths were difficult and challenging experiences in their younger lives which motivated them towards a profession which would address and counter the causes of these difficulties and lessen the negative effects for others.

The women said they felt they are judged professionally more for their age than their gender, but acknowledged that gender is also a constant factor. “We are not taken as seriously as our male counterparts. These attitudes, often unsaid but clearly felt, have to be countered by demonstrated know-how and performance.” They noted that subtle language and word choices also highlight gender bias, and used the example of a female being labelled as feisty and her male counterpart labelled as bold.

When sharing instances of being the sole female competing for a position during the recruitment and hiring process, they said they knew they would have to do more preparation and convincing than the male candidates. “You do your homework, get prepared and then confidently go forward through the hiring process and not be intimidated by gender. I have not been disadvantaged by being a female in any recruitment and selection process, but I often do get comments about my age.” Surprisingly, the panel unanimously agreed that females in the workplace generally tend to be less supportive and more judgmental and competitive towards other women than do males.
Both businessowners on the panel overwhelmingly espoused the necessity of women taking risks and following their instincts as a path to success. They warned that it was necessary to ignore the naysayers and stay focused on executing their business plan while paying close attention to their finances. Gumbs’ financial savvy was evident as she passionately described securing a loan from the local bank, at a young age and honouring her monthly payment commitment while working simultaneous jobs to do so. Nurse Thomas said her passion to operate a nursing home for the elderly led her to retire from nursing in her forties and start her business.
Her passion and commitment to her residents have caused her to return to the workplace to augment her business operating budget resulting from residents’ families defaulting on their payment commitment.Thomas unequivocally said that she would continue to do this as needed instead of having a non-paying client leave her facility.
The panel’s lively and wide-ranging discussion was both extremely open, honest and personal. Flowing seamlessly from topic to topic, a sampling of the areas discussed was the importance of, and gratitude for, the strong guidance of significant adults in their lives, creating a focused life plan while remaining flexible and open to change, taking risks and not being afraid of failure, developing sound financial practices and creating a supportive network for girls and women.