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Business Women Discuss Investment at the Summit

In the afternoon segment of the summit, business women gathered to talk on the challenges faced in becoming entrepreneurs. Additionally, the discussions surrounded the journey of several women as they worked at becoming a part of the socio-economic development across industries and sectors. Heading this session was Chief Executive Officer, Narda Garcia.

Narda Garcia, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Finance:“The disparities that exist between men and women and the opportunities afforded to them for meaningful participation in the world of business is glaring. Belize as a developing nation feels these harsh realities perhaps more severely than the more developed countries. If Belize is to achieve the goal set for the Sustainable Development Agenda by 2030 then the economic empowerment of women and the closing of the gender gaps must take center stage. Key concepts embedded in the sustainable development agenda can be achieved through the realization of gender equality, the promotion of full and productive employment for all, the eradication of poverty, food security and greater health and the participation of women in economic decision making from the kitchen to the boardroom. Education is one of the most powerful ways to empower women, empower everyone I believe. But we must focus now on upskilling and reskilling our labor force including women to keep up with the technological advancements. Global studies show that women who are educated are more productive and this translates into faster economic growth. Women make up majority of the informal market and this sector is particularly vulnerable to external factors. The contributions of women in unpaid care are staggering and is estimated that it could account anywhere from 10-39% of GDP. Access to affordable finance continues to be a problem for more women than men and access to ownership of land even more so. This compounds the problem for women in agriculture who need both resources and whose efforts are crippled because they have less access. The digital era has created even more inequality as it is most often the women in rural areas who are disconnected  from the internet and have limited access to devices. Violence against women in all it’s forms including harassment at work and discrimination continues to cost the world about $12 Trillion US annually. Educating, empowering, including and safeguarding women’s rights is good for business and it is good for the Belizean economy. If Belize is now open for business these opportunities for business must be accessible equally and equitably for all.”

The moderator for this panel discussion was the Chief Executive Officer of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kim Aikman. One key statement she made was that women have had to sacrifice more than men to make it in business.

Kim Aikman, CEO, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “The Global Gender Gap report of 2021 coming out of the World Economic Forum states that another generation of women will have to wait for gender parity. As the impact of COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt closing the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years. Most recently the ILO did a study in the Caribbean entitled Women in Business Management gaining momentum in the Caribbean. This study showed that women are still dealing with numerous hurdles to reach positions as CEO, I guess this CEO is the exception, as CEOs nd company board members. While they have advanced in business and management women continue to be shut out of high level economic making decisions despite the last decade of activism to smashing the glass ceiling. One of the most debated issues is balancing work and family life. Claims that women can have it all or conversely that they cannot have it are subjects to heated discussions. Studies show that women managers seem to sacrifice personal life more than their male counterparts as evidenced by lesser likelihood of having a partner or children.”

Other women participating in this discussion were Kay Menzies, Katherine Meighan, Maria-Estella Recinos and Umeeda Switlo. We’ll have more from this segment in tomorrow’s newscast.