Guyana’s first Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry was officially launched on Thursday evening at the Pegasus Hotel under the slogan- Champions of Change for Women of the Future.
Women in business and female entrepreneurs will now be given a safe space to be heard, empowered and most of all support each other in business.
It was noted that the chamber is not only the first of its kind Guyana but also in the Caribbean.
One of the founders, Mrs Kerensa Gravesande-Bart addressed an audience filled with mostly businesswomen; she said that financial and cultural barriers stifle their success.
“We must recognize that women all over the world have already been unleashing their potential, they have been running their businesses, they’ve been taking care of their communities and in some very fragile situations we have been getting by,” Gravesande-Bart said.
Speaking about the dismissive reaction to professional workable solutions women offer, Mrs Bart called for better laws for women in business.
“Did you know as well, that the average economy gives women three-quarter of the legal rights of men, especially in developing countries?
“What does this mean? It means we need better laws, better reforms and we need better business practices,” Gravesande-Bart said.
She also said the belittling of women’s professional presence in the business climate should not be seen as a standard practice.
“The objectifying of women for the gain of business is often seen and encouraged in many business quarters.”
“We are just not here for the optics, we want to be able to create and deliver value, so these are the reason we have come together to form the women’s chamber of commerce and industry,” Gravesande-Bart said.
Some of the challenges women face in business include not gaining access to capital, access to market and networking.
Co-founder Lyndell Danzie- Black said that the Chamber will create opportunities for women, stimulate policy development and also host local and international outreach programmes, promising an excellent and professional business environment.
“We are an all-inclusive women organisation, we believe that we can raise the bar for our members, we can assist those members in developing international standards of doing business, we also believe that we can help our members to create excellence in doing business,” Danzie-Black said.
Delivering the keynote address was Country Representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Sophie Makonnen, who noted that one of the benefits of the women’s chamber of commerce is that women can be stronger together.
She said while data shows that women are more educated than men, their contribution to the workforce is less.
“The Human Development Indicators of Guyana indicate that 70% of women over the age of 25 are estimated to have sound secondary education compared to 55% of men, yet women only make up 35% of the labour force in Guyana, so it seems that the higher than average rate Guyanese women in education attained at secondary and tertiary level is not reflected in the labour force,” Makonnen noted.
She mentioned the continuous challenges faced by women in the workforce such as unequal pay, patriarchal norms, and violence against women, balancing childcare, work and household responsibility.
“Women workers are paid 58% less than men, meanwhile vital data is absent on the number of women participating in management and board levels,” Makonnen said.
Meanwhile, President of the Georgetown Chambers of Commerce and Industry Nicholas Boyer said that the women’s chamber is a bold, but much-needed move in Guyana.
He noted that the population is younger and has more females and it is time that men step aside to make room for women to break that glass ceiling.
Boyer said that the GCCI will not compete with the Women’s Chambers but rather provide support and work with them to build more women leaders.
According to Boyer, women leadership and entrepreneurship have the potential to change the economy.
Recognizing the opportunities that women bring to the table, Boyer said, “The change that we want to see in Guyana and the Caribbean, it starts with breaking old stereotypes and model of thinking.”
He pointed to the fact that he could not have answered the question of why there have never been any female presidents at GCCI.
“What we at the Chamber have to do with women who are trailblazers is work with them. Our communities are built on women, there is no family that exists without a woman and where we have to go in the future is to find more inclusive ways to women, both in the political as well as the business sphere,” Boyer said.
The Women’s Chamber will create equal opportunities for women in business and promises transparency, integrity and ethical practices.
Members of the board include: Chief Executive Officer, Strategic Recruitment Solutions Inc Kerri Gravesande-Bart; Managing Director of Cerulean Inc, Lyndell Danzie-Black; Chief Executive Officer of GUYOIL, Renata Exeter; Managing Director/Researcher of Professional Development Consultants, Anije Lambert; International Motivational Speaker/Journalist, Sherry Ann Dixon; Attorney at law, Tamara Khan and Managing Director of ACME Marketing Consultancy, Jennifer Cipriani.