I remember back in school, I was asked the question, “What comes first, the chicken or the egg?” and my answer came as fast as it was asked. I responded, “my mother.” The answer seems to have no bearing on the question for the person who asked it, nor even for those listening to the conversation, but for me, it was the first thing that came to my mind.
As I grew older, I recognised why that answer would have flowed seamlessly and effortlessly from my lips as if I had preempted the question. It wasn’t that I loved my mother more than my father; the reason was that, as children, we grew up seeing our mothers always around to support us when we were happy, sad, hurt, in need of money, clothes, food, books you name it. She attended every PTA meeting, football game, and reprimanded us when we were out of line (which for me was most of the time!). For just about everything we were doing, my mother was present to guide and support me.
Yes, I am very sure that my mother would have gone to my father on each occasion, most likely at night when he was back from work and I would be sleeping, and they would have mutually agreed on the actions to be taken concerning me. However, he was almost always at work (the main breadwinner and nighttime disciplinarian), and my mother was always around as the main caregiver. As a result, my respect for women became unshakable, and therefore, I see it fitting to recognise all our women here at the VM Group on this International Women’s Day.
Today we celebrate International Women’s Day under the theme #BreakTheBias, recognising women globally for their impactful contributions to the social, economic, cultural, and political landscape of the world, as well as to help foster gender equality and parity, and to help raise funds for women’s charities. The local and international landscape has changed significantly since I was a child. The hardship faced by many families has forced the dynamics that I would have described in my childhood as ‘okay’ to become one in which both parents now have to ‘hunt’ for the family to survive with a combined income equaling a livable wage in many cases. As a result, many of our Jamaican women are now forced to become both caregivers and breadwinners while assuming critical leadership positions in businesses and government, impacting not just their homes and businesses but also bringing needed social change to our nation.
Our women at the VM Group are no different in this regard. Women make up 72% of the population and 69% of our middle management Leadership Team. Therefore, only remedial mathematics is required in order to draw a logical conclusion that the VM Group’s strong presence in the financial sector and private sector today is largely due to the contribution of our women. This fact has been recognised and our Group Human Resources and Leadership Teams have been deliberate in putting policies in place that support wellbeing and equity for our women as part of our Great Place to Work and Employer of Choice objectives.
Several initiatives have been implemented since 2016 to improve the well-being of VMers. We introduced a revision to our Sick Leave Policy to incorporate a special 6-week leave with pay for major surgeries. Though not limited to women, this initiative was introduced based primarily on the number of women who are now required to do surgery for woman-specific illnesses such as fibroids, etc.
Following on this, we again recognised in 2018 the need for a remote and flexible work arrangement based on feedback. The need to have the flexibility to manage home and work while excelling in both was a major driver for this decision.
In 2019, the subsidized mortgage facility was revised to include unmatched low-interest rate loans to assist with the purchase of a home and a major move towards financial independence. In 2020, the Childcare and Technology Loan Facilities were introduced to assist with the homeschooling of VMers’ children while working from home.
Our Talent Management Programmes ensure that the process of selection of VMers for leadership positions is robust, transparent, and devoid of any discrimination based on gender, age, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The SHRM Grid Box methodology supports all leaders to be even more transparent in the way we identify, select and develop our talent for future leadership roles, and most recently as in 2022, we have developed our Wellbeing and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies to be tabled for approval in the first quarter of this year.
We are committed as a leadership team here at the VM Group to continue to implement initiatives that are specifically designed to create an environment conducive to all VMers and in particular, our women, to have an equal opportunity to excel and achieve full potential and for the VM Group to remain a Great Place to Work and an Employer of Choice.
Once again, we salute the GREAT women of the VM Group.
#TransformHer #BreakTheBias #NoWomanNoCry
Dr. Dayton Robinson
Group Chief Human Resources Officer