Women???s empowerment and the importance of competitiveness to Barbados were major talking points recently, when Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, Arancha Gonzales, paid a courtesy call on Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, at her Culloden Road office.
Senator McClean congratulated Ms. Gonzales on the success of her work at the ITC and the focus on women???s empowerment.
Acknowledging that women continued to contribute successfully to Barbados??? competitiveness, she told the Executive Director she too was for encouraging women ???to get into entrepreneurship???.
???The question really is to look to see whether our women have been getting into what I call businesses with significant growth potential….You can have a lifestyle business and there is nothing wrong with that but it might not necessarily generate for you wealth of the same magnitude. So, it is an important issue for us,??? the Minister said.
Ms. Gonzales heard that Barbadian women had reaped success in raising families and educating themselves but the challenge now was to determine how males could be encouraged to participate, add value and create wealth that would lead to true success for both genders.
Senator McClean explained that men were in lesser numbers at the university and participating less in programmes traditionally dominated by males.
While noting that significant investment had been put in education, health and other social services, she said it was more about how women???s success could be used to help restore balance in terms of male contribution, without ???one side of the scale being tipped in a way that creates an imbalance???.
Ms. Gonzales pointed out that this was a region where competitiveness was crucial, and said it called for ???improving the value of what you offer, and reducing the cost of that offer on the market???.
She observed: ???The first one has a lot to do with innovation and education and investing in skills to compete, and there I think Barbados is in an interesting position. It is services that will bring you the innovation content, even in agriculture, cultural industries, and so on. The other speaks to reducing cost, and there I think you are moving in the right direction in terms of customs and procedures.???
Senator McClean concluded by stating that Barbados was modernising its education process and moving towards Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to create a population that was both innovative and problem solving.
Explaining, she said: ???What we are really looking at is tackling the issue of competitiveness from what I call short-term, medium-term, and long-term. It involves putting in place strategies that would empower our children, and, in the case of Barbados, retaining that level of success of our young women, in particular.
“It also means generally giving our population an appreciation that they can problem solve, design, invent, create, start businesses and run them and that we can compete globally. That is one of the things that we really want to work to achieve??? that is the kind of empowerment we want.???
Both officials also committed to the deepening of relations.