Giselle Thompson at AMCHAM Women in Leadership Conference 2018

AMCHAM Women in Leadership 2018 Remarks
Giselle Thompson
VP Corporate Operations
Happy International Women’s week. 

It’s great to be here again at the AmCham Women’s Leadership Forum and I’m looking forward to a wonderful day of dialogue, learning and networking. I wish to recognize AmCham for hosting this conference for a fifth consecutive year and for making it a priority to celebrate the accomplishments of women while also acknowledging that more can be done to improve gender equality in our workplaces and in our country.

I am fortunate to have been raised by two parents who have four daughters and nine granddaughters and I have three daughters of my own…. So if you speak to my father or my husband they would say every day is international women’s day in my household. The women and girls sure out number the men and as we would say in Trinidad “woman is boss” in my family. I would also share that my mother and father constantly preached to us the importance of getting a good education, being financially independent women and able to stand on our own feet.

But putting jokes and personal stories aside I recognize that my personal circumstances are not necessarily reflective of the reality of many girls and women in our country. I am forever indebted to my parents for the values that they instilled in me and more-so I feel a sense of personal accountability to instill those same values not just in my daughters but in those girls and women who I interact with every day. I am therefore always happy for the occasions such as these to collectively celebrate the accomplishments of our national female leaders and to shine a spot light on issues and areas that still need to be addressed if we are to #pushforprogress. 

I always like to take the approach that “the glass is half full”. A lot has changed since I entered the workforce. We have had our first female Prime Minister, we will very soon have our first female President. We have women holding high office in government – the head of the senate, the speaker of the house and we have more and more women taking on leadership roles in government, the judiciary, the public service, civil society and in the private sector. We must therefore acknowledge that we are indeed making progress and in large part due to the struggles and triumphs of women who came before us. We now in turn have a duty to continue on that journey, to press for progress so that the next generation of female leaders can hold their rightful place in business and society.

While we can acknowledge progress is great, we are still a long way off from our goal of gender equality. According to the Deloitte March 2017 report: “Women in the boardroom. A global perspective”, globally the number of women in boardrooms still stands at 15%, only 27% of Fortune 500 CEO’s are female and across the globe and here in Trinidad and Tobago there still exists a significant gender pay gap.

In 2017 the UWI graduating class was 67.5% female, 49.6% of SEA students were female, 48% of T&T’s working aged population is now female yet the female CEO is still a rare commodity in Trinidad and Tobago. 

Why Female Leaders are Important
One could ask - why all the fuss about diversity anyway? Research shows that diversity drives the bottom line. As consumers change their dynamics, as societies begin to look more at corporate culture as a reason to drive purchasing decisions – diverse leadership, corporate ethics and company values are more important than ever. 

Time and time again, research has found that diversity of thought leads to better problem solving — when we collaborate with people of different genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and race in our workplace, we all do better work and our companies simply do better. 

So, what can we do? Women need to take ownership. No gender policy is going to make us better leaders. As more women become leaders and mentors, more women will follow. We need to take responsibility to build our careers and those of others if we are serious about making the workplaces of tomorrow better for the next generation. 

Breaking the barriers of gender equality and building female leaders is bigger than a movement – it is a radical shift in mindset that has the potential to drive immense economic benefits to companies and countries around the world. 

BP’s Commitment
So why would a company like BPTT want to sponsor an event such as this. Our commitment to advancing female careers and pressing for progress is public facing. On our website, you can find not only our statements that our gender balance is steadily improving, with women representing 33% of BP’s population and 22% of group leaders. But you can also find us on record that BP’s aim is for women to represent at least 25% of group leaders by 2020. Still not good enough I know… but it represents progress in a historically male dominated industry.

We have seen proof of this change here in T&T – a country known, despite our advances, for being a bit of a boys club when it comes to energy sector leadership. But at BPTT last year, I am proud to say that 4 of our 11 senior executives in T&T are female, 3 of which are nationals. Last year at BPTT 26.9% of our Senior Level Leaders were female and we appointed our first local female Offshore Installation Manager. Women now hold senior roles in our technical disciplines such as exploration, drilling, and in our geoscience teams just to name a few. We anticipate the number positive career stories like these will continue to grow as we continue to focus on diversity and inclusion and as more women are deliberately following clearly defined career paths at our company than ever before. 

We continue our support for STEM initiatives around the globe. Here in T&T this includes supporting education programs like the UWI Geoscience Program and involving young women in activities like STEM focused career fairs hosted by our BP Women’s Network annually. As more women pursue STEM careers the better our chances of shaping the technology that will define the workplaces of tomorrow. 

Beyond supporting women in the workplace our Corporate Responsibility Programmes also focus on supporting equal opportunities for women and men. For example, through MIPED, our entrepreneurship programme in Mayaro, BPTT has supported 865 female entrepreneurs by disbursing $30 million in loans over the past14 years – thereby changing a community and our country for the better. 

And while the boardrooms and offshore sites of our energy industry remain male dominated, as we recruit more women, as we mentor more women, as we support more activities like this conference, I am confident that BP’s work in this space will truly help make changes in the gender balance of our sector. 

I also hold a personal view that advancing female leaders cannot be done by female sponsors alone – we therefore need to use our power and influence to help shift the mindsets of the men in our organizations who in many cases are making those decisions on promotions or board appointments. How do we powerfully advocate for equal opportunity and for the organization flexibility and agility that is sometimes required for females to succeed.

Today we have the opportunity to take a few more steps towards sharing, learning and advocating for equal opportunity, for a harassment free work place and for continued advancement of women in the workplace and in our country. 

I hope you learn from all the sessions today. Build your networks. Make a plan to keep pressing for progress and join me, in building a better future for all of our daughters, nieces or granddaughters to inherit. 

I thank you and am excited to press for progress with you.
President of AMCHAM T&T, Mitchell De Silva, speaks with Software Engineering staffing manager at Google, Shelly Clifford Brophy, left, as vice president Corporate Operations, BP T&T Giselle Thompson looks on during AMCHAM’s Women’s Leadership Conference at Hyatt Regency, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, on Friday.