Wendy Fae Thompson at Women in Leadership 2017

Speaker: Wendy Fae Thompson
Job title: BPTT Chief Counsel
Date: July 20, 2017
Event: Women in Leadership Conference 2017
Venue: Hyatt
Ms Jo-Anne Boodoosingh - Director Executive Education UWI-Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business
Feature speakers Dr Marilyn Tam, Dr Maja Djikic and Ms Pamela Cournoyer
Ms Karen Darbasie- Group CEO, First Citizens Bank
Mr. Kama Maharaj- Founder Sacha Cosmetics
Other presenters
Conference participants
Members of the media

Good morning!

Ladies and Gentlemen the future is now! (pause)
The future is in this room. (shorter pause)
I make these statements with certainty. There is no doubt that the wonder women of tomorrow are the women who take the time to shape their leadership skills today. 

You may have come to this conference to learn more about leadership, work life balance and managing your career path, however I’m hoping that each of you will pick up your shield, grab your own lassos of truth and leave this Conference ready to change the way the world views women as leaders.   It’s a call to action.

I am sure that most of you have seen the recent Wonder Woman movie.  As an attorney and mother of three, I offer that a Lasso of truth would really be a very useful life tool. If this conference is giving them out, ask for two! (pause, smile)
As leaders and future leaders, there are many tools we need and sharpening those tools is part of why we are here. 

Recently my company, BPTT, hosted a workshop for a group of young girls, daughters of some of our employees, who were between the ages of 13 and 16.  The intent of the workshop was to help shape the mindset of these young women and to cultivate the awareness of the variety of possibilities open to them as future career paths in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.   In so doing our aim was to act as role models for these girls as the future generation, to dispel the myths surrounding careers in these disciplines and to begin to shape the mindset of a cadre of young women to be confident, capable and equipped to be tomorrow’s leaders.  What an incredible opportunity to turn the light bulb on for these girls!

Leadership skills, like gas, is not something you can see however just like oil and gas, leadership skills are resources that,  must be unearthed, developed and refined to help power the world. 

It is for this reason that BPTT is honoured to partner with the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business for this conference which will provide a welcome forum for discussion and call to action to unlock the barriers to advancement of women as leaders.

It is globally recognized that in most areas of industry there is an under-representation of women at senior levels of organizations. I will hazard a guess that few of the women in this room have a CEO that is female. This, despite the facts that 

•	the top SEA student is female (and has been for some time)
•	more than 50% of national scholarship winners are female
•	University classrooms in our Region and around the world are increasingly female
•	More women than men aged 24-35 have bachelor’s degrees since the beginning of US Census Bureau statistical collection 

Yet in Trinidad and Tobago 

•	Only 28.5% (12) of members of Parliament are female
•	We have had only one female prime minister 
•	The number of female CEO’s of companies operating here, are few in number. 

Pick any sector in Trinidad &Tobago, from finance to telecoms, and the number of women in board rooms is far from equal to that of men. 

Working toward gender parity is an important and global challenge for many companies. Statistics collated at BP shows that:

Women represent 33% of BP’s population and 22% of group leaders – our most senior managers.

By 2020, BP’s ambition is for 25% of our group leaders and 30% of our senior level leaders, to be women.   

BP has set internal goals for gender representation and has held our leaders accountable for taking all reasonable steps to be inclusive.   We recognize that being diverse and inclusive is key to attracting and retaining the right talent in a dynamic and mutigenerational workforce.   

We also aim to underscore the importance that diversity and inclusion plays in enhancing collaboration and positively impacting performance.
I acknowledge therefore that there is no doubt that like BP, the advancement of women has been an ongoing discussion and subject of keen action at all levels in the workplace.   

Many companies currently strive to develop best practices for the advancement of women as leaders. New world thinking mandates that the qualities that are required to lead in the 21st century include the ability to connect, collaborate, empathize and communicate.  I am sure you will agree that women bring a perspective that not only values competition but embraces collaboration of teams and organizations as well.   

The question I would pose for today’s discussion therefore is: If all of these initiatives are in play why then, is the World Economic Forum predicts, it will take the world until 2095 to see full gender equality? 2095 say the statistics!  What then is still missing to break the glass ceiling that persists in many organizations and technical fields?  Is it not a mindset shift that begins with each one of us?

The future simply has to be now.   Not in 2095!

In my view there is significant value in shifting our mind-set away from “there isn’t much we can do about this” to simply having women leaders change the narrative about who can lead and what qualities are necessary for leadership.  I believe that in addition to all the initiatives that are currently being employed by organizations to address the advancement of women as leaders it is incumbent on each of us to shape the narrative that has led many to perpetuate gender biases.

If I reflect on my own journey, through my years as a partner of a local law firm and now Head of Legal at BPTT and a member of BPTT’s leadership team, there has always been great value in creating a “personal brand”: being confident in who you are and knowing where you want to go.  In this way there is impetus for developing the confidence required to ask the organization for what you want.  In many instances it has proven true that “You do not get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate”.  

From mentoring several women in my organization I have witnessed that there is sometimes an “imposter syndrome” that persists in women’s minds where they feel they don’t really belong in that leadership job and that one day someone will find out that they should not be there.  We need not be super heroes but instead I would offer that we need to be our authentic selves by learning to play our strengths and being humble about our weaknesses and in so doing ensure that we are technically competent in our area of specialty and are prepared at all times to work hard.    Adhering to personal values, being open to continuous improvement, getting involved in being role models and mentoring others also pushes the dial immensely.  

We also need more sponsors in the work place: women who are prepared to speak on behalf of other women and influence decisions related to promotion and advancement. 
 Most importantly we must accept that we have to enroll men to move this agenda forward. There is no point in pointing the spears inward. Women must join arms with men and fight together for parity – for a better future for our companies and country. 
For far too long Executives have been wired to ignore gender differences (such as different communications styles or career cycles) rather than becoming skilled in managing them. 

For the same reason, decision makers are not used to thinking that balance itself may contribute to better performance, innovation and customer connections. 

I would say that as a leader, I continuously seek ways to improve myself and to improve those around me, although I do not think it is possible to “perfect” the leadership role because there is always more to learn and new ways of leading.  

That’s why I’m pleased that BPTT has sponsored not only a few of our young professionals to participate today, but have also encouraged  our interns to be a part of today’s discussion – to grow and learn about how to unlock the path to success. 
There is a saying that today’s intern is tomorrow’s CEO – I look forward to seeing you folks as the progressive CEO’s of tomorrow. 

Ladies and Gentlemen my call to action for all of you is to grab hold of the lassos of truth, pick up the shields of leadership and embrace the mindset shift required to take hold of the future from 


I thank you and wish you an insightful and inspiring conference. 
Thank you.