National News

International Women’s Day: Much More Work is Needed in The Advancement of Women in Jamaica

by Leo Gilling

SOUTH FLORIDADemocracy works best when one side wins with 51% and the other with 49%. If the results of an election are overwhelmingly one-sided, it gives one side too much power, which can lead to autocracy. It is worse if autocracy meets incompetence. 

For centuries, men have led in all phases of life: politics, law and security, religion, and business. There were no spaces for women. In almost all parts of the world, the abundance of men in control and authority proved futile to women, who advocated for equality. Women did not hold 49% of world leadership; instead, men had more than 90% in all categories. The fight for parity and equality does not come easy, primarily when, for example, the law of the land promotes male dominance, and “Holy Books” in various religions uphold it. Too much power held by men invalidated the plight of women. 

Understanding the plight of women, like the plight of enslaved Blacks, they were considered their husbands’ property. The English common concept law of coverture, that legal obedience or subordination of women to their husbands, changed only during the mid-19th Century. That’s a little more than 100 years ago. 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified in 1920. Jamaica was granted full Adult Suffrage in 1944, which gave women the rights not only to vote (1919) and own land but to have it irrespective of race or social class. 

Adult Suffrage opened the door to Jamaican women. However, from 1944 to 1976, only five women were elected to the House of Representatives: Iris Collins, Rose Leon, Iris King, Enid Bennet, and Esmie Grant. The growth started, but male dominance made it slow. Jamaica has since elected its first female Prime Minister, Mrs. Portia Simpson, a most worthy accomplishment compared to the rest of the world. This year, 2024, America celebrates 248 years of independence, and still, no woman has held the highest office of President in this long history. 

Growth Opportunities

Though the growth of women in managerial roles in the USA has grown since the 1940s, Black women are today still under-represented when compared to females who are White. Although Black women represent approximately 7.4% of the USA population, only 4.4% are employed in management positions. Research shows that factors attributed to this low percentage include but are not limited to fear of retaliation, stereotypes of being less qualified due to their color, and lack of mentorship support for progress. The challenges of equality are more significant for Black females who constantly face issues of racism and sexism. 

The growth of women in Jamaica since adult suffrage in 1944 has never been more pronounced. Up to 2020, there have been 47 women who have served in the House of Representatives. In that year (2020), Jamaica celebrated the most significant percentage of women leaders in the House: 29% (18) women across the floor). Much more work is needed in the advancement of women in Jamaica. 

Gender Gaps

Despite the apparent improvements in political achievements since adult suffrage, gender gaps are still a significant issue in Jamaica. Though with high academic achievement, employment rates for women are low, leading to economic disempowerment and vulnerability to exploitation. Women with equal education are still receiving less pay than their male counterparts. Across various sectors, there is a dire need for targeted interventions to address gender disparities. In addition, promote equal opportunities for women in the Jamaican workplace. 

International Women’s Day - Jamaica

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on March 8th. IWD is a global celebration of the achievements, progress, and ongoing struggles of women for equality and the need for additional advocacy. It is with great pride that I recognize the great work of Jamaican women, whether at home or in the Diaspora, as they push the needle, advancing themselves and others along the way. For the women in the Diaspora who give their time and effort to people who are in need in Jamaica and helping to build capacity for national development, I applaud you. Congrats to the women who continually develop and maintain families, maintaining the moral standard that will ultimately advance positive direction for our country. 

Happy International Women’s Day! 


Leo Gilling, Chairman of the Jamaica Diaspora Taskforce Action Network (JDTAN)
Leo Gilling, Chairman of the Jamaica Diaspora Taskforce Action Network (JDTAN)


South Florida Caribbean News

The Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

Related Articles

Back to top button