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Front Pages 27 Apr, 2023 Follow News


Senator H. Elizabeth Thompson

Senator H. Elizabeth Thompson, CEO Richard Hew and Board Members

By Staff Writer

The women especially, and others who attended the recent CUC (Caribbean Utilities Company) ‘Women in Energy’ conference, would have come away ‘energised’ from the keynote address.

It was delivered to great effect, anchored by extensive research and first-hand experience by Senator H. Elizabeth Thompson, Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of Barbados with Responsibility for Climate Change, Small Island Developing States and Law of the Sea.

“How can women be at the forefront of energy transition and transformation that’s forthcoming? How can we stay energised’ and keep challenging ourselves?”. Those topics formed part of a broader theme of issues she was asked to expound on by the conference organisers.

Ambassador Thompson, one of the first women involved professionally with a career in the field of energy and the oil and gas industry in the Caribbean, laments the slow progress and roadblocks - and gender blocks - still encountered by women in these and other fields.

However, she singled out Cayman’s CUC for taking significant strides in policies and practices to correct such inequality and inequity, referring to the energy company’s “excellent strides in its policy initiatives to integrate women into the energy sector in Cayman.”

The Barbados Senator who has responsibility for Climate Change, Small Island Developing States and Law of the Sea issues is her country’s ambassador to the United Nations.

She has worked in development policy for over 25 years and previously served as Barbados’s Minister of Health, Minister of Housing, Minister of Physical Development, Minister of Energy and Environment, and Acting Attorney General.

Ambassador Thompson told the CUC Women in Energy conference: “There is a perception across the Caribbean that women have done extremely well, that we are advancing in areas of careers and socioeconomics and that there’s really no need to revamp, equalise or address inequities because inequities do not exist.”

She flatly dismissed this assumption as “a fallacy”.

She lamented that girls are not encouraged to go into STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics): “We have to start giving girls a vision of themselves as scientists and engineers. Where are the role models?” she wondered.

Ambassador Thompson also observed that despite some advances, women’s progress in the workplace and wider society is still hampered by conscious and unconscious bias.

“We are struggling against embedded conscious and unconscious bias preventing women to realise their potential including gaining access to careers in certain industries despite excelling in studies in those fields.”

She said still occurs despite more women graduating, they still find it difficult to break through the proverbial glass ceiling in their chosen profession and are even statistically the last to be hired after graduating compared to their male counterparts.

Specific to the energy industry in the Caribbean she posed this question regarding women at the forefront of the energy transition and transformation:

“Are we ready ourselves for the next big thing in the energy space? What does the future look like? How will we stay energised and keep challenging ourselves?”

According to the Barbados UN representative, despite opportunities, the challenges still confronting women in the workplace and professions have far wider implications.

“We cannot attempt to fix a problem in energy that is far wider than that. Bringing women into energy cannot be a sole objective because the problem is far wider than that.”

Outside of access to work specifically in the energy industry, Ambassador Thompson pointed to how poor access to energy itself is an underlying factor affecting women’s health and raising a family.

Referring to the disproportionate number of women affected by diseases, the causes of which are aggravated by inadequate access to energy, she stressed: “Access to energy is critical to women’s development and our children’s health.”

To thunderous applause she also urged the women present at the CUC Women in Energy conference - and women in general -  to “bring other women along” when they get into positions of influence by creating opportunities and breaking down barriers.

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