First Citizens Driving the Gender Equity Agenda!

Corporate Social Responsibility

First Citizens is on a mission to make a difference in the lives of people: women, men and children and hopes more of corporate Trinidad and Tobago will adopt similar approaches and set gender issues high on their ESG and CSR agendas.  In recognition of International Women’s Day, the Group has engaged everyone from its executive and senior management team, to its employees in Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Barbados and Costa Rica, in a series of initiatives highlighting this year’s theme #EmbraceEquity. 

Leading the call for awareness and advocacy is Karen Darbasie, the Group’s first female Chief Executive Officer who has pioneered various initiatives in the gender space, throughout her almost eight years at the helm of the organization.  Darbasie said “First Citizens has been a longstanding contributor and trailblazer in addressing gender issues, leading the way with several customized initiatives such as its women’s conference, boys’ symposium, First Citizens Girls First, the First Citizens Purple Credit Card and most recently, its Young Men’s Development Programme, all of which were geared towards meeting certain gender-specific needs.”

Within the organization however, she has prioritized making First Citizens a great place to work, for both males and females. “In every aspect of our organization we strive to ensure that the gender equity agenda is progressed. With gender equality being one of the UN’s sustainable development goals on our radar for quite a while, it has not been difficult for us to go a step further to ensure that we are guided by measures that could speak to our focus on equity.  It really translates on a day to day basis, into how supported our employees feel by policies and practices that demonstrate a drive for fair treatment, respect and advancement opportunities for everyone,” Darbasie said.

Vangie Bhagoo-Ramrattan, Head of First Citizens Economic Research Unit said as a female leader of a predominantly male team, her team “values mutual respect and understanding as the cornerstone of a cohesive unit, despite gender composition.” “Team members are always willing to go that extra mile and truly give consideration to my role not just as a female leader but as a mom of young kids. This level of support is something I truly appreciate,” Bhagoo-Ramrattan said.

Similar sentiments of mutual respect and support were echoed by her colleagues, Amalia Ojagir, a Network Analyst in the Information and Communications Technology Department and Natasha Alexander, a female security officer, both of whom are among few females on their respective teams. 

Natasha lauded the organization for giving her the opportunity to be herself in a profession she enjoys and feels she has an equitable chance at succeeding in.  “My male colleagues have created a space where I feel free to coax when I need to and to be tough when the situation calls for it.” Meanwhile, Amalia said her male colleagues have treated her no differently on the basis of gender but simply as a team member. She said “I am provided with the same level of support whenever there are ‘grey’ areas and I feel open to call on my colleagues at any time for assistance.”

Recognizing that this type of work environment is not the case for everyone and that both equality and equity still remain unattainable for many women globally, First Citizens has challenged its employees to actively show their solidarity in various ways.  Employees were invited to enter a creativity contest, using their talents in poetry, spoken word and song to highlight the equity theme, while many across the Group excitedly joined Darbasie in striking the #embraceequity pose.  Today, March 08, employees at First Citizens will “purple” their work spaces, joining thousands globally in wearing the colour that so vibrantly supports and advances the gender equity agenda, on a global scale.

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