Representing CT Strategies was:
- Cindy Covell, who most recently served as the Executive Director, Regulatory Audit in the Office of International Trade at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP);
- Laura Escalante, who represented the Ministry of Foreign Trade for Costa Rica as a Trade Facilitation Coordinator, and;
- Kelley Sanabria, who worked as an International Trade Specialist at the Office of International Trade, U.S. CBP.
Some highlights of the webinar interview included:
The importance of an equal representation of females in the trade industry
- Ms. Escalante: Gender diversity can lead to higher employment retention, new business opportunities, greater innovation, and improved team decision making. Advancing women’s equality has also been shown to significantly contribute to increasing global and national GDP and economic productivity.
- Ms. Escalante: While females were prevalent throughout trade and border control agencies in Costa Rica, it was men that occupied the top positions in each institution and key jobs at the border. Women working in this environment generally “end up in this ‘sandwich’ where their work and contribution are appreciated in planning, administrative and policy related units, but are not considered good enough to lead or tough enough for the hands-on execution of jobs.” However, recently Costa Rica has witnessed the increased participation of women in these decision-making positions, such as directors and coordinators.
- Ms. Covell: Cindy was only one of three female auditors when she first began her career in 1980 in a government audit organization, “women represented less than one percent of the audit staff.” However, in the last year of her career at CBP, “women represented 54 percent of the regulatory audit workforce.”
- Ms. Sanabria: Today there are fortunately many females in leadership roles throughout the customs and trade environment, including: Brenda Smith and Cynthia Whittenburg who represent the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of International Trade, Ana Hinojosa is the Director of Compliance and Facilitation at the World Customs Organization, Carla Provost is the Acting Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, Christa Brzozowski is a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Trade and Transport in the Department of Homeland Security, and Kirstjen Nielsen is the Secretary of Homeland Security. And there are many other influential female leaders on the rise.
- Ms. Covell: Create new opportunities, encourage mentorship and sponsorships, provide a network of support, measure progress, invest in the future, and inspire to aim high. Also help by getting buy in at the top of organizations to help set the organizational tone, help with child care needs and work-life balance, and tell women to jump in with both feet and take risks.
- Ms. Escalante: Although women still face many cultural and institutional barriers to equality, generally women are supported by a robust legal platform. However, more discussion is needed around the discreet and hidden challenges and obstacles to female equality in the workplace.
- Ms. Sanabria: Men need to understand and acknowledge that there are differences in barriers for men and women throughout their careers. Give women the respect and space needed to speak about and share and address these issues. Be intentional in your hiring practices and be intentional about training women so they can be promoted in the future.
- Ms. Escalante: Male leaders should be mindful about the opportunities and challenges their female employees and colleagues have. And be cognizant of female exclusion in formal or informal settings.
- Ms. Covell: Men should openly embrace change, mentor and create opportunities for women, respect everyone and listen. And most importantly, explicitly ask female colleagues what they need to be supported.
- Ms. Covell: Network and join professional associations, such as OWIT. Create informal support groups within and outside of work to help cheer each other on. Cultivate both male and female friendships that are supportive and positive. And seek opportunities and volunteer for assignments outside of your own work area and comfort zone.
- Ms. Escalante: Women need to get rid of our own misconceptions about what jobs are more suitable for men and women. And defend our spaces and opportunities in an assertive way.
- Ms. Sanabria: Women need to dispel the myth that we are supposed to be competitive, catty, jealous, or that we need to tear each other down to lift ourselves up. Females need to make a choice to choose collaboration over competition. Additionally, women need to ‘come to the table’ and be brave to learn, ask questions and contribute their ideas. Moreover, females need to stop apologizing for contributing by saying ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I just’, as this discredits an individual’s validity.
CT Strategies is a proud sponsor of OWIT and supports a future of workplace equality in the border management environment.
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