Following Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ announcement last Thursday of an impending Cabinet shuffle early in the new year, members of Generation 2000 (G2K) – the Jamaica Labour Party’s young professional affiliates’ group – have backed calls for more women in senior political roles, including the executive and the general Parliament.

Eighteen of the current 63 members of parliament are females, just shy of the 30 per cent of women in decision-making positions goal set by the Jamaica National Policy for Gender Equality in 2020.

Only three women currently serve among the 18 Cabinet ministers: Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, who is responsible for foreign affairs and foreign trade; Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment, and sport; and Fayval Williams, minister of education, youth, and information. Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn and Marsha Smith are the only women among the nine state ministers.

“There is never enough women unless it’s all women,” G2K Vice President Titanya Clarke told The Gleaner last Thursday, noting that although more women have entered the political arena, there is still room for others to get on board.

Pointing out that the world was still patriarchal, Clarke said that women aiming for high office have to consider more factors, including getting married, starting a family and further pursuing academic achievements while trying to balance their careers.

Although agreeing that recognising when changes are needed is a valuable characteristic of a leader, she told The Gleaner that she would like to see more young people being brought into the fold, just as previous G2K Presidents Dr Christopher Tufton, Floyd Green, and Matthew Samuda were.

She called for a shift in thinking and attributing characteristics to women which seemingly relegate them to lightweight or “softer portfolios” and impact their rise in the political arena.

Another G2K vice president, Tia Ferguson, said that it is not a case of women not proving themselves capable of handling certain portfolios, noting that because of such views, however, Jamaica was yet to see a female national security or finance minister, although Williams had previously served as a minister without portfolio in the latter.

“But I think we are getting there,” Ferguson noted, even as she pointed to a what she deemed a commendable increase of female presence within the police force.

“There’s a lot of room for growth and I do believe that as a society, we need to begin to expand our mental capacities as it relates to what women can and cannot do,” she added.

“There are women who can carry the mantle,” Clarke also asserted, but noted that women were rarely handed what are deemed to be ‘safe seats’ in politics.

“We really need to figure out how to shift that narrative of women not having to fight all the time or fight against each other to [land] a particular role in society,” she said, noting that she was looking to the Government to identify capable young people, including women, to fit into areas that will boost productivity and output.

Even though she believes more women should be in Parliament, the Cabinet and every aspect of politics, Ferguson noted that she does not believe women should be handed positions on this basis but granted them on the basis of merit.

“While I would love to see a lot more females in Parliament and not only in representational politics, but taking up and occupying specific spaces in our economy, in our nation. As long as us, as women, continue to put ourselves forward, I think that we will get an opportunity,” she said.

Another G2K vice president, Shayne Kerr, believes that the JLP has tried its best to be more inclusive of women.

Speaking specifically about the G2K’s progress, Kerr told The Gleaner that the group has been creating a lot of female leaders and has seen an improvement in gender inclusiveness with an equal ratio of two males and two females as its vice presidents.

Turning to the impending Cabinet shuffle, Kerr said that there were many areas in which more youth could make an impact, bringing fresh ideas that could propel the party ahead, including in gender affairs and agriculture.

He feels that by incorporating more youth among state ministers, the administration could be more efficient.

“Putting that sort of energy in key areas like those will only do well for Jamaica,” he said.