Wed | Jun 16, 2021

Glass ceiling intact, but women dominate top management at JWN

Published:Wednesday | October 23, 2019 | 12:00 AMHuntley Medley/Senior Business Writer
Jacqueline Cuthbert, senior director for human resources at J. Wray & Nephew Limited.
Managing director of J. Wray & Nephew Limited, Jean-Philippe Beyer, and Senior Director of Sustainability and Public Affairs, Tanikie McClarthy Allen.
Marsha Lumley, director of marketing at J. Wray & Nephew Limited.

The glass ceiling is still intact at J Wray & Nephew Limited, JWN, one of Jamaica’s oldest companies and market leader in rum.

No woman has ever chaired the company.

And no woman has been its CEO.

But the current make-up of JWN’s top management, at more than 70 per cent female, signals that the past may not necessarily be prologue for the 194-year-old spirits company, now owned by Campari Group of Italy.

For sellers of rum, other spirits and alcoholic beverages, women are a growing market. Apparently, they make better, more responsible drinkers too. Inside JWN, they are also leading the charge at the corporate level, as heads of various departments – from human resources to IT, marketing and finance – while the international face of the company is renowned master blender Joy Spence.

The female corporates at JWN are new hires and internal promotions. They are deemed to make great Camapristas – displaying a strong spirit within a group that turns over €1.7 billion in global sales and markets more than 50 premium brands in 190 countries.

“We are looking for very capable people, obviously. As managing director, I want to be surrounded by people who are specialists in their field and I want them to know more than I do,” said JWN Jean-Philippe Beyer in an interview that included four of the eight women who are part of the company’s top management.

“It shouldn’t be that surprisingly when you look at the number of women enrolled in universities in Jamaica,” added Beyer. “We are kind of a reflection of something that is happening in the society.”

He concedes that despite this female dominance in education, women are still under-represented in corporate boardrooms.

The rum company – itself with still no women yet on its board, but its parent Gruppo Campari having at least four women listed among its board of directors – is setting out to change this Jamaican profile, according to the new senior director for HR, Jacqueline Cuthbert, a British national and new hire.

“It is not easy to secure women and the spirits sector is not usually seen as the most attractive industry for women,” said Cuthbert. “We are driving quite a few local initiatives to increase our presence in universities so that we can attract more women, keep them and take them up the ranks. Having so many women in the leadership team is acting as an inspiration to women,” she said.

Beyer wants gender diversity to be part of his management legacy in Jamaica.

But while women are proving to be a better cultural fit at the spirits company, he concedes that it might be some time before one of those women sit in his chair, but says that’s because he is not yet ready to move on from Jamaica.

“Attitude is also extremely important. We love people who are natural and not afraid to be themselves,” Beyer said of the Campari culture, which places emphasis on values such as integrity, passion, togetherness and pragmatism. “We want people to display those values organically, because that’s who they are,” he said.

He acknowledges that changing the corporate culture within the Jamaican business after Campari bought the Lascelles deMercado spirits business in 2012 has been a major challenge, but that the women are more receptive to change than men.

“Men tend to listen to it without really believing in it,” the JWN managing director says. He adds that finding the right person to manage the culture in JWN is the reason the company more than two HR heads in recent years.

Other new women hires include Marsh Lumley, JWN’s director of marketing for Jamaica and the Caribbean for the past three months, who comes fresh from Trade Winds Citrus Limited, where she headed marketing and corporate communications. She also previously headed business sales at Red Stripe.

Leleika-Dee Barnes, who has taken on the new role of trade marketing manager, is a new internal promotion.

In May this year, Michele Brown-Sinclair was also promoted to the position of commercial director, Jamaica and the Caribbean.

The other women in top management and JWN include Tanikie McCarthy Allen, who has been senior director, sustainability and public affairs, who has been driving the company’s responsible drinking initiative for the past three years; Vinessa Cadien-Miller, internal audit manager for more than five years; Yana Samuels, senior legal counsel; and Michelle Bispott, senior information technology manager.

Along with Beyer, the men in the JWN top tier are Mark McDonald, senior director of finance; and Jorge Gonzales, senior director of supply chain.

The company’s leadership makes clear that JWN’s recruitment policies are not gender-biased, with men being targeted for areas in which they are under-represented, such as in support services; while JWN also has also implemented forward-looking entitlements, such as paternity leave.