Dominica’s Rennae Francis addresses US Embassy conference of women leaders

The first black female squad commander of the 46th precinct in New York Police Department, Dominican Lieutenant Rennae Francis, was among the inspirational women who addressed a US Embassy-organized “She Inspires” virtual conference held on March 25, 2021.

Dubbed “She Inspires: Expanding the Network of the Next Generation of Women Leaders,” Francis spoke to over 150 female conference participants from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a press release said.

The conference’s goal was to celebrate the achievements and aspirations of Eastern Caribbean women during Women’s History Month.

Addressing the event, Francis said that support is a huge contributor to success for any woman.

“One of the biggest things we need to recognize is that when people have support, they are better able to do things that they may not have thought they were able to do. Guidance is huge in anyone’s development, especially for females when you don’t see or do see the under-representation of females in leadership positions,” she said.

A participant at the virtual event said through the US Embassy Instagram page, “Lieutenant Rennae Francis has inspired me a lot and I enjoyed listening to her experience. And being from Dominica myself, I was moved by her story and how she didn’t make coming from a small country hold her back.”

Francis moved to the US at age 17 and joined the NYPD as a police cadet in 2007 while a student at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She subsequently became a police officer and 13 years later is now in charge of 30 investigators and two sergeants at the NYPD 46th precinct.

Thursday’s conference, which convened 21 Eastern Caribbean and U.S. female leaders, boasted of a dynamic program which featured inspiring remarks and provided the opportunity for participants to engage in small groups with leaders in fields that women often face additional challenges on the basis of their gender such as business, disabilities, journalism, politics, sports, and STEM, according to the press release.

The embassy said that a major goal was to inspire and expand the networks of its participants.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Taglialatela, who opened the session, said that, “Today we honor the many contributions that women have made to get us here, while ensuring that we do our part to enable and empower tomorrow’s female leaders. I am extremely proud of the many ways the U.S. Embassy has partnered with women in the region. Programs such as our Academy for Women Entrepreneurs and the Women in Politics Leadership Institute are just a few recent examples of our focus on expanding opportunities for women in the region. My goal for this morning is that you walk away with a clearer vision of what you want to achieve and how to achieve it.”

Another speaker at the event was Pro Vice Chancellor and first female Principal of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill, Professor of Gender and Public Policy V. Eudine Barriteau who commented,   “There is no one way to be a woman,” urging participants to be confident in their abilities and interests despite pressures within society to stay out of certain circles.

Meanwhile, the UN Women Multi-Country Office Caribbean Representative Tonni Ann Brodber encouraged women to speak up and make room for themselves and other women in decision making realms.

She added that despite women comprising less than a third of legislative seats in the Caribbean, “when it comes to issues of priorities of greatest concern to Caribbean people, they want to see more women in politics.”

She continued, “Women’s places are wherever women choose to be” indicating the importance of networking events like “She Inspires.”

“Those moments when women in power make moments for women who are along the way, are transformational,” she noted.

According to the embassy, the conference also featured breakout sessions for participants to engage and network in small groups with U.S. and Eastern Caribbean female leaders representing a tremendous wealth of experience and expertise. It said that the US is committed and honored to work with its partners throughout the world to expand opportunities for women and improve gender equity as central tenets of US foreign policy.