Dear Editor,

Who can argue that the Year 2020 was one for the books? We all suffered setbacks in some way or the other.

As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed, women were the most impacted in the job sector due to millions of jobs lost because of the pandemic. According to statistics, more than 22 million jobs were lost in March and April 2020, a trend that continued throughout last year. By the end of the year, women held 5.3 million fewer jobs than they did before the pandemic began in February 2020 as opposed to men who fared slightly better. Men held 4.6 million less jobs than before the job losses due to COVID-19.

The good news is that as the cases due to the virus begin to subside and the restrictions also lessen, more jobs will become available, and we must prepare for them by availing ourselves of every possible resource to retrain and retool. We must remain focused, vigilant and ready to position ourselves for opportunities that may arise.

Indeed, we are strong. Locally, our women can find strength in the memory of our ancestors — women who were referred to as “Queens.” They were not considered royalty, but they were called Queens as a form of respect.

Some of these women known as Queen Mary, who led the Fireburn Rebellion in St. Croix in 1878, and Queen Coziah who led the fight for fair wages on St. Thomas in 1892, won their victories then. Today, some of these causes for fairness at work and pay equity continue.

That is why Women Striving For Success, Inc. is redoubling its efforts to reach out to the women in our community. We know that for women to succeed, supporting each other is a key element. What may have started as a grassroots movement in 2012 has grown to be an 501c3 organization that brings women together to network and to support each other in our business and career development.

Over the years, we have helped open doors and minds to new business ideas, providing training for budding and established entrepreneurs and hosted personal development programs. We have had several sponsors who have supported us from Day One and their unwavering support has led to ensuring that participants had access to no-cost and low-cost training opportunities.

While the organization took a well-deserved break last fall, we have chosen to re-energize and to re-launch a whole host of programs this year, including new events. And we are calling on our members and prospective members to join with us as volunteers to bring these activities to life once again. We need an “all hands-on deck” approach to stage the various initiatives we are planning for the benefit of the entire community.

Among the events we will relaunch are our virtual happy hours. This is one of our main networking events where a presenter speaks on a relevant topic, opens the floor for questions and we then move into “Zoom rooms” where we can connect with each other. Yes, networking, upon which Women Striving For Success was founded, leads to new contacts, new information and new opportunities. Networking is how you meet new people, find out information that can aid you in your career or lead to a new job or business venture. Meeting people or finding out more about people you know can lead you to pursuing new business prospects and career growth.

We are also planning for in-person events at this time because we know that we cannot conduct all business in a virtual manner forever. These events include a town hall meeting to discuss women and justice, an economic forum, physical and mental health wellness programs, leadership development training and a host of other networking events.

Upcoming activities will not number to 200-plus persons in a room any time soon, but we believe that hosting smaller in-person events will bring back a sense of normalcy that so many of us crave for. And, yes, we are still planning on hosting our annual conference the minute we are given the green light by the medical community and government leaders to host such an event.

At a time when we are celebrating many firsts in business, politics, sports and all facets of our lives, women are still underearning in the workplace, facing obstacles to starting their own businesses and supporting their families in the face of personal losses. To those women we say, we see you, we support you, and you are someone’s hero.

Yes, we have come a long way in many ways, and we must forge ahead to maintain and even surpass that pace. However, we must realize that it is an ongoing process. Therefore, we continue to be Women Striving For Success.

To find out more about our organization, log on to womenstrivingforsuccess.org or find us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

— Janette Millin Young, St. Thomas, is founder and president of Women Striving For Success, Inc. and reachable at womenstrivingforsuccessinc@gmail.com.