Photo/Courtesy of Karrian Hepburn Malcolm
For a very long time, minority groups and especially Black women have consistently been overlooked in predominantly white corporations. In the last few decades, however, the tide has slowly begun to turn, with underrepresented communities breaking through the glass ceiling one by one and paving the way for others to follow suit. One woman who broke through this invisible barrier in the Caribbean region is Dr. Karrian Hepburn-Malcolm, Vice President of Sales and Service at the Unit Trust Corporation in Trinidad and Tobago.
Despite her occupational success, the Jamaican native admits that the corporate world wasn’t her initial career path of choice - she wanted to be a singer. But growing up in a Jamaican household, education was paramount. “When I was in high school, I remember thinking that this is so hard and I wanted to drop out and do something else - something along the vocational lines,” she stated. However, since both of her parents were entrepreneurs who ran a tailor shop together, they encouraged Karrian to finish high school - and she did.
Karrian went on to study management and public administration at the University of the West Indies, a move that would kick start her career in business. At the age of 25, Karrian was able to secure her first management job. She saw this as a great opportunity, but it was also very scary, because of the level of responsibility that seemingly fell on her shoulders so early in her career. Nevertheless, it was at this point Karrian Hepburn realized that rather than running away from the responsibility, she should face it head-on.
Being A Black Woman In Leadership
In her role as the Vice President of Sales and Service at Unit Trust Corporation, Karrian Hepburn Malcolm has executive responsibility for customer relationship management and service touchpoints across the corporation, which also includes a host of other subsidiaries. Having spent over three years at one of the region’s leading mutual fund companies, she leads her team with credibility, confidence, and competence. But she admits, in the beginning, she had to learn to embrace the role.
Early on, there were times Karrian felt like she wasn’t competent or capable, but with the help of mentors, she was able to find her confidence. “There are so many dissenting voices that make us feel like we aren’t good enough, especially if we start to play the comparison game. But that is why having mentors is important...these people really pushed me even when I felt like I wasn’t ready for a position, and they gave me the confidence to pursue what I wanted,” she said.
When asked what advice she would give to young women of Caribbean heritage entering the workforce, Karrian stated, “Don’t be intimidated if you don’t see anyone around that looks like you, because there is a first time for everything. You should never be afraid to blaze your own trail. Just make sure you are good at what you do, because there are barriers you will have to overcome and you will have to prove yourself.”
Building A Freelance Economy in the Caribbean
The corporate executive, mother, and wife have now added entrepreneur to her list of accomplishments. Karrian Hepburn-Malcolm has always had a burning desire to launch her own business, but more importantly, she wanted a business that would have a positive impact on the Caribbean region. That’s why earlier this year she partnered with Akil Edwards – a close friend, to create Wourkly.
Wourkly is a service marketplace built by Schaffen Digital Ltd., that makes it easy for companies of all sizes to find and work with a wider pool of freelance talent and gig workers within the Caribbean. It will also help tackle the growing rate of educated unemployment in the region.
“Since the corporate world has some barriers to entry and operating in that world isn’t easy, I wanted to create a space where individuals who didn’t want the typical 9 to 5 could market
themselves,” she said. Also, having seen so many people lose their jobs or work reduced hours because of the pandemic, Karrian felt that this venture could help them replace or supplement lost income. Moreover, freelancers can build a sustainable career anywhere in the region or internationally.
Caribbean people have often sought traditional routes to secure employment. However, Karrian envisions a new future for the Caribbean; a future where people have the freedom to work on their terms and without borders. Through Wourkly, she is helping to facilitate a paradigm shift to working and sourcing talent in the region. Her goal is to remove the roadblock often faced by talented Caribbean professionals - discoverability.