Hello everyone! It is me again :). So, this morning, I stumbled across this post on LinkedIn by an amazing, multi-talented lady named Aishetu Dozie on her initiative which provides “a platform for quality programming capturing the full essence of the African woman’s life.” It focuses on women empowering and supporting their fellow women. I was oh so inspired, and I had a big smile on my face as I read through the post. I am a big supporter of any initiative to encourage, assist or empower women, or girl children.
While initiatives such as this – where women celebrate and encourage one another – are becoming more common, there is still a lot of work to be done in this regard. So, kudos to all the ladies out there looking out for their “sisters”.
STICK WITH WHO?
At work today, a female colleague told me a story of her analyst days in Investment Banking in London. A female VP befriended her under the guise of “women sticking together”. I believe they were the only two females in that unit. They often went out for coffee together and had long chats. As time went on, my colleague let her guard down and opened up more. She gradually began to feel more comfortable sharing her career plans and aspirations with this VP, who she probably saw as a mentor.
One day, as luck would have it, she found a folder on this VP’s shared (public) drive filled with detailed minutes of their “coffee chats”, complete with Date, Time and Venue. When she told me this, I thought, “Ahan! See wahala oh! On top of work? Shuo!” So much for women sticking together! As for her, she learnt to stay woke at all times in the work place.
DIFFERENCE OF OPINION
The LinkedIn post and above conversation got me thinking about discrimination and the discourse around equality and gender discrimination in the work place. I have always had a somewhat different opinion on this issue. Thus, each time I find myself in the middle of a conversation on this matter, I jejely walk away from the scene. I really never want to be seen as being against “the movement”.
In my everyday life, I choose not to focus on gender or discrimination. I recognise that I am a woman and as such, I have certain strengths and, of course, weaknesses. I don’t go to work thinking, “Today’s a good day to show the men who’s the real boss!” Neither am I hoping to outrun or beat the guys. I am just thinking, “Today is a good day, a new opportunity to strengthen my brand, build on and refine my personal brand.” Each day I hope to be the best person that I can be. There is nothing more fulfilling and satisfying than being able to say that I did my best.
THE GOOD FIGHT
Honestly, I am well aware of, and remain grateful for, the significant work done by certain brave women who went ahead of us to get us to where we are today. These women gave us the voice that we have today. I do not take this for granted at all.
However, I feel like while women have fought for equality and against discrimination, we have failed to emphasise the role that we are to play in achieving gender equality. We are to support one another and not tear ourselves down.
To quote Michelle Obama, “when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
You see, this is what we need to keep our focus on. If there are more women at the decision tables, we would be harder to ignore or be discriminated against. Ecclesiastes 4: 12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
This is an issue I am most passionate about because, in all of my career, the one time I was ever discriminated against, it was by a woman. Till today, that encounter still makes me cringe. During an interview process, I met a non-Nigerian lady in what was meant to be the last round of interviews. She asked me if I was married, to which I answered, “Yes.” She then asked if we had kids. At the time we didn’t, so I answered , “No”. By this time, I was quite confused by the line of questioning.
Would you believe that this lady had the nerve to tell me that I should not consider having kids for the next two years if I joined to company?? Her reason was that I would need to prove myself and having a baby might hinder my ability to do so. This was not the most painful part. She then told me that she had resumed work in that same company pregnant. “Okay, hold up! What? You mean you had kids while in this company and yet you had thrived therein. But somehow, I couldn’t emulate you?”
I was shocked to my core by this. However, I found the strength to tell her that I was inspired and motivated by my parents and people like her who had juggled having a family and a career successfully. I told her that while I recognised that it would be challenging, I was more than happy to face, and by the grace of God overcome, this challenge.
Please bear in mind that prior to meeting her, I had met two senior men in this firm and none of them had asked me any such questions. In a consulting firm I had once interviewed at, I was told that they would organise a telephone chat between me and a top female executive who had succeeded in raising a family and rising to the top in consulting, just so that I could see that I too could do the same. Yet, here was this lady who had managed to have a successful career and raise a family, trying to discourage me from doing the same.
As God would have it, I got pregnant a month into joining the firm. I was still so concerned by this lady’s comments that I begged God for an easy and illness-free pregnancy. I told God that I did not want to miss a day of work throughout my pregnancy. By God’s grace and mercy, I had an easy pregnancy. I worked so hard during this time that she did not even know I was pregnant until I was 6-7 months along. My God put her to shame!
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
There is still some work to be done, or so my limited experience on this subject tells me. However, that day, I promised that I would be different. I vowed to support my fellow women whenever I could. My father always says that if we ever find ourselves in situations with no positive learnings, God is trying to teach us how not to be. I am certain that I will be a leader one day. When that time comes, I hope that I remember to be fair and just; to reach back and pull another woman uo; to not feel intimidated by my fellow women, but to be inspired and motivated by their successes.
Till my next post.