Still on the events for women and by women because this is their history month and month of celebration, here comes a big one.
Monday, March 20, 2017 witnessed the U.S. Embassy’s Women’s History Month event which held at Ekiti Hall, U.S. Embassy, Abuja, 1075 Diplomatic Drive, Central Business District. Interestingly, this event was open to men who were in attendance as well.
Miss Bella Anne Ndubuisi, Cultural Affairs Specialist, U.S. Embassy Abuja,
addressed and welcomed all invitees at the main entrance shortly before they were ushered in after security check processes. The TedEx video interview of Sheryl Sandberg, an American technology executive, activist, author, chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook, founder of Leanin.org (also known as the Lean In Foundation) and author of “Lean In” was already playing on a slideshow in the hall and of course, caught the attention of participants who made their way in to get seated. In her interview, Sheryl talked about the hurdles and challenges she typically faced, how she mustered up courage to publish her book which turned out to be a bestseller and roadblocks preventing women’s success especially in the workplace. With that singular eye-opening interview, I have downloaded my e-copy of the book and have begun reading it. Please, if you have not already, do get a copy of it, you will definitely find that book interesting. It is “LEAN IN” by Sheryl Sandberg.
Mr. Laurence Socha, Cultural Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy, Abuja, broke the silence at the end of the video. At exactly 2:17 pm, he gave a brief introduction of the event, stating the need to change barrier stereotypes which make situations like: women in leadership and men being emotional and having solitary moments of cry, look abnormal. After his speech, Mr. Socha gave way for the moderator of the next session, Miss Bella Anne Ndubuisi to introduce the panelists. In no special order, the panelists: Mrs. Kay Crawford, Management Counselor, U.S. Embassy; Miss Julia Smart, Consular Officer, U.S. Embassy; Mrs. Florence Anyanwu, Director, Department of Defence, Office of Auditor General of the Federation; Mrs. Ndidi Ukaonu, Head of Retail Banking and immediate past Assistant General Manager FCT & North Central, GTBank and Miss Ene Ijegwa-Adaji, CEO of IA&G Partners (An 8-year old Construction Company) took their seats, while being introduced and applauded. These panelists were strategically chosen from the private and public sectors and from the U.S. Embassy in order to strike a balance.
In the ensuing discussion, each of the panelists told their stories of birthing and developing their passion and career and also stated challenges which they had on their way up the ladder of success and accomplishment. Several other points ranging from the numerous years which most of them have given in their service in different sectors, going through the journey of self-discovery, battle with culture and self-doubt, confidence building, personal development, were brought up and dialogued upon. Well, unknown to many in our society, women have equal capabilities and opportunities as their male counterparts. For the men, they are appreciated and even rewarded for risk-taking; their mistakes on-the-job are taken as giant strides while on the other hand, women are criticized for being emotional. Women were thus, charged to take mistakes as human, get over the usual brooding, work on correcting themselves and moving on with work. Further advice to the female folks included: looking into and changing their lifestyle of seeing fellow women as traits and rather than helping and upbuilding each other, they tend to hate and envy each other’s progress. Therefore, in fostering unity and support, formation of women networks and support groups was suggested. As individuals, women could also tap from the strength of women mentors and role models in their organization, along their career path or in the Nigerian space, not necessarily being involved in one-on-one mentorship. Basically, they are to investigate, find, research on and read the stories of women who serve as an inspiration to them, putting into consideration their line of career and passion. But firstly, their “self-motivation” or “internal fire” as I term it, must be in place. The session graduated from being a lecture to being a fully-interactive one with questions and answers and moments of joke cracking and laughter.
To work towards success both in career and the workplace, women were urged to identify their personal objectives and goals, have work ethics, control personal emotions, expect and neglect hearsays, be self-willed, engage in partnership that works, have a good mentor and a set of standards and values. For me, the turning point of the event was when the issue of the choice of a life partner was discussed. “A very big career decision to make is to choose the best life partner.” This act translates into the making or the marring of a woman’s career. Believe it or not, a life partner is not a mere business partner, work colleague or just anybody. A husband and infact, the children affect all of the woman’s decisions, giant strides, roles and successes in her career. There must be full support, positive push, understanding and sacrifices from both ends. The women in the house were advised to treat their husbands as friends and not to disregard or take the understanding and sacrifices of their family for granted. From the inception of the relationship or courtship, women must not hide their skills, boldness, self-worth and accomplishments so it doesn’t come unannounced (as a weighty surprise or intimidation) much later in the marriage. And for the men who are below average in terms of accomplishments and career vision when compared to the women who they would still end up getting married to, it’s best to top their game, develop themselves and get in the limelight (if so desired) by virtue of their creativity, hardwork and professionalism. In event that a wife is more renowned than the husband, the man’s “CHARACTER” would make him see his wife’s success as a commendable accomplishment rather than a threat. All said, it would be endangering to compare one’s family with another because simply put, “no one size fits all.”
Unknown to the banker panelist, I smartly grabbed her mention of the “Failing Fast” Concept in Management which literally means failing, dusting it off and getting up quickly. Now, these were the take-homes for me:
- “The size of your spirit translates to success.”
- “You have the ability to do and become anything. First, have the capacity, then, the confidence sets in naturally.”
- “Let your work speak for itself.”
- “Build yourself up, be indispensable, read, study, engage, build your mental strength and stop negativity.”
- “Professionalism doesn’t have gender.”
- “Impossible is nothing. Go for it!”
- “Forget the fact that you’re a woman, get it done.”
- “Infact, being a woman is an advantage.”
And it was a wrap!
If you ask me, it was worth my time and I would graciously honour an invitation to attend such an event like this one, over and over again. Hearty congratulations to the organizers – the U.S. Embassy, Abuja! Cheers to all women out there making a difference and creating positive impacts in their communities, while still upholding their values. See you at the top!