The annual Mentoring and Leadership Event of Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR) held on December 10, 2016. As usual, it highlighted the importance of women’s contribution to the growth and development of humanity vis-à-vis how women empowerment impacts on a country.
Themed, “Women Rising: Transforming Leadership”, the event, held at Ace Olivia Hall, City Mall, Onikan, Lagos, drew high-calibre women from all walks of life, including the Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule, and Rear Admiral Itunu Hotonou (retd.), Nigeria’s first female Rear Admiral.
The event also featured a panel discussion of carefully selected exemplary women, who are leaders in their various fields of endeavour, including Abiola Alabi, former managing director, M-NET, Bolanle Austen Peters, CEO, Terra culture, and Hajara Adeola, Managing Director, Lotus Capital Limited.
The founder, Amina Oyagbola, in this interaction with The Sun, talked about the core essence of WISCAR, a non-profit organisation she set up in 2008 with the objective of helping professional career women to achieve their full potential.
What is the central theme of this event?
The WISCAR Mentoring and Leadership Event is a very special event. Every year, we feature distinguished women and men and engage meaningfully with them through panel discussions to tease out key and relevant issues that relate to gender, leadership, mentorship and development. The theme for this year is particularly relevant at this defining time in the history of the world with women in several positions of leadership. The event is dedicated to recognising and showcasing women, who have done unusual things, applauding and celebrating women, who have achieved uncommon success in their career and learning of the roads these extraordinary women have walked on their journey to success.
Can you give a brief background about WISCAR’s WIN programme?
We are also here to congratulate our mentees for 2016 that have completed our WIN-with-WISCAR mentoring programme and to welcome the incoming 2017 mentees.
The mentoring programme is a structured and practical one-on-one 12-month mentoring programme based on a focused selection and matching of mentors and their mentees. The programme is substantially free. The cost is met from donations.
Nowadays, we have more women becoming successful, how would you explain that?
We are standing there today, as women on the shoulders of other women, whether mother, teacher, sister or friend. We are all standing, we are successful, we have been able to achieve not by our own effort alone, but because somebody showed us the way, gave us the opportunity, guided or counseled us. When we are down, somebody picked us up, when depressed or frustrated, somebody somewhere whispered something. If it wasn’t a physical person, then God spoke to us. He
heard our prayers and showed us the way.
Just how difficult can it be for women to become achievers compare to their
It is something I have experienced too, a lot of the things that happened in the
course of my own career, my own life, especially at a certain point, which young women with families talk about as the child-rearing years. When my three children were very young and falling ill and I was trying to cope with work, trying to stay with the profession, at a certain point, I felt I wasn’t going to cope well. I almost stepped out of the workplace. That is one of the things that really motivated me to develop this programme, for the fact that I got counseling and advice, from what I call my support network, my sisters, my girlfriends, my mother. They all spoke to me, that this is just a phase.
Most women are probably too busy to take advantage of WISCAR –
that is the beauty of this programme. The beauty of it is that my advisory board members, who all came together and designed this programme, structured it so it doesn’t put too much burden on the professional woman that wants to give. It enables you to give in a manner that is convenient for you, within your own schedule and, that flexibility provides a structured arrangement.
With regard to the 2016 set, what is the progress, how has it been?
All the girls are doing amazing things. They are progressing in their workplace.
Some of them have tried to change career. One or two of them have gone abroad,
so it is amazing. That is the fulfillment for me, to see the difference made to somebody, somebody that was frustrated when they came in, but blossoming when they are going out and confident and full of self-esteem and can speak and communicate clearly, which was not the case when they came in. They have learnt about etiquette. They have learnt about values. They have learnt about how to behave and how to comport themselves. They have learnt about competence, real skill.
In the course of my career, there are certain things I observed that most women are not that good at. A lot of the time, we are shy to speak in a room full of men, even when you have the idea, even if your idea is the best, you won’t
articulate it. Then one man whom you whispered it to, would announce the idea, as his own and he would then be seen as a genius. We can’t just sit down and be doing our work, yes, that is important, but as a woman, you must open your eyes and your ears and know what is going on around you so that you can position yourself. I am
not advocating that we must become politicians; instead we must be half political savvy. It will be foolish to sit down among a group of people and not recognise that some politics will be at play. We need to be conscious of what is at play and know how to navigate, so as not to get into trouble. Things such as these are not naturally our strength. But we have some strength,
many attributes that men don’t have. That is why the complementarities between men and women are so important. We are natural care givers.
We are more emotional, a positive thing, not a bad thing, this emotional connections, because we are human beings; that sense of humanity and community is instinctual for women. Of course, men have it too, but they are more targeted at hunting, getting
out there looking for daily bread, that is their core responsibility. Women too, because of the economic situation we are in today, we all must contribute to the food on the table.
In the 21st century especially in Africa, there seem to be barriers, confronting women in maximising their potentials; how do you think they can take their rightful position in governance?
It starts from the home. Women have a lot of influence when the children are young. They must nurture and bring up your children, whether male or female,
expose them to the work ethic, let them know they can be whatever they want. To do this means we do not pigeonhole our girls, and say, because you are a girl, this is what you do, because he is a boy, that is what he should do.
If there is limited resource in a family, and they have to choose one or the other having an education, the boy is usually given the preference. All those things need to stop. Mothers have a lot of influence in that regard. They are the caregivers, the one who spend most time with the child, drop the children in school, pick them up, advise them on university applications. It is women who do all those things. So, it starts from there. And when it gets to the workplace, women who are in senior positions take it on as a responsibility to keep an eye on the younger women there and help to develop them and bring them up. Guide them, let them know that “my
door is open; if you have a challenge, I am accessible, reach out to me.” Having a
listening ear sometimes, that is all people need. People just need inspiration. They just need to know somebody there has their back; somebody out there cares about them. Even at home, in the family, that is what people need, what they call moral
support. Parents sometimes don’t have to give money. If they can give money,
fantastic, but a lot of children succeed just by the encouragements of their parents. So, parents have a lot of money. But their children don’t end up well, because money is not going to give confidence, it will not give the moral support, that parents’ presence give. Moral support is something we can all provide, whether we
are biological parents or parents in loco parentis. You don’t have to be a biological parent to somebody to nurture that person. We can all nurture and help to bring up people and that is what WISCAR is about.
What is the place of the men in WISCAR?
Men are important. For example, without my husband’s support, I will not be standing here. Even last night, I came back from the office at 10 o’clock. I haven’t
finished my speech for WISCAR; he started helping me with it. Without my husband, I won’t be able to stand; I won’t balance.
There are so many things he does for me that I don’t have to worry about because he is there and there are so many things I do for him too that he doesn’t have to worry about because I am there. It is a partnership, together we come out stronger. We have two men on the advisory board, to give us the male perspective because it
is a different perspective, which is a valuable perspective. WISCAR is not about women succeeding to the exclusion of men. WISCAR is about men supporting women to succeed because they understand the socio-
economic benefit even to themselves. If a woman prospers, a daughter prospers, a sister prospers, is the man’s situation not going to be better?