• Monday, June 17, 2024
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Break the Bias by Reinventing Yourself – Dr. Olori Boye Ajayi

Break the Bias by Reinventing Yourself – Dr. Olori Boye Ajayi

Following my contribution to the Target Gender Equality program for Multinationals organized by the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Nigeria and Ghana, the highlight of the central message echoes the issues women are fighting for all over the world – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, a fight that started hundreds of years ago. For more Women to sit at the table of leadership, women must understand how to reinvent themselves at the different levels of the ladder called Visibility.

When it comes to the current state of women in senior leadership positions in business, studies from Deloitte and Grant Thornton show that women occupy only 17 percent of board seats internationally, and women account for fewer than three out of every ten senior leaders at organizations throughout the world.

This analysis demonstrates that progress toward gender parity in leadership has halted across industries and across the country.
With these troubling statistics, a new school of thought contends that women must also bear the burden of visibility.

So, what can you do to increase your visibility? Here are some tried-and-true strategies for increasing your exposure and thought-leadership:

1. Map the end from the beginning – Many things will come your way disguised as opportunities, and while you should take advantage of them, not every opportunity is gold. Where do you see yourself in the future? What is the summit of your life that you envision for yourself? Plan what you want for yourself as a thought leader, how to get there (promotions, appointments, or nominations), who can help you get there (a sponsor or a firm), and when you want to get there (what is the timeline for these activities). By mapping out the areas you believe are stepping stones, you will be more likely to notice them when golden opportunities present themselves.

2. Relationship Mapping (or Circles and Cycles) – People are analogous to keys. If you want to leave a legacy or advance in your career, you need people of all shapes and sizes. The essential question to address here is how you will gain access to the persons you have identified. Being seen or speaking with these highly successful and visible people will provide you with what I refer to as leverage.

Don’t forget that you value yourself, so don’t act like a beggar when you show up.

3. Humble pie must be in your diet – as you map out the people you’ve identified as gatekeepers to the industry you belong in, when the golden opportunity presents itself for you, even as little as” a door left ajar”, swing it wide open through service. Get yourself through the door in that person’s space and welcome yourself by service. You must touch a heart before you can ask for a hand. The initial role might look beneath you but remember you are on a mission to the top.

4. Hunger, not desperation – Understand that getting the desired outcomes can take some time, but don’t get discouraged and lose your dignity in the process of becoming visible. Nothing should force you to jeopardize your dignity as a woman in order to get access or any position. One thing to keep in mind as a rising leader is that desperation has a distinct odour; it stinks, and world leaders can smell it from a mile away. Always maintain a professional demeanour, speak and say the appropriate things at the appropriate times, and understand how to communicate with global leaders when golden possibilities arise.
Quick pro tip: never say no to big projects; they might just be the springboard you’ve been looking for.

5. The Requirement is the Requirement – the bar for a woman is one thing, but the bar for women of colour is higher. Is that correct? Certainly not. But, as we battle for a more equitable and inclusive society, you have a profession and a life to develop, and there are no shortcuts and you must work hard and develop yourself in every way. You will require the wisdom of individuals you’ve mapped out as advisors, mentors, sponsors, and, most importantly, hype-women.

Quick pro-tip – the hype woman is that friend that truly believes in you and will fight your imposter syndrome every day with her encouragement.

6. Guilt and discomfort are a part of the process – After a while of being intentional and climbing the ladder, you may start to feel guilty, as if you’re trying too hard. Don’t worry, it’s all part of the process of becoming a remarkable woman. The discomfort you feel stems from societal constructs and labels about how much women should achieve. Accept your newfound prominence, and don’t be hesitant to step away from the old and into the new. Guilt also comes from the imposter syndrome and like I said that imposter may grow louder as you get more visible but it will grow quiet with the legacy you’re building of bringing other women along with you.

7. Invest in your visibility – You are not showing off by emphasizing your outstanding job. The top leaders in your sector most likely have a dedicated public relations firm on retainer. Don’t be afraid to invest in your visibility; after all, it’s yours. You might choose to start with a little monthly budget and pay for the services of people who can enhance your image.

Despite advancements in gender equality, there is still a large enough divide that it may take 108 years to close. What we do for ourselves as women allows other women with similar experiences to break the bias in the areas we’ve conquered. This is really about what you’re doing for the sake of others, not just yourself. So, why play small with your life ambition, who are you not to be great?


Africa. Women. International Trade. These words best describe OBA. Known for pioneering impactful projects, Dr. Olori Boye-Ajayi serves as President, Borderless Trade Network; a gender and trade advocacy network that collaborates with key players in the international trade space to boost the participation of women in trade and investment. With offices in Lagos, Accra, Monrovia, and the United Kingdom, BTN is an official partner of the prestigious White House initiative – Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Lagos. As an advocate for women entrepreneurs and a driver for economic change in Africa, Olori has received numerous award and recognitions.

She was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Women’s Leadership and Global Trade Development from the ESCAE University in the Republic of Benin for her contribution to the increased participation of women in International Trade.