A few weeks ago, the whole world received with boundless excitement the news that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had been appointed as Director General of the World Trade Organization. Like many others, I was thrilled, inspired and also at the same time, deeply introspective — mainly because as a leader in the corporate environment, I am familiar in my own little way with the challenges that women encounter on their journey as they ascend leadership, influence and power. We often all see the woman at that pinnacle moment, celebrating her achievements because she represents the aspiration of many and is another lighthouse for those who dare to continue to dream. While every woman’s experience is personal and she must navigate it for herself I believe that the time is now for everyone especially the females on the planet to step into playing a more deliberate, catalytic role towards accelerating opportunities for women.
As the world marks International Women’s Day today —I’m filled with a renewed sense of hope, determination and purpose. I make a fresh commitment to do all I can in ensuring that the systemic and cultural barriers that prevent women from thriving and reaching their highest potential, are dismantled including the ones that women inadvertently tend to fuel.
In this article I wrote last month, I shared a framework that helped me function effectively as a leader in the workplace, especially on the back of a very challenging 2020. Today I am choosing to take a similar approach and share another framework on my thoughts on some of the things we should actively do to create structures that support and enable women, everywhere, thrive.
Support is imperative — We need to understand that “supporting women” isn’t just a nice or charitable thing to do, rather one that’s of crucial socio-economic importance. As the global marketplace evolves, with more women in business and the workforce, words and good intent are not enough, it should be backed up with clear, measurable and impactful action. Whether that’s ensuring that women have improved access to healthcare, mental and emotional support, childcare, mentorship and equal business opportunities to make them secure, better equipped to balance their role in the continuity of society, as well as flourish in leadership in whatever field they pursue. I for example, work for an organization that gives mothers 6-months paid maternity leave, and last week launched a support programme for women in the work place who are going through menopause. Things like this and more are the kinds of “money where your mouth is” action we need to be taking. Individuals and corporates must rise to the occasion and re-look their policies, quit being traditional about their views on how taking action reduces productivity, consider the positive impact it has on engagement, and finally, investigate to validate that its impact on productivity is the opposite.
Challenge Bias & Stereotypes — One of the things that exploring the subject of D&I has expounded for me is recognizing how limiting bias and stereotypes can be — especially for women in business and the workplace. I am now more vigilant (even with myself), about doing, saying, or permitting things that enforce bias and stereotypes around me. I’m particularly intentional about encouraging the women around me to speak up, be fearless, take up opportunities and trust in the skills and talents that they bring to the table. In the same vein, encourage them to be more demanding of themselves and of the influences they surround themselves with. For me, it’s become increasingly important to ensure that women do not count themselves out of opportunities because of considerations that are premised on their gender, and the fac that they may have other responsibilities outside of their careers and sources of livelihood. Women are strong and relational, their equal presence in leadership benefits organizations, their communities and the society at large. “When women win, the world wins.” Clichéd but true.
Challenge Failure — Women are sometimes known to internalize failure a little too deeply, take challenges a little too personally (I know I have), and subsequently move around in a haze of being unsure and hesitant; starting to second guess themselves. That’s not a productive or useful place to be in. We need to encourage women to see (and embrace) failure clearly for what it is — an opportunity to learn, sharpen skills and become better. Failure should not leave us feeling less than ourselves, but instead, make us see and realize that we are more, and with that knowledge propel ourselves forward. We should be resolute ambassadors of “pulling the woman back up.” Do it again and again for yourself and for every woman that you come into contact with that needs to hear it, let us drown out the voices that are saying no.
Recruit Allies — in creating a world that is more equitable and sustainable for women, we must not forget or neglect to recruit allies — women and men who are unrelenting and consistent in their support for the goals we need to achieve as a collective. Let’s build and foster ecosystems of communities with inclusivity at the heart, reach beyond race, gender, religion and creed. Expand the understanding that diversity and inclusion are crucial pillars of belonging and equity — all essential elements for women and minority groups to thrive.
Celebrate and Amplify — It was Diane Von Furstenberg who said: “The success of every single woman is inspiration for another.” And I think that it’s such a powerful, resonant quote to remember, especially on a day like this. The more we amplify and acknowledge the impact and contributions of women, the more it becomes a catalyst to inspire other women to do even better. Traditionally women are taught to be quiet about their contributions, you are expected to be shy or modest and to be in the shadows, let’s make a concerted effort to stop doing that today. Other women are counting on you to show up as the brightest and best version of yourself — so show up, and show out! Stop second guessing yourself and the magic you bring to the world — all of it, all of you is what the world needs so let your light shine bright.
I’m very clear eyed about how I need to play my part. I am also aware that the thoughts above alongside the millions of contributions from people across the world today as we mark International Women’s Day, will require action, purposeful planning and perseverance because it is a long haul. Notwithstanding I’m “Choosing To Challenge” myself, play my part and make a commitment to stay the course. How about you?
Marketing & Innovation Director – Guinness Nigeria
Adenike is the Marketing and Innovation Director and a member of the Guinness Nigeria Exec Team. Guinness Nigeria is Nigeria’s only total beverage alcohol company distinguishing itself from the rest of the industry for its portfolio of some of the worlds most loved brands. A collection of premium brands with rich history and a pedigree of exceptional quality including Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Baileys, Cîroc, Orijin, Gordons, Malta Guinness and Dubic to mention a few. Adenike oversees Marketing, Reserve, Innovation and the portfolio strategy for Nigeria.
Prior to her appointment to the top marketing job for Guinness Nigeria, Adenike has held many roles local and internationally. Most recently she was Portfolio Director, Spirits. Prior to that she was based in London accountable for Guinness’ communications for Africa. She was also responsible for Diageo’s non-alcoholic agenda for Africa spanning 15 countries, leading new market expansion, innovation and content creation. As a younger marketeer Adenike was an embodiment of a dynamic thinker-doer, with a strong streak for strategy and commercial acumen, building a personal trademark over the years of delivering sustainable growth through the transformation of brand equity and long-term commercial performance.
Adenike’ s leadership is premised on a personal belief that being the best version of yourself everyday requires courage and commitment and the choice to be brave is yours and yours alone especially if you are a woman. She is currently a member of Diageo’s global task force on Inclusivity and Diversity, leading a new wave of brand accountability and participation with tackling negative female stereotypes in the media and in advertising.
She Joined Guinness Nigeria in 2005 as a Brand Manager from UACN, with a HND in Food Technology, she also holds an MBA from the University of Manchester, UK.
Adenike is married to Toyin and they have 3 children.