• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Blessing Adesiyan, dedicated to building a robust care infrastructure for today’s workforce

Blessing Adesiyan, dedicated to building a robust care infrastructure for today’s workforce

Blessing Adesiyan is an accomplished leader in the corporate, tech, and manufacturing world with a background in Chemical Engineering, where she led operational, energy, and global business solutions for prestigious Fortune 100 companies such as PepsiCo, Cargill, DuPont, and BASF. Throughout her career, she has been a driving force behind the establishment of multiple employee resource groups, supporting parents and caregivers in the workplace.

Blessing is the Founder & CEO of Mother Honestly, known as MH WorkLife, a dynamic ecosystem dedicated to building a robust care infrastructure for today’s workforce. Under her leadership, MH launched WorkLife & Care Equity, a national non-profit committed to advancing workplace equity by advocating for the needs and aspirations of vulnerable workers, including Blacks, Latinos, immigrants, and service and hourly workers. With a passion for Africa and its potential, Blessing established Caring Africa, an NGO focused on elevating care on the continent for women, working families, and economies.

Blessing’s academic achievements include a BSc. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida, MSc. in Energy Management from the New York Institute of Technology, and an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Her dedication to making a positive difference in people’s lives and her passion for transformative change continue to shape her remarkable journey.

You have worked for fortune 100 companies such as PepsiCo, Cargill, DuPont, and BASF, what have you learnt in all those years?

My career journey served as a comprehensive training ground, laying a solid foundation in technical expertise, business acumen, and marketing insight. Collaborating with some of the industry’s most brilliant minds, I was involved in crafting world-class solutions and infrastructures that have been pivotal to my professional development. This hands-on experience has become the cornerstone of my relentless drive and determination. I honed my skills as a formidable problem-solver, adept at creating robust and sustainable solutions through careful planning and strategic foresight. This period of my life was invaluable, and I remain profoundly appreciative of the lessons learnt and the opportunities afforded to me.

How and why have you been a driving force behind the establishment of multiple employee resource groups, supporting parents and caregivers in the workplace?

Raised in Lagos, Nigeria, as the eldest of six siblings all under the age of seven, I quickly assumed a care giving role, a responsibility that matured alongside me. This early experience in care was further amplified when, upon graduating from the University of Florida, I found myself navigating the complexities of childcare for my 3-month-old. While my peers were preparing for their professional debut, I was deeply engrossed in selecting childcare providers and ensuring the well-being of my child. This journey took a pivotal turn in 2009 when I joined DuPont, baby in tow, marking a significant leap into what would become my life’s work.

My initial steps involved uniting colleagues across genders and leadership levels to deliberate on enhancing workplace inclusivity for women and advocating for a collective embrace of caregiving responsibilities. This dialogue birthed the inception of an employee resource group dedicated to women and parents at DuPont’s flagship manufacturing hub, hosting over 5,000 employees. This initiative, met with enthusiastic support from the company’s leadership, laid the groundwork for my continued leadership in various employee resource groups, shaping an unforgettable chapter in my professional journey.

When and why was MH WorkLife established? What is the goal and what are the achievements and projections?

Mother Honestly was born out of my personal journey navigating the return to work after the birth of my second child, a journey that mirrored the struggles of countless others striving to balance career aspirations with family life. Recognising that this challenge transcended individual experiences and was, in fact, a systemic issue affecting workplaces and societies at large, I was compelled to act. My approach was holistic, I engaged with a broad spectrum of leaders across HR, CSR, ESG, and marketing domains, advocating for a collective resolution to this pervasive challenge.

This initiative quickly culminated in the organisation of our inaugural conference, Mother: The Summit, in downtown Detroit, Michigan. The event became a convergence point for over 500 attendees, including women, parents, employers, and policymakers from various regions, catalysing a movement that resonated far beyond its initial scope.

Prior to this, while there were discussions and communities addressing these issues, there was a noticeable absence of actionable solutions that integrated advocacy, technology, and community support. Mother Honestly pioneered this integrated approach, and today, it has grown into a global network, impacting over 25 million parents, caregivers, and employers worldwide, driving forward the conversation and solutions around work-life integration and care.

Tell us more about the WorkLife & Care Equity, how are companies lagging behind in this, globally and Nigeria specifically, what needs to be done urgently?

WorkLife & Care Equity highlights the critical role of robust care infrastructure in enabling individuals to balance personal fulfilment with professional success. Essential for enhancing productivity, business outcomes, and economic advancement, the framework of care is increasingly significant. Yet, care duties are expanding, with a disproportionate burden often falling on women, thus limiting their participation in essential economic roles. With projections indicating that sub-Saharan Africa will have over 165 billion adults aged over 60 by 2050, and as traditional extended family support networks weaken, the necessity for inventive approaches to bolster long-term eldercare becomes clear. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is experiencing rapid population growth, expected to surge by 50 million to reach 263 million by 2030. This demographic shift underscores the need for accessible childcare solutions to empower more women to join and stay in the workforce. Currently, Nigeria’s childcare sector remains largely informal, with care workers frequently facing exploitative conditions. It is imperative for both corporations and the wider community to acknowledge the importance of care as a shared obligation, integral to fostering economic growth and enhancing individual well-being.

What do workers need to know on work-life?

I think that employees need to understand that their working lives matter, and that they are their own biggest advocate. Awareness and self-advocacy can lead to healthier work environments and personal lives.

What do companies need to do about work-life and care?

Businesses need to look beyond salaries and invest in comprehensive care and well-being programmes for employees. This includes offering substantial parental leave, mental health support, and other benefits that acknowledge the whole person, not just their work output.

Do companies fully understand there is more to their workers beyond paying of salaries?

Some Nigerian companies, like Standard Chartered Bank with its 20-week gender-neutral parental leave, are setting examples by addressing employees’ holistic needs. This approach communicates a deep care for employees’ life choices and well-being, beyond just their professional contributions.

Share with us about Caring Africa and the reason for its establishment. What do you hope it achieves?

Caring Africa is truly near and dear to my heart. It is our bold plan for care in Africa, because we truly believe that elevating care in our homes, workplaces, and society would not only improve the quality of our working lives, but also catalyse economic growth across economies in Africa. Caring Africa conceptualises care as a vital and integral component of the societal fabric – from childcare and eldercare to domestic work and healthcare assistance. We recognise that care is a universal need, transcending cultural, economic, and social boundaries, and is crucial for social and economic development. We hope to raise societal awareness on the value of care and why we must invest in care.

You co-founded the CareForce and Chamber Of Mothers in the height of the pandemic, how were you able to achieve this during such a period and what are the results so far?

During the pandemic, the urgency of care needs became even more apparent. Leveraging technology and virtual platforms, we established CareForce and Chamber Of Mothers to provide immediate support and resources for parents and caregivers. Despite the challenges, the communities grew rapidly, offering solidarity, resources, and advocacy for improved care policies. The results have been inspiring, with increased awareness and policy changes beginning to take shape.

What greatly inspired you while growing up that has influenced you till date?

It has always been the women I grew up with, their roles in the church, mosque, schools, community, and workplaces. It’s inspiring to see women in multiple spheres breaking barriers despite the uphill battles we face in everyday life and facets of society.

You started from being a chemical engineer but you are now creating consciousness in work-life and care, how were you able to make this transition?

My transition was driven by personal experiences and a deep-seated passion for making a tangible difference in people’s lives. The skills and analytical approach I honed as a chemical engineer were invaluable as I navigated this new path. The ability to analyse complex systems, coupled with a personal understanding of work-life challenges, allowed me to innovate and advocate effectively in the care and work-life sectors.

Tell us about your forthcoming event and what you hope it achieves

The Caring Africa Summit aims to be a catalyst for change, bringing together thought leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders from across the continent and beyond to discuss and strategise on enhancing care infrastructure in Africa. We hope to highlight successful models, foster partnerships, and galvanise action towards establishing robust care systems that support economic growth and improve the quality of life for all Africans.

What are your personal and professional challenges?

One of my main challenges has been balancing the demands of advocacy work with personal commitments, especially as someone deeply involved in the care sector. Professionally, the challenge lies in shifting societal and corporate perceptions to recognise care as not just a personal issue but a critical economic and social priority.

Concluding words

As we move forward, it’s crucial to remember that investing in care is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one. By creating supportive environments for caregivers and ensuring accessible, quality care for all, we can unlock the full potential of our workforce, foster innovation, and drive sustainable economic growth. Let’s work together to make care a central pillar of our societies and economies.