• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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“As a woman, you are worthy of honour, recognition and wealth” Seun Timi-Koleolu, founding partner, Pavestones

“As a woman, you are worthy of honour, recognition and wealth”  Seun Timi-Koleolu, founding partner, Pavestones

Seun Timi-Koleolu, Founding Partner of Pavestones and one of the leading technology lawyers in Nigeria. I am also a skilled M&A and Corporate and Commercial lawyer.

Pavestones is a modern female-led full-service law practice with a particular interest in technology, innovation and foreign direct investments.

Pavestones was founded by myself and Aderonke Alex-Adedipe. We describe Pavestones as a modern law practice because of our values of simplicity, accessibility, commercial savviness, use of technology and our culture of freely disseminating information to help businesses.

As a Founding Partner of Pavestones, I lead my team of lawyers in providing expert legal and regulatory support to local and multinational clients on various areas, including Technology, Banking and Finance, Mergers and Acquisitions, Corporate Commercial Law, and Data Protection.

Over the years, I have played a major role in safeguarding the interests of businesses across various industries and in driving the successful completion of major regional and cross-border transactions including a multi-million dollar M&A transaction; the first IT Outsourcing Project in Africa. I have also supported and guided various tech companies in understanding the regulatory terrain, negotiating their deals and pushing past barriers to success; I have also worked closely with Foreign Direct Investors from various countries in successfully operating in Nigeria.

I am a recipient of various awards and recognitions for which I am grateful, including the prestigious Partner of the Year at the African Legal Awards 2021; recognition in 2023 The Legal 500 EMEA rankings in the Commercial, Corporate, and M&A category (with a description of being “business savvy and very responsive); top-ranked in the 2024 Chambers and Partners as a leading Fintech Lawyer; and recognition as one of the 40 under 40 Most Influential People of African Descent in connection with the UN International of People of African Descent. Pavestones has also received prestigious awards since our inception including the African Law Firm of the Year (small practice)in the 2022 African Legal Awards; recognition as a leading firm in various prestigious directories such as the 2023 IFLR, 2023 Legal 500 and 2024 Chambers and Partners in finance, fintech, commercial law and M&A transactions.

With the desire to impact lives positively, through Pavestones my co-founder and I have initiated and supported various impact programs including the Pavestones WomenEmpowerment Program, a pioneering effort offering pro bono legal services to women in the tech industry. The program aims to support entrepreneurial women in establishing successful technology-driven companies in Nigeria. Additionally, we established an annual law school scholarship award tailored for graduates with a passion for technology law to nurture the future generation of technology lawyers. I am proud to say that a few of the lawyers we have supported through this initiative have finished with a 1st class or 2:1 from the law school.

I have also authored various publications and articles including the Pavestones Doing Business Simplified Series which is aimed at solving the problem of a lack of free, useful legal and regulatory information online, to guide businesses.

In addition, I sit as a Non-Executive Director of some tech companies and also hold a leadership position in church aimed at building healthy families.

I hold a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Warwick and a Master of Laws degree from University College London. I am a wife to a great man, Timi Koleolu and a mother to three lovely children.

What would you describe as the greatest passion that has brought you this far in your career?

That’s an interesting question. I have various passions but if I were to narrow them down, I would say my passion lies in leveraging my skill set, experience, and opportunities to solve existing problems and ultimately impact lives positively.

Drawing from my past experiences as a lawyer and in-house counsel, I identified the limitations of traditional legal services. Recognizing that these services were often cumbersome for in-house counsel and clients alike, I followed my intuition, connected with a like-minded co-founder, and we set up Pavestones to meet the needs of today’s clients.

Clients now seek uncomplicated and excellent legal services delivered in a friendly manner; and the ability to conduct online searches for legal insights for their businesses. Their preference is to engage lawyers to get the work done as compared to carrying out first-level research. Pavestones has successfully addressed these needs, as reflected in the size and quality of our client base, along with the recognition we have received since our inception.

Beyond business success, my passion for making a meaningful impact drives me to mentor and develop the skills of the lawyers within my team. This commitment ensures rapid competence growth and exceptional client support.

I firmly believe that our skills and resources should serve a greater purpose in society. Thus, Pavestones is engaged in various Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs including our student scholarship program and women empowerment program.

As a tip to my readers, from my experiences, I have learnt that authentic problem-solving and caring for those around you will yield rewarding outcomes.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress, how do you think this can be achieved in the country?

Advancing gender equality and fostering the progress of women in Nigeria demands a deliberate commitment from leaders across both the private and public sectors.

Within the private sector, there is a crucial need for the establishment and enforcement of policies and processes aimed at closing the gender gap in areas such as hiring, salary equity, biases, and the promotion of women to top managerial positions, among other concerns. These processes should be meticulously designed, taking into consideration the unique challenges faced by women. Mere rhetoric about equal treatment is insufficient; organizations must ensure that their implemented processes genuinely promote gender equality rather than inadvertently disadvantage women.

Diversity should be encouraged at the board level of organizations in accordance with good corporate governance practices. There should be zero-tolerance policies for people showing bias towards women and refusing to expose women to the information and opportunities required for their development. This policy should affect both men and women as women sometimes, are perpetrators of bias towards other women, refusing to train them and give them promotion opportunities.

In the public sector, ministries should actively strategize to uplift the girl child, recognizing the potential impact on long-term economic improvement. Collaborative Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects between ministries, agencies, and the private sector can amplify efforts in nurturing the girl child. Establishing funding opportunities specifically for female-owned businesses is also a crucial element in fostering their growth.

Furthermore, initiatives promoting women’s participation in the tech industry through training and mentorship, coupled with the encouragement of tech-driven solutions to address challenges faced by women across various sectors, constitute additional strategies toward achieving the overarching goal of gender equality.

Advocacy for and enforcement of laws safeguarding women’s rights, encompassing aspects like property ownership, inheritance, and protection against gender-based violence, should be prioritized.

These outlined strategies collectively contribute to steering our society closer to the realization of gender equality.

What is your view on “Positive Discrimination Initiatives”?

My understanding of Positive Discrimination Initiatives in this context is policies and measures developed to address historical and systemic disadvantages faced by women when compared to their male counterparts. Initiatives that aim to promote equal opportunities and inclusivity by providing preferential treatment to women.

As earlier stated, I am of the view that organizations and industries across various sectors should intentionally implement policies that establish a fair playing field for women, considering their distinct needs such as maternity leave and unique training needs. The implementation of such affirmative policies will help break down barriers to the progression of women in society.

I do not, however, support the idea of organizations favouring unqualified women over competent men simply to fill a gender quota. If a man demonstrates clear competence over a woman, the opportunity should rightfully be given to him.

The goal of these policies should be to level the playing field and ensure that competent women are not unfairly prejudiced by systemic biases.

How well can you describe the implementation of the affirmative in the country and what other limitations can you ascribe to the seemingly slow progress in the ascendancy of a woman as the number one citizen in the country?

The Nigerian government has undertaken some commendable steps to include women in government and ministries. We have witnessed in the current dispensation several women assuming diverse appointments, including ministerial positions.
Worthy of note is the National Gender Policy and the National Gender Policy on Women’s Empowerment which is in place to encourage female representation in government.

Notwithstanding, I must still say that women still encounter formidable barriers when aspiring to the highest leadership positions in Nigeria. Cultural and societal norms pose significant challenges, hindering women from pursuing top roles. These issues are deeply ingrained in societal structures, often originating from upbringing and prevailing perceptions of women. Educational disparities persist between men and women, particularly in regions with lower-income families, where investments in men’s education tend to outweigh those in women’s education. Financial disadvantages also impede many women from adequately funding their campaigns, creating an uneven playing field with their male counterparts. Additionally, existing policies aimed at encouraging greater female participation need more effective implementation.

A collaborative approach is essential to overcome these obstacles and foster a more inclusive and equitable political landscape including collaboration in funding a woman’s campaign and giving her the necessary cover to push for the top role.

There has been an increase in the rate of rape and sexual abuse on the girl child; do you think social media has been a negative influence on the society especially on the female gender?

My view is that rape and sexual abuse against the girl child has not necessarily increased, but rather, the issue has been brought to the forefront of public consciousness. Social media has provided a platform for individuals to share publicly what has been happening privately for years. This exposure now gives the authorities and community a greater chance to actively battle this issue.

Despite this view, it is important to acknowledge that social media also has its drawbacks. Some young girls, seeking approval online, are exposing themselves to strangers on these platforms and might be unknowingly putting themselves at risk from potential sexual deviants.

To address this issue, support and reorientation efforts should begin at home. Parents play a crucial role in connecting with their children, understanding the pressures they face, and providing guidance. It is essential for parents to instill respect for girls in their sons and create an environment where open communication is encouraged.

Government intervention is also crucial. Perpetrators must be prosecuted effectively, and there should be clear hotlines and codes in place to raise the alarm when a girl is a victim of rape or abuse. It’s important to note that abuse is not limited to girls; boys can also be victims. Systems should be implemented to address abuse against boys, ensuring that they have the necessary support and reporting mechanisms in place.

Overall, a collaborative effort between families, communities, and the government is essential to combatting and preventing such forms of abuse.

As a career woman, how do you manage your home, and office as well as other social responsibilities and still be able to maintain a successful career?

Successfully navigating the intricate balance of a thriving career; roles as a wife, mother, and church worker, and maintaining leadership responsibilities in various committees and associations is not an easy task. There are days when the multitude of responsibilities can feel overwhelming.

My approach to balancing these different aspects of life begins with recognizing the utmost priority for me—my family, in addition to my Christian values. In the face of conflicts between family responsibilities and work or earning opportunities, my family takes precedence.

Nonetheless, it is important to me that I use my skills to positively impact others and as a woman, have a good level of financial independence. Therefore, I strive to give my best in both professional and personal spheres.

To maintain balance, I prioritize right, set boundaries, and decline opportunities that do not align with my goals, recognizing that I don’t need to be omnipresent or handle every task that comes my way.

Delegating tasks to my team at work is a key aspect of my strategy. I invest in training and building their confidence, allowing them to take on major responsibilities. While clients may not always interact with me directly, they know I am in the background overseeing their work. I love to delegate not just because of its ability to help me handle more work but because I love to see my team grow and become more competent individuals. I find it truly rewarding.

Effective time management is essential. I list out priorities daily, distinguishing between must-dos and nice-to-dos. I ensure that all essential tasks are accomplished while remaining patient with myself regarding less urgent tasks.

Support from my spouse, grandparents and other trusted individuals has also helped me manage the needs of my children and the demands of career life. I encourage women to lean on trusted third parties.

In summary, the keys to my approach are prioritizing effectively; delegating wisely; setting appropriate boundaries; managing time efficiently; and seeking support from others for the home front.

What advice do you have for the girl child and women in general as we celebrate IWD 2024?

Dear Girl child/Woman,

Believe in yourself despite cultural and systemic biases. Question the stereotypes and societal views that dictate how you should behave or what you should aspire to achieve (such as the suitable age for marriage, the suitable age to have children, where lifestyle funding should come from etc.

Permit yourself to dream big and then put plans in place to turn those dreams into reality. Expand your mind through continuous learning, reading about the achievements of others, travelling (if possible), and gaining diverse work experiences. Embrace work opportunities that contribute to your personal growth, even if such experiences do not immediately come with additional pay. By investing in yourself in these ways, you will eventually command promotions, funding, and various opportunities, not because of your gender, but because you are qualified and deserving of it.

Trust your intuition, it is a compass guiding you on the next step in your life. Recognize that life is a journey, and setbacks or disappointments are a natural part of it. Take a break when needed, but always keep moving forward. You are worthy of honour, recognition, and wealth.

You have an inherent capacity to make a significant impact and contribute to positive change in your own unique way. As the good book says in Genesis 13:14-18, “As far as the eyes can see (as far as your mind can comprehend), the good Lord will give to you. It all starts with your mind and your self-belief.

With love from
Seun Timi-Koleolu.