How women can progress in chosen careers – Citibank MD

The power of asking, self-learning, and being brave have been identified as important nuggets for women to successfully progress in their careers.

This was made known by Ireti Samuel-Ogbu, MD/CEO, Citibank Nigeria, at the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) webinar sharing experiences series tagged ‘Beyond the Glass Ceiling’. The term ‘Glass Ceiling’ refers to the sometimes-invisible barriers to success that many women come against in their careers.

According to Samuel-Ogbu, self-learning is important as she had to learn about being brave and not perfect.

“You can have the most enabling environment but you need to be aware of the fundamental differences between men and women and how they operate or you won’t be able to take advantage of the culture that is inclusive and enable women to progress,” she said.

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The first female CEO of the bank also talked about how the power of asking for a role helped her career. “In a book I read about the power of asking, the author said women tend to wait till they are 100 percent ready before they take a role while the male counterparts may be 50 percent ready but much braver. So even if we are 50 percent ready, we should be brave by putting ourselves out there and taking such roles.”

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal five aims to achieve gender equality for all by 2030 but Nigeria still has a long way to go in achieving gender parity. According to data from a 2021 Global Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Nigeria ranked 139th position out of 156 countries.

The lack of leadership positions for women in organisations has made most of them think of changing their femininity to fit into systems designed for men.

“I actually think that it is a shame if we think that we should change, because diversity and inclusivity is all about different types of people bringing in a richness of ideas. I don’t think I have felt to be anything other than who I am in order to succeed,” Samuel-Ogbu said.

She added, “Women need to continue to be who they are and be comfortable. And they don’t have to retrofit into somebody else’s idea of what they need to be. I don’t think I have even up my femininity to become successful”.

Achieving gender equality is important as it has a significant impact on economic development in any society. Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) could grow by 23 percent or $229billion by 2025 if women participated in the economy to the same extent as men, says a McKinsey report.

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