43 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly proposed March 8 as UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace. In the intervening decades, what had begun as a celebration of women in Soviet Russia has become a major highlight of the year, with many campaigns, events and public marches organized to mark it all over the world. Although it is lacking in its original socialist fervour, the International Women’s Day celebrations are an important display of how far the fight for women’s rights have come and a reminder of the challenges ahead.
We talked to Mr Charles Umeh, founder of BTC Inc. He believes that there has been a lot of progress, but that achieving gender equality is still a “work in progress”. He shares his perspectives on how female entrepreneurs and professional can prepare themselves for leadership positions in the workplace of the 21st century.
Would you say progress has been made in terms of gender balance in the workplace compared to years back?
I believe it’s work in progress. The world keeps evolving globally and more women in the vanguard of this. From stories of the women in Saudi Arabia driving cars more women leading the new future of the workplace and the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, the world keeps moving from what it used to be and no doubt stories of these exploits inspire the next generation to do more.
What do you think about female professionals and Entrepreneurs in Nigeria?
I believe they are currently breaking their records irrespective of how you see it. We have more women in business compared to before and that’s huge I work with more millennials and Gen Zs and the number of women learning and carving a niche is super inspiring was like a memo was sent to the women unleash and that’s good for every one of us because the world in 2020 and beyond is far from what it uses to be.
What can females do to a better position to lead in the workplace?
I’ve seen more women thrive because they have mentors and belong to groups of women supporting career growth and I have no doubt what it can do for the next generation. One of the organisations that do that that well is WinBiz. So, as we have more of these kinds of growths there is the tendency to walk around people like you that have been through what you are going through and learn how to do it best. So normal challenges like impostor syndrome and learning how to manage new teams could be learned from mentors and like minds. I believe its common knowledge though to have a career coach who helps keep you accountable.
I understand Men demand a seat at the table and not wait around for it, would you advise this approach for women too?
I think it’s not just a women thing. Everyone who demands a seat goes to get it. And generally, for women who made great impact most times they did twice or 10x more than men so I’m sure that’s open secret already.
What pitfalls should a female starting look out for in the workplace?
I think this goes to everyone too.
- Know your onions well. Be great at a skill and earn your spot. Belong to care groups that help keep you accountable. I know WinBiz does a good job with women in business but there could be more similar groups around your locality belong to them and add value to them.
- Get involved in continuous learning, this includes conferences workshops…
- Have a career coach.
- Keep professional things professional, and personal [things], personal.
With the clamour for gender equality, it all seems as if employers are under pressure to pick gender over competence, what do you say to that?
I understand that narrative however we have more competent women out there that probably need someone to take a chance on them and I don’t think anyone feels good if we put it in their face they were there for the numbers. More women out there are raising the bar in their corners and irrespective of the equality card I believe we can still find better hands.
The patriarchal society has a certain perception of ambitious Women so women are not encouraged to be ambitious, what can be done to correct this?
The narrative could be tweaked by unlearning and learning. Most times our definition for ambition might be rooted in our perception however like earlier mentioned such strengths well-harnessed births win for everyone. Ambition might simply mean go-getter and a goal-getter is one everyone needs an impostor syndrome could simply mean serving in such role for the first time which requires more of emotional intelligence a mentor would spot that and help channel it right but someone else could see it as an impostor thing and feel threatened about it. So, there is a science to everything this also requires like minds to guard you through.
Most women who rise in their workplaces had to tuck in the feminine elements to thrive, should this be encouraged?
I believe God created us differently and the feminine touch is always a breath of fresh air and should never be tucked in. So, it’s the more reason we clamour for a human workplace where we also help the business and the individual thrive. Any sane person would be suspicious in particular if there are no females on your team and when it is female-dominated it’s also a red flag. For the other cycles, women go through, like birth which is a cycle of life requires a human HR to spot and know how to avoid making it an issue. Back to my first recommendation, you must be great at your craft and if you are when the storms come you can at least stand out.
What’s the first thing you would tell a woman facing discrimination in the workplace?
Talk to someone. Reach out to your women group don’t conclude it’s your fault yet listen to a more experienced person who also has your interest and share. If you need to take a walk please do if you need to be firm speak your truth. Many times, your ability to speak your truth in the face of discrimination always wins because the truth comes the weak and helps clarify your stand.
Charles Umeh is the -founder for BTC Inc a global youth research and Media firm, one of the foremost authorities on African youth making an impact in business in and out of the workplace. Our work includes knowledge sharing. Some of his works have been showcased across major media houses, syndicates and communicates compelling, actionable insights for clients (the world’s leading youth brands and companies). His TED Talk sheds light on how Millennials and the next generations can break their coconut.
A sought-after speaker, author, consultant and moderator, Charles helps clients develop more youth-relevant products and services, communicate more effectively with their young customers and ensure that corporate strategy and execution aligns with the evolving zeitgeist. Having been featured by major print and digital media as a voice of the millennials and business coach over the past decade, Charles has worked with virtually every significant youth-relevant entity in business today including ENACTUS Nigeria, DSTV, and LEAP AFRICA.
As a connector and changemaker, he is committed to building a future that’s profitable for clients as well as positive for young people. As a business go-to for young people in business and Generations in the workplace, Charles’ mission is to inspire and help ensure that young people’s viewpoints are clear, heard and pursued by them, but also respected and understood by society.
Contact Charles Umeh via firstname.lastname@example.org and +23478026478040