By Kenneth Jukpor
When MMS Woman of Fortune Hall of Fame (WoFHoF) Initiative celebrated some amazons to mark the 2022 International Women’s Day (IWD) last week, it was a colourful outing as participants, celebrants and well-wishers wore smiles, shed joyful tears and dressed glamorously for the event; however, the key lessons shared by some of the celebrants.
At the programme, the host and CEO of Lelook Nigeria Limited, Mrs. Chinwe Ezenwa put the celebration in perspective with her opening speech where she said that Nigerian women have barely begun to agitate for their rights.
Ezenwa’s assertion wasn’t to discountenance the efforts, rallies and talkshops carried out to promote the womenfolk across the nation, but it was a stark reality that underlined the fact that Nigerian women have to do so much more.
As part of efforts to address the fundamental issues responsible for gender disparity, the Guest Speaker and CEO of African Marine Environment Sustainability Initiative (AFMESI), Dr. Felicia Mogo suggested that Nigeria women set-up a think-tank group to study and tackle the factors responsible for gender imbalance in the nation.
Despite the challenges, some of the 2022 IWD Amazons by the MMS WoFHoF Initiative shared some insightful tips on breaking the bias and excelling across various sectors.
While some amazons highlighted the roles of the organizations in creating a work environment that facilitates growth, others stressed the importance of resilience and diligence, even as another harped on the need to explore and maximize technology.
One of the celebrants, a lawyer and maritime consultant, Mrs. Gloria Kanabe observed that leadership and organizational structures could play a role in exploring the potentials of the workforce, women inclusive.
Her words: “I was privileged to start my career in a company which gave me a platform to grow and despite leaving the company several years ago I still have engagements with them. At Maersk Line, I was introduced to practical claims handling. There is a wide margin between the lawyers who only know the theoretical aspects and someone who has gone through the ranks in maritime. Maersk Line availed me with hands-on experience and training opportunities in London, Holland, South Africa and other places.”
“It’s very important to work in a structured organization that can help to identify and promote your talents to make them blossom. It was while I was at Maersk Line that I was inspired to go study Law. My initial degree was in Business Administration. I was employed as an Assistant Manager in Customer Service but I rose through the ranks and also worked in other aspects of the organization. During that period, Maersk Line had a policy to make employees work in various departments at the company. It made the employees especially those at managerial level have experience about all aspects of the business. It was a good policy but I don’t know if they are still doing that. I had sufficient background in the industry to discuss intelligently in-house and outside the office for other engagements.”
While stating that there is a need to do more mentoring for young ladies in the maritime sector, she lamented that it has become more difficult to identify those willing to be mentored.
“Not many young women even in this sector are willing to put in the work. Some of them have accepted the idea that there is a shortcut to success and you really can’t teach or mentor someone with that type of mindset,” she added.
Also speaking, the Lagos Area Manager, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Engr. Sarat Braimah encouraged women to strive to surpass the expectations at the work environment.
Her words: “If women must excel like I’m doing at NIWA, meeting operational expectations must be key. In NIWA, and through the ranks, I pushed myself and my team beyond measure. There are no excuses associated with women and having established the fact that I am willing to go the extra mile, to sacrifice comfort and other fanciful stuff, my male bosses and colleagues were also challenged to assist and provide me necessary support to enable me deliver on my mandate.”
“In the marine engineering world, you must work like a soldier, be focused, determined and sacrificial. You must be intrepid, adventurous and be a goal-getter. It’s what separates you from others and also what counts in our environment. I’m a bit worried that our young female persons in the profession wait on culture and not hard work to propel their tomorrow’s vision. I’m still learning from my male bosses and even from younger ones working under me and the rule of thumb is to deliver and deliver before excuses!”
On her part, the Head of Corporate and Strategic Communications at the Lagos Ports Complex, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Arit Nwokedi expressed delight to be part of the celebrants.
“I have attended lots of programmes by MMS WoFHoF and I was always inspired by the nominees and wondered when it would be my turn. Today is my turn and I’m truly delighted because it’s a privilege and not a right. There is a saying that many are called but few are chosen. Today, I’m privileged to be part of the few chosen for celebration and I thank the MMS team for choosing me,” she said.
Speaking on the complexities involved in Public Relations, Arit thanked the Apapa Port Manager, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Olotu for shielding the PR team from a lot of issues that would have seen the department placed under severe pressure.
According to Arit, Olotu has been a remarkably proactive boss who spots and nips in the bud the issues that would have blown up to become a PR crisis at the Apapa Port, especially on the factors responsible for the gridlock and the management of the truck call-up system, ETO.
Arit, who is also the Public Relations Officer at Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, encouraged more women, especially young ones to identify with the association in a bid to have a succession plan.
“The days when women could be successful on account of their beauty are long gone. Beauty without brains wouldn’t make any woman a success. Women need to work hard to prove their mettle. We have to work thrice as hard as the men to be recognized. We have to be bold and outspoken but not just argumentative,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Multimix Academy, Mrs. Oluchi Okafor, stressed the significance of leveraging on technological advancements.
“It is an honour to be here as a celebrant today. I have only being the Managing Director of Multimix Academy for three and it is heartwarming to think that I have been able to make enough impact for this recognition. I’m super-grateful and happy to be here.”
“Technology isn’t the future anymore, it’s the present. With a generational business like Multimix Academy, we had a situation where the person who started the business had become the business. We had to create a dichotomy between the man and the business. We were able to make that separation in my first year.”
“Before COVID-19 pandemic, we already had plans to give our customers and clients the same service in a more convenient way using technology. We had people who had to travel every Saturday to attend our classes, but we introduced online classes so such a category of people could stay home and have lectures. COVID-19 helped solidify this process for us and we are one of the businesses that could say COVID-19 pandemic was a blessing. During the five months of complete lockdown, everything had to be done online and salaries had to be paid and we didn’t let go of any member of staff,” Oluchi said.
Describing logistics as a very interesting market, she noted that there is a dire need to address the regulatory issues and provide top-notch training.
“We have lots of international certifications and affiliations and the teachings are also global but they don’t relate with the realities in the Nigerian terrain. We had to be able to link these teachings to the peculiarities in the country. At Multimix we train for companies and for individuals. People train for different reasons. Some are training to get employment, others are training to secure a promotion and others are trying to venture into a new business,” she added.
Other celebrants at the event were: Deputy Director, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mrs. Margaret Ogbonnah; Zonal Public Relations Officer, Zone A Customs headquarters, Nkeiru Nwala; Assistant Director, Public Relations, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Shielibe Abe; and the Executive Secretary of MMS WoFHoF Initiative, Mrs. Ifeoma Iloh.