Amina Oyagbola is the founder and chairperson of Women In Successful Career (WISCAR), a not for profit gender empowerment, strategic mentoring and leadership network for professional career women. An independent director, business and management consultant and legal practitioner, Amina is also the Managing Consultant, AKMS Consulting and Senior Partner, Oyagbola Chambers. A former top executive of MTN Nigeria Communications, Amina brings her rich experience to bear on several boards, and to the mentoring table, more than 35 years experience spanning legal consulting, banking and finance, energy, and telecommunications. In this interview with Kasie Abone, Amina who assembles Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; Minister for Finance, Zainab Ahmed; Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Atedo Peterside; among other dignitaries to headline this year’s annual conference, reveals the passion and thinking behind WISCAR, its success story and why the forthcoming conference which holds Saturday is so themed.
Overview of WISCAR and its objective
Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR) is a not-for-profit organization focused on empowering women to contribute to the growth and development of Nigeria and indeed Africa. Our vision is to institute an impactful high-level career and mentoring network for professional women to aid their progression; and to influence the institution of gender-friendly policies in organisations. Throughout the year we deploy various seminars and programmes in addition to one-on-one monitoring, aimed at building capacity and improving the personal, interpersonal, and organizational effectiveness of the mentees. The goal is to close the gender gap and ensure full female representation in leadership at all levels in politics and business. WISCAR was inspired by the Africa Leadership Initiative West Africa (ALIWA) to support and enable women to achieve their career goals and aspirations through mentorship.
WISCAR success story so far
WISCAR is now in its 12th year of operations. We will be graduating our 11th Stream of mentees that have passed through the WIN with WISCAR Mentorship programme this year. We are proud to have impacted over 300 women who have been trained in leadership and have gone forward to mentor and develop others. Our vibrant WISCAR alumni are change agents in their respective organisations and this has had a multiplier effect. We have also impacted over 8000 women and men through our open series programmes and high-profile Annual Conferences.
Challenges professional women face as they climb up career ladder
As a former top Executive of a global multinational with over 35 years in corporate Nigeria; I can speak from experience as a successful woman who has travelled the hard journey that professional career women go through as they aspire to attain the top jobs and achieve balance between work and family life. Overcoming the cultural and institutional barriers and the unconscious biases and discrimination are the main challenge. Most organisations have been designed by men and are predominantly driven by men with little consideration for the needs and expectations of their female counterparts. There is an absence of appropriate structures, lack of a female support network, absence of role models, mentors, sponsors, unequal pay, financial exclusion. As a result, women are often passed over for promotions and leadership and decision-making roles. WISCAR therefore focuses in addition to mentorship and capacity building on advocating and creating awareness on gender issues to put a spotlight on these issues for a more equal and just future. We proffer solutions on how some of these challenges can be overcome through structure, culture and policy changes in organisations in addition to capacity building programmes and soft skills training that focus on closing professional skills gaps in young women who have chosen to pursue a career.
Come Saturday November 28, 2020 WISCAR would hold its annual leadership conference virtually, what is the theme of this conference and what informed the choice of theme?
Our theme this year is “The Future We Want’. This year has been a deeply challenging year for everyone. COVID 19 has laid bare the socio-economic inequities in society- inadequate education and health infrastructure, poverty, huge unemployment, the shadow pandemic (SGBV) and the demand for fairness, justice, and good governance by the youth. It has been a time for deep reflection about the social contract, where we are as a nation, where we ought to be, the future that we want and the concrete actions we can take to get there.
The Future we want is one that is technology-enabled and accelerates and meets the needs of our teaming youth. A Future in which every one of us will be champions of equality. A future that provides equal access to opportunities and an equal playing field to all human beings (men and women) to achieve their aspirations and realize their full potential. A future in which all forms of discrimination and violence against women will have been erased from our society. One that enables all Nigerians to contribute meaningfully to the sustainable growth and development of our nation. A future in which every citizen can aim for the stars without regard to gender, economic position, age, race, or ethnicity. What kind of future do you want? And how do you wish to achieve it? Come and share your thoughts at the conference.
The resource persons and other key attendees and players expected to participate in the event?
We are delighted and excited to announce that our keynote speaker is Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, global icon and Chairperson, GAVI (The Vaccine Alliance), former Finance Minister and Nominee for the position of Director General, World Trade Organization. We are privileged and honoured to have over 25 world class speakers who will be gracing this event. Goodwill messages will be delivered by VIPs and top government officials and captains of Industry including the Honourable Minister for Finance, Zainab Ahmed, Atedo Peterside (CON), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President of Liberia, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka. ED UN Women. A distinguished keynote panel consisting of Yewande Sadiku CEO NIPC, Monica Musonda CEO JAVA Foods, Fred Swaniker, Founder African Leadership Academy, Shola Akinlade Co- Founder Paystack, Kadaria Ahmed, CEO Daria Media will discuss The Future We Want: An Action Plan for Accelerated Development and the Role of Women and Youth As Growth Multipliers,. This year we added a special feature to the conference, intimate roundtable sessions which will afford some of our participants the opportunity to engage meaningfully with distinguished women in successful careers, who will share their stories. This is a conference not to be missed. To register for the conference, please visit our website at www.wiscar.ng, and follow us on our various social media platforms where we will share relevant information on the conference. We shall also be streaming live on Facebook and YouTube. In view of the devastating impact of COVID 19, we are bringing the conference to you this year courtesy of our sponsors for free. We also encourage people to join our vibrant and growing WISCAR community as a member mentor or sponsor and to support the cause of gender equality by making a donation; part of which will go towards the victim support fund to assist victims of gender-based violence. We will be delivering the conference free this year. We recognise that this has been a deeply challenging year due to COVID 19. We are therefore pleased with the support provided by our sponsors to make this conference accessible to as many people as possible.
Since inception, would you say WISCAR has empowered significant number of women to make appreciable impact in nation building and career wise?
The short answer is yes. The testimonies, progression, feedback, and success stories from our alumni is our measure of success and impact. I am pleased to say that 100 per cent of our alumni refer to the WISCAR mentoring programme as contributing significantly to their career success. In 12 years, we have developed a world class leadership and mentoring curriculum. We have created a platform for celebrating successful role models and global icons. We have supported policy research on diversity and inclusion and conducted research on the impact of COVID 19 on working women in Nigeria with support from our donors. We have helped several organizations to deploy mentoring frameworks and tackle sexual harassment and discrimination. The WISCAR Alumni is empowering young girls in school. We have promoted financial inclusion for women in enterprise through mentorship programmes and are mentoring young women in technology. We will share some of the success stories at the 2020 Annual Leadership and Mentoring Conference.
What are the significant impact of the annual conferences in terms of proffering practicable solutions to national challenges?
Our Annual Leadership and Mentoring conferences always have a relevant theme and have been very impactful. Our conference is the high point in our 12-month calendar and is the culmination of all our activities in the year. In coming up with the conference theme we take current affairs and noteworthy events in society into account, especially as they affect women and girls. We also use the conference as an advocacy platform and opportunity to showcase female icons, industry leaders and change makers who share their inspirational stories with participants and discuss pertinent issues on gender equality and the empowerment of women. The rich conversations are designed to exchange ideas and highlight practicable steps that will catalyze the required policy actions for sustainable national development. The theme for this year’s conference is. “the future we want”. A future in which every one of us will be champions of equality; a future in which all forms of discrimination and violence against women will have been erased from our society. A future in which every citizen can aim for the stars without regard to gender, economic position, age, race, or ethnicity. A future in which half of Nigeria’s Ministers, Governors, Commissioners, National assembly and State Assembly members and local government chairmen are women.
Every year, WISCAR graduates some of the mentees during the annual leadership and mentoring conference and affords participants an opportunity to network and meet potential role models. How will these experiential activities be made possible during the virtual event?
We have gone to great lengths to ensure that participants are able to effectively network and engage virtually. We have therefore introduced roundtable break-out sessions, which provide an opportunity to host smaller groups in intimate sessions at the conference. These sessions will be facilitated by exemplary Women in Successful Careers.
In line with this year’s conference theme of ‘The Future We Want’, what are the expectations in terms of impactful experience and the advocacy of meaningful collaborations to attaining an envisaged future?
This year’s Annual Leadership and Mentoring Conference promises to be engaging, enlightening, empowering and purposeful. We hope it will leave participants inspired and charged to act to influence and shape the future they want to build a better nation.