Funmi Omo: Nigerian Women Ready, Fit for Leadership

Mrs. Funmi Omo is the Managing Director/Chief Executive of Life Insurance Enterprise Group, Ghana. She is also the promoter of Funmi Omo Foundation. In this encounter with Festus Akanbi, she speaks on a number of issues including the need to encourage women to climb the ladder of leadership, and the urgency of reshaping the educational system to suit the present challenges, among others

My Background
Funmi Omo is a corporate executive. I lead the team at Enterprise Life Nigeria as MD/CEO and live the other facet of my life as the Founder of the Funmi Omo Initiative. My purpose is to impact as many lives as I can, both in my professional and personal capacity. I started my education journey at Adrao International School in Victoria Island, Lagos, after which I went to Holy Child College for my secondary school and Methodist Girls High School for my A levels (both in Lagos). I studied Insurance at the University of Lagos. I have also attended programmes at the Lagos Business School, and China European International Business School. I am an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Insurance, London, an Associate Member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, and an Associate of the Certified Pension Institute of Nigeria.

Experience that shaped my life
As a young undergraduate, I was fixed on studying accounting and worked towards that with so much expectation. However, I was admitted to study insurance instead. I will admit that I was disappointed, but once I resolved to give the course my best, I fell in love with insurance. That event has shaped my professional life and looking back, I have no regrets. I wouldn’t change a thing.

What I gained from the quality of education received
Absolutely! The quality of education I got in UNILAG was top notch. We were privileged to be taught by some of the best minds in the finance and insurance landscape of the time. You could say my teachers made me.
Unfortunately, the steady decline in the quality of education is not the fault of the teachers or the students, rather it is an infrastructural problem that needs to be addressed.

How my parents impacted me
My parents laid the foundation for me, and they worked hard to ensure that my siblings and I would never settle for mediocrity. Their example was our blueprint for hard work and success.

My entrepreneurial spirit
Again, I have to say I got my entrepreneurial spirit from my parents. They pushed us to aim for better, by reinforcing the values of hard work and purposeful living. My father’s biography “Let the Determined Mind Triumph” is a testament to his philosophy.

Lessons from Year 2020
2020 was a year full of shocks indeed, but difficulties stretch the bounds of possibilities. The way we do business in Africa, and even in Nigeria has experienced a massive shift. Imagine: The digital transformation that would have taken a decade to achieve was achieved in a year! Integrating remote working models and digital transformation into our business landscape is here to stay. It was a humbling year for all of us. We lost people, property, and dreams. We have learned how to prioritise health and safety while remaining productive. It has been a very challenging year, but it has also been a year of growth in unexpected directions. Nobody saw the events of this year coming, but what makes a difference is how we have adapted solutions that ensure progress.

Making our graduates employable
Education without practical application is wasted. Nigerian graduates have had to learn in the worst of conditions, with almost no support from the educational institutions that take the credit for moulding them.

There is also the challenge of the rising cost of education in Nigeria. A shift in our education sector has to start with our institutions becoming intentional about producing graduates that can compete internationally. We need to combine technical knowledge with the theoretical, and the government has to lead this charge to implement a holistic curriculum as we used to have decades ago. This is why my work with The Funmi Omo Foundation is important to me. We recently set up a scholarship fund that empowers young Nigerian women with the finances they need for good university education, backing this with mentorship. I believe in the power of education to transform lives.

Female leaders in Nigeria
I have experienced gender bias first hand in the course of my career, and I can confidently say that the lack of women in Nigerian leadership is not due to a lack of capable or qualified women. Let me put it this way: women have always been ready and fit for leadership. It is up to Nigeria, and the world at large, to catch up.
Nigeria is ready.

Projections for 2021
In many ways, 2020 was the year of discovering new ways to do old things. We have had to stretch the bounds of our capabilities in overwhelming odds. 2021 is for building sustainable systems for this new normal. I am confident that 2021 will be a much greater year for us.

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