Are ceilings made to be broken?
Still celebrating Women’s Month with the wonderful Executive Women’s Network (EWN) Ghana, to mark International Women’s Day this year, I joined host Selikem Acolatse and Dr. Geraldine Abaidoo on ‘Women’s Voice’ on GBC to discuss women as leaders and strategies for reaching the top. Below are snippets of the personal views I shared in response to some of the questions.
On women in leadership: Africa is indexing higher than the global average according to the McKinsey Women Matter Africa Report 2016. Of course, there’s a long way to go but let’s not deny progress. There are great examples in the private sector. In the public sector, in Ghana today, for example, women in politics are occupying very influential positions… Presidential Chief of Staff, Attorney General & Minister of Justice, Minister of Foreign Affairs… to name a few. These are not token positions. This is real ‘women in leadership’ at work.
On affirmative action: No. What’s important is to have equal opportunity to succeed. Starting with education. If it means deliberately creating those opportunities, then we all have a role to play, men and women. But once those opportunities are created, women in the workplace are responsible to seize them.
On breaking the glass ceiling: I don’t believe the ceiling is there to be broken. Women can go as high as they want to go. I don’t say it’s easy; often moving up means moving out. With families to think about, it’s not always easy for a woman to decide to expatriate. But a woman can work diligently, get results, break records, and get noticed.
On women having it all: I believe you can have it all. It depends on your wants. I believe I have it all. An amazing job, an amazing family, the most amazing husband. Whatever I don’t have yet that I want is still within reach. I lack nothing. To reach a particular level in one area of your life, you may have to sacrifice another area for a period. Make sure it’s only for a period though. Attain the level, then shift or refocus your priority. Build the foundations one layer at a time, until you have a good model. Embrace all you have. If you have more than you know what to do with, it’s probably a case of ‘having too much,’ not of ‘having it all.’
On mentorship: A strong believer of role-modelling, I used to underestimate the importance of mentorship, but I’ve come to see how helpful and even effective it can be. I encourage every person with something to share to gift a little of their time towards mentoring others.
And finally, on pressing for progress: every individual has a role to play and so I say, particularly to women, “Speak beautifully, behave courageously, but never stop acting passionately to deliver results. We effect change by our actions.” Work hard. Get the results. Move up until you touch the ceiling. If you do the first two but the third doesn’t happen, perhaps seek advice from a mentor. But don’t give up.
Let’s celebrate our womanhood, not just this month, but always.