This is the story of the Chairperson, Executive Council, Women in Management, WIMBIZ, Mrs. Olubunmi Aboderin-Talabi. She commenced her publishing career working with Punch Newspapers. Aboderin-Talabi was the first Managing Director of Punch Commercial Printing Limited. She is a member of the Institute of Directors Nigeria, Corporate Governance Society of Nigeria and Harvard Business School Alumni Association of Nigeria. She discusses her craft and personality in this encounter.
Family is important to everyone. It’s an honor and privilege to be part of a family and I’m grateful for my upbringing and the opportunity to learn frugality, entrepreneurship and discipline from my parents. My mother worked very hard to make sure that we completed our education even after my dad passed away.I have a purpose-driven uncle who taught me budgeting and management. I learned by observing how he carefully managed money so that it was enough to take care of each person’s needs. I learned self-denial,prioritising as well as selfless service.When I was in the university, I got a job as a sales assistant in a department store and I also worked as a waitress in a banquet hall. That job was very tough. It gave me a deep appreciation for service staff. After that time, when I eat in restaurants, I make sure I give the waiter or waitress a tip.
Encouraged by my teachers
As a child, I loved reading Herge’s Adventures of Tintin and any Famous Five book I could lay my hands on. My love for reading grew in my teenage years and I read many books by African authors I could get my hands on including Cyprian Ekwensi and Chinua Achebe. I also read a lot of books by authors like Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy.Reading gave me an insight into other people’s lives and introduced me to wonderful new words. At school, I was encouraged by my teachers to write but I didn’t really activate the skill until later in life. I also love photography. My interest in photography has been with me for almost as long as I can remember and with respect to publishing, I come from a family of publishers. It is just what we do. My father, uncle, brother and sister are or were publishers. I am merely following in their footsteps.
I was definitely mentored by family members, teachers and associates and even by authors and podcasts among others; in some cases people I have never met. When people are practicing what they preach and getting sustainable, scalable results, I listen to them and learn from them.Frugality is one of the major virtues I learned which helped me manage myself. I recently finished a series on social media called Raising Moneywise Kids. It’s important for us as parents and guardians to teach our children and wards to be frugal and prudent. The series teaches interested parents quick tips on how to teach children responsibility as well as the value of money. As always, we must lead by example and find ways to make saving fun.
Where the shoe pinches
Everybody faces challenges in life. There is an adage which says “never judge a book by its cover”. Never envy another person’s path thinking that it’s easier or better than your own. It’s not possible to know what people really go through or their challenges. Just because they smile and stay calm doesn’t mean they don’t face challenges. Each person knows where the shoes pinch. I decided to start writing children’s books when I realised that we simply don’t have enough readily-available picture books specifically for Nigerian children. Many of the picture books in our environment are from different cultures.I find it very fulfilling doing a job that engages the interest of young readers. It inspires their creativity and develops their cognitive aptitude. My children’s picture books educate as they entertain. So far, I have published Tobi Visits the Conservatory; Kob the Antelope and Diary of a Toddler. Four more are scheduled for release this year. It’s wonderful that schools, parents and even children appreciate what we are trying to achieve with our books which enable children to identify with their environment.The major challenge, however, is distribution and getting bookstores to pay for the books they collect. Some bookstores pay for the few books they collect almost two months past due and some do not pay.
It would be great if more Nigerian authors would write for children. There are simply not enough culturally-relevant picture books available to Nigerian children. In a country of over 170 million people, when you visit a bookstore you will find out that there are not many early childhood books which depict people who look like us or live in our environment or appreciate the things we appreciate. If the alphabet charts were true to form we would be seeing “A is for Amala” rather than “A is for Apple”. Both are true but one is more culturally-relevant. I am keenly interested in our children recognizing the value inherent in our humanity and environment from the moment they can start to read. It’s good for African children to see themselves in well-produced, world-class books as they enrich their self-esteem and identity. I would love Nigeria to have a 100 percent literacy rate by 2030 and in the pursuit of this desire, I do book readings at schools, book clubs and other organizations. I also have a YouTube channel Picture Book Storytime and my goal is to encourage those who want to learn how to read to follow the words as I read them aloud.
WIMBIZ is an organisation that thrives on collaboration. I’m honoured to be a part of it and grateful for the opportunity to serve as the current chairperson. It’s never about all-star individuals but about what the organisation as a whole can do and does. It’s the catalyst that boosts the influence and contribution of women to nation-building. WIMBIZ is for women in management, business and public service.
There is value in looking at an entire talent pool and taking talent where it’s found. The corporate world, government and more need to see that there is a wide talent pool that transcends the male gender. Don’t do women a disservice by only picking men for key posts in organisations. For example, at WIMBIZ so far this year, we have provided programmes such as WIMBOARD, a fully pronged initiative that inspires, empowers, connects and advocates women in management. We have successfully done the same for women in business with programmes such as WIMCAP which held in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt this year. Furthermore, this month we have the SME EXPO which is targeted at solving problems female SME owners encounter. In addition, we have done programmes like WIMPOL for women in public service. This year, a WIMPOL workshop held in Lagos and another workshop will be held in Abuja this month. We look down the pool of talent to identify those with future leadership potential. We run the Big Sister Program for girls in secondary school; Winning Without Compromise and WIWIC for those in university and the Graduate Internship Program for recent graduates seeking employment.
Looking at statistics around the world and in America for example, only about 19% of their board seats are occupied by women. In Europe, the average is higher, but that is because they have legislative and voluntary targets which mean that they practice in essence, a form of affirmative action and we would like to see that in Nigeria. In fact, in Nigeria, we have a national gender policy. Our national gender policy recommends a minimum of 35% of female involvement in decision-making.
levels. As at the last survey we did and one done by DSCL a few years back to ascertain the gender diversity on corporate boards, Nigeria has an average of 14 percent senior positions, board positions and senior management positions occupied by women. However, the banking sector is a standout star in all of this. They took on voluntary targets of 30% for women on boards and 40% for women in senior management. In certain aspects, Nigeria is doing well but we can do better.