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‘Dearth of Mentoring in Business & Politics’, women’s perspective

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It’s barely two months to the celebration of women globally once again. How excited we are already at Vanguard Newspapers to join the world in deliberating on the way forward for women and the world at large!

Senator Ita Giwa, Funke Treasure, Bunmi Lawson and Ibiene Ogolo

Recall that in celebration of International Women’s Day 2018, we gathered together women from diverse fields at our maiden roundtable discourse tagged: ‘Dearth of Mentoring in Business & Politics’ held at Radisson Blu in Lagos.

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As we gear up for another celebration coming up March 8, 2019, we bring you on-point excerpts from women who graced our roundtable last year.

Every woman just needs to be strong

—Senator Florence Ita-Giwa

When we are talking about mentoring, I cannot talk about mentoring in our time because I was not mentored but I said to myself that no matter what happened, I must push my way in. And I managed to pushed my way in.

One legacy I got from my mummy is that, she taught me to always meet with people. Politics is a career and it is something that you have to learn, love and know all the intricacies. So, many young women who were sincerely interested in politics were frustrated.

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Mentoring starts from what I call basic education in a woman’s life in politics. After education, there is issue of capital.

If you have your qualification and you come up with the innovation of how to make money, you stand the chance of coming into politics and most importantly, you have to be spiritually strong and have a large heart. There is no work that is easy.

If women can develop the strength and courage to go to the field, they can be mentored, I have met with a few organisations in trying to raise funds for women and train them about courage.

There is a philosophy that, because you are not a man, you are not fit to be in politics. And that is what I call psychological intimidation. So, you have to be strong to shun all the noise coming from the corner. So, when I am talking to women, I ensure that I highlight those attributes that easily kill women or frighten them. So, you need to be strong and do not allow all the noise.

The most important thing is that, women should learn how to carry one another along. Let us learn to appreciate one another. There are many women doing great things that need to be encouraged and appreciated so that the upcoming ones would also emulate them.

I learned to fight my way among men very early in life —Ambassador Folake Marcus-Bello

Mentoring for me, should start from homes. And in this wise, we need to blame our parents because women are raised to be seen and not heard. Sitting here, I was very lucky to have been raised by my Aunty among 20 boys. It was negative for me because sometimes, I was referred to as a tomboy. But, I know in the longtime, it would be an advantage for me before I die because that is where we are moving on to now. So, from the young age, I have learnt to fight my way amongst men. And then, I was also raised to do what they do. Stop raising your children as if you are raising them to go and stay in the kitchen forever. Mentoring should not start when it has become medicine after death. It should start early.

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Society needs to  change its mindset about women—Funke Treasure Assistant Director, Programme, Radio Nigeria

Of course, the media has done quite a lot. There is a bigger network in Africa reporting women and things about women. Either, it is child, marriages, sexual abuse, domestic violence and all kinds of reports and we are not tired yet. That’s why you see that women are not as performing and outstanding as men. So, sometimes, you weigh a lot of things. How am I going to sacrifice; you have your marriage, child, friends and all of that.

The price to pay is so high. Society needs to change its mindset about women and I agree with what the Ambassador said about training our children so that women feel equal to men. I have only two girls; my household is all female.

So, my children do not even know the difference in being male or female. Sometimes when I see women talk about boy-child and girl-child, I wonder because even us women, train our girls to be less. We unconsciously design roles for both genders. I’m sure scientists know that if they check genetics, women will be stronger.

Women repay loans more than men—Bunmi Lawson

Chairman, ACCION Micro-finance Bank

My focus is really on business. In ACCION Micro-finance Bank that I led for 10 years, 65 per cent of our clients are women. And we have also proved that women tend to repay their loans more than men. It is just that women do not approach the bank for loans as much as men. And when you look at the business landscape, you tend to see more men doing business than women. In most businesses, women push men forward so as to take all the glory.

And if it is a business run by couples, there is an egocentric phenomenon that set in. There are a number of ways that I know that women have been empowered and mentored. The more we empower more women, the more they have the economic might, the more they would then have a better say in politics.

I know that politics is expensive especially if you do not want to ride on somebody’s tail and you do not want anybody to dictate how you rule. You have to have your own economic power. There are a number of organisations that support and train women on how to be economically empowered in order to have a say in politics and I think that is something the women should do.

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I see no difference in gender—Ibiene Ogolo, Real estate consultant

I was taught to cook by my elder brother; not the other way round. So, where I come from, there is no distinction between boys and girls. I do not believe that women are weak and thus need to be given a niche. Whether in an examination or interview panel, I do not see the difference in gender. However, I would be more pleased if it were a woman who was a little more competent and that is not to say I have any preference to being a boy or a girl. Everybody has the same ability to be taught and be mentored.

There is a saying that when you educate a woman, you educate a nation.

We need to boost confidence in younger women—Dr Ena Onikoyi, Healthcare practitioner

I have been living in Nigeria and Britain, and I would say I have seen and witnessed the lack of mentoring. A professor did a study to know whether organisational commitment is increased when people have mentors and whether the sex matters. But he found out that pairings of female mentors with females got better results. That is why we are here. We need to see how we can harness the power of increasing confidence in younger people even in the attitude of looking at someone’s face.

Mentoring should start from the home—Ladipo

There is a huge gap, I must admit. Mentoring starts from the home but it is unfortunate that we, the mothers, often look less on our female children in bringing up our children. From the homefront, there’s so much gap.

A woman that is not educated, what does she have to give to her child?It has been scientifically proved that the female children of women that are less educated or do not have proper education, usually get stuck at a point in their lives.

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There are more opportunities for mentoring today—Yvonne Ebbi, Etiquette consultant

I don’t think there’s that much gap. There are more opportunities right now. There are more opportunities for mentoring today but we must understand the switch. With all the social media platforms, there is huge opportunity for mentoring. I realise that certain people have something to offer and I joined on their platforms to learn from them. If you don’t fight for what you want, what you don’t want will be your portion automatically.

I have never been mentored—Damilola Owolabi

Actually, I have never been mentored. I run an oil and gas company. I actually started my company because I saw a niche in the oil and gas sector which most companies were not into. But I am mentoring people now. Although, I would say I got my own mentoring by studying books, attending seminars, reading about how people have succeeded and what they did.

When I decided to get people to mentor me, I realised everybody seemed to be too busy to mentor someone. I don’t mentor anyone that is educated; I mentor the people that are very low down the ladder including market women, etc. I would say no matter how we get so busy in whatever we do, let us make out time for mentoring.

One-on-one mentoring is overrated—Adora Ikwuemesi, HR consultant

If we go by the statistics of these people, maybe it is. I just want to address one point that Yvonne made. We all just need to pick our niche area and focus on that area. We need platforms to disseminate our mentorship because we may not be able to do one-on-one all the time. Mentoring is not overrated but one-on-one mentoring is overrated. Let us look at other ways to be mentored and seek other ways to mentor people.

All of my mentors are men—Yewande Kazeem, Communication expert

I do media in the agriculture sector and I worked for over 10 years with Dangote Group. To be honest, I have mentors but they are all men in my network and sector. There is actually one female that I was introduced to, she shows interest in my work and personal life and I am really encouraged. So, for me now, after starting a business in Nigeria which is of course not an easy task, I now have a lot of people sending me messages for help and who I try to assist in my own way.

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No one was willing to mentor me—Mrs Julian Uchendu, Actress

I entered the movie industry not just because other people are doing it but because I have passion for it. My going into the industry was something I looked forward to even though I didn’t know anything about it.

I just kept learning and asking questions. But no one was willing to give it to me because they didn’t want anybody to outshine them. But because I am a go-getter who does not take “no” for an answer, I never gave up. Today, I’m thankful to God. All my mentorship were from experiences of people that I have ever come across.

One can succeed without mentorship—Dolapo Badmus, Police PPRO

We have a lot. We have AIGs. From what I have gathered in what everyone has said today, one can actually make it without mentorship. I think mentorship is just one part of the steps to success. I think a lot of people who also try to mentor other people tend not to tell them everything because they do not want anybody to outshine them. At that point, your best friend as a mentee, becomes Google.

Funny enough, in my own field, it cannot be so easy. Let me say I am aspiring to be the Inspector- General of Police, a position no woman has ever held. As a woman, who do I talk to since no one has ever held that position? Then I have to go back and check inward; I check on things that build a person: character, dedication to duty, tenacity, and more.

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To achieve such progress, the support of the men is also needed. But of course, we know men, especially in politics, do not want women to take over.

As women, we also need to support one another. If we want to move forward, we must learn to support each other.

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