Women in Leadership: Losing the Norm and Embracing the Standard

By Steffia Imoesi

Growing up, I always believed that a lady should live in the shadows and not be seen so as to avoid attracting the wrong crowd. We were taught to settle, be shy, contended, and not speak to elders. This notion was born out of the fact that society made us believe that a woman’s place is at home and they are unfit to handle senior executive roles in an organization. The man’s duty is to work and care for the family. A man is allowed to dream big but when a woman does, she is seen as too ambitious and inconsiderate of her family and domestic obligations.

I have come to understand that some of the challenges of female leaders include limitations caused by societal norms that impede women from attaining leadership roles or competing in a ‘man’s world. As the world evolved, these notions became meaningless. I started to read and watch women break the glass ceiling and take on more important roles, making a great show of exemplary leadership qualities. Women have become  Presidents of Nations, lead global corporations and have done exceedingly well.

Recently, I picked an interest in Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, a renowned Nigerian Economist with a wealth of knowledge in international development and global economy. She sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).

Previously, Dr Okonjo-Iweala spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, scaling the ranks to the Number 2 position of Managing Director, Operations (2007–2011). She also served two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria (2003–2006, 2011–2015) under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively.

Okonjo was the first woman to become Finance Minister of Nigeria, and first woman to become Finance Minister of Nigeria twice. In 2005, Euromoney named her global finance minister of the year.

Rising to the second position of the world bank, as Managing Director, she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia. She spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during the 2008 – 2009, food crises, and later during the financial crisis. In 2010, she was Chair of the IDA replenishment, the World Bank’s successful drive to raise $49.3 billion in grants and low interest credit for the poorest countries in the world. She recently clinched the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organization based on her merit and creditable portfolio over the years

Dr Okonjo-Iweala has shown us that with tenacity, a high degree of professionalism, integrity and influence, women can achieve anything. All these are the qualities I admire in this Icon. She has also taught me that life is limitless, we can dream big as women and be all that we want to be. Infact, Okonjo-Iweala has proved that having it all is a function of personal determination.

AboutSteffia Imoesi
Admin and Finance manager at Connected Development.

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