The Ibukun Awosika Leadership Academy held the maiden edition of The International Woman Leadership Conference 2022 (TIWLC) at Hilton Al Habtoor, Dubai. The conference which was held in partnership with the Dubai Tourism and Dubai Events had over 400 C-suite executive women in attendance. The conference was pan-African with women delegates from 12 African countries. Associate Editor, BusinessDay, KEMI AJUMOBI interviewed some participants who shared their experiences. Excerpts.
Senior Partner and Managing Director, AfricInvest Capital Partners (Anglophone West Africa)
In several ways, the International Women Leadership Conference served to reawaken the potential and possibilities of many women that gathered from different countries to share and participate in plenary sessions anchored by well-experienced professionals. It was a rich and satisfying session with so much fun in between and lots of networking opportunities; with panelists and speakers that transcend various spheres of life, sharing deep and practical life experiences – corporate, governance, social, value-based leadership and so on. From the shop floor to the board room, they showed how you can play to win! Apart from the convener – Mrs. Ibukun Awosika who is an astute leader, we had Mrs. Sola David-Borha, Wendy Luhabe from South Africa, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, Yewande Sadiku, Achie Ojany-Alai from Kenya, Omobola Johnson and many more. Personally, I was challenged, motivated, rebuked and energized to seek more opportunities to become that person that can make a positive difference with impact in my world. It was a platform that helped me unlearn some of the myths I had held on to over the years, relearn the things that really matter and should not be jettisoned, and of course learn many topical and salient strategies on playing to win. Who you are, what is your purpose? (These are actually your pain points, your Anger!!) I saw the importance of building a tribe that would challenge its members to the highest level of accountability.
Playing to win requires a change of mindset and one of the important mindset changes is to know that we do the right thing because we want to do the right thing as executives. Playing to win requires a deep reflection centered around your current positioning – where you are right now on the journey, where is the journey leading to, an examination of the gap analysis, being truthful in knowing the challenges that can inhibit success and dealing with this in a decisive way including drawing help and strength from the right source when required. Every next level demands a different version of oneself, a different response. I understood the importance of walking through a door when it is opened as you never know when another one will open. Regarding work- life balance, it should be seen as an integration – build relationship and engagements that can help you integrate work and every other aspect of your life, as seamlessly as possible.
In conclusion, I learnt that the journey is indeed more important than the destination… Who do you become at the end?
CREATIVE DIRECTOR -XCLAMATIONS BY TOMI ROTIMI
The international Women Leadership conference was an amazing experience for me. It was however not one I had planned to attend. I jumped on the opportunity at the last minute because the dates coincided with my wedding anniversary and my husband also had a conference to attend in Dubai on the same days. It was an excuse for us to travel together to Dubai and get some much needed rest.
At the end of the conference, I gained so much more than break time. The event was very well organised and well attended too. Women from all over the world were in attendance both as delegates and speakers. I reconnected with old friends and forged new relationships. The diverse range of topics made it near impossible to leave without learning something and I learnt a lot. Speakers like Mrs.Sola David Burha, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, Leymah Gbowee, and Paul Polman to mention a few, opened my mind to new perspectives that have both challenged and inspired me.
It was not all work though. Dubai provided the perfect backdrop for the conference. Delegates let their hair down at the end of each day exploring the many activities and attractions Dubai has to offer. And for me personally, I want to use this opportunity to thank Dubai Tourism for gifting my husband and I five days at a five-star hotel to celebrate our wedding anniversary. That was the cherry on top.
I share my learnings from the 2 day conference in my podcast Fat Transfer Talks By Tomi and I encourage everyone to listen to it.
FOUNDER + CEO THE WHAT NETWORK
We are in an era where the gender equity discourse is part of the mainstream agenda and an imperative for corporations. Global leaders must now embrace and imbibe a gender inclusive culture, while championing gender equity within their organisations. Despite the aforementioned initiatives, career women still experience distinct challenges as they navigate through the corridors of the work place. From my experience, some of these challenges include unequal treatment and unequal pay, knowing how to build a supportive network, effectively developing alliances with decision makers and sponsors, overcoming the imposter syndrome and raising capital. These challenges are further accentuated as women ascend the rungs of leadership with the ambition to join the C-Suite.
Tackling these challenges head-on, Ibukun Awosika who is a visionary and a global leader, understands the nuanced ways in which these challenges present themselves on the African continent. She proffered a solution by organising The International Woman Leadership Conference (TIWLC). The conference was a power packed event that attracted African women in the C-Suite and those aspiring to reach these heights. We were encouraged to break our silos and shift our mindsets towards building networks—Tribes. These tribes have common values and form deep meaningful relationships, with the big picture of creating value for our communities, corporations and countries.
As an African woman in the C-Suite, I was fortunate to attend the conference; it was undoubtedly one of the best investments I have made in myself. My objective of attending the conference was to gain technical knowledge and learn the soft skills required to effectively lead and succeed in my organisation. There was so much wisdom in the experiences shared by the dynamic speakers and the invaluable nuggets I picked up are as follows;
Value + Vision: It is important to be firmly rooted in your values and align them with your vision. Your values serve as your moral compass giving direction to your vision. The clarity in your values provides clarity in your vision: Who are you and what do you stand for? What do you hold to be true and believe in? What is important to you?
Connection + Commitment: A brick doesn’t make a building. You absolutely cannot do it by yourself. There is no power in silos. You have to work to build connections with like minds, with people that inspire you. These connections are not about what you receive but what you can give; how you can add value? In order to build effective networks and tribes, you need commitment. Commitment allows you to invest the time required to build and foster meaningful connections. It allows you to be open, vulnerable and teachable.
Purpose + Preparedness: Prepare, prepare, prepare. Know your purpose and be prepared for the opportunities and the doors that will open up for you, because they will. Preparedness allows you the bandwidth to know what to do when opportunities are presented—you will possess the knowledge and the confidence to walk into a room, stay in the room and eventually own the room. Get ready and stay ready!
Group Marketing and Strategy Executive, First Mutual holdings Zimbabwe
In life there are experiences which change you, refocus your energy, and also give you clarity regarding your purpose in life. TIWLC was one such experience for me – truly reflective of the fact that your journey is more important than the destination. From the time my friend Tara Fela-Durotoye invited me, I knew I had to attend. I have an inordinate amount of respect for her, and for her to insist I attend, I knew in my spirit that this would be life changing. The conference enriched me spiritually, professionally and emotionally. The biggest inspiration for me was Leymah Gbowee’s exhortation to find your space within your purpose. This has resulted in me kick-starting a journey professionally where I was appointed to champion the diversity agenda and empowering women. On a personal level, it has galvanised me to elevate my mentoring programme to greater heights. Sola David-Borha said one cannot advance beyond one’s mind-set, and this is a key tool for playing to win which I will and have embraced. We all carry the mantle for change as was aptly put by Leymah Gbowee, and this has inspired me to the change I want to see, and I will be doing so through my mentoring programme and diversity champion role, inspired by the building tribes session where the importance of networking and having your tribe was shared. The OJA tribe values of Support, Respect, Trust and Growth resonated with me and will be a pillar for my own initiatives. Spiritually, I was uplifted by the testimonies of God’s power when Mrs A opened the conference. Being asked to be a panellist on the boardroom session was an amazing opportunity where I had the opportunity to share my experiences. This was the cherry on top for me.
Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company
The International Woman Leadership Conference (TIWLC) was different from any other conference I have attended (and I have attended quite a number locally and internationally). I spent some time thinking about what made it remarkably different. It’s not just one thing; it is the powerful combination of an inspiring and intentional convener in Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, a highly representative group of speakers, a well-curated program, a very diverse group of delegates all united in their quest for knowledge and practical skills to advance their leadership journeys.
I have so many things I learnt from the conference because every single session spoke to me in one form or the other – either helping me glean wisdom from a past season, giving me wisdom for a current season or preparing me for future seasons. It will be tough to summarise these lessons, but I will share three that are still top on my mind weeks after the conference ended.
First, authenticity is a super-power. As Leymah Gbowee (Liberian peace activist & Nobel Prize winner) spoke and shared her lessons truthfully, including moments of failure and weakness, she demonstrated to me that you don’t have to change your personality to be a purposeful change agent. It is one thing to hear that you should stay true to yourself, it is a whole different thing to see it in action. It was extremely empowering.
The session with Yewande Sadiku (Former Executive Secretary & CEO of Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission) on leadership in public service (which I aspire to someday) felt like an ‘equipping’ workshop. I learnt that value-based leadership in the public sector is possible, and that complete knowledge of the rules and processes is a strong defence. Knowing the rules and ensuring that you are always 3 steps ahead with the various interpretations of the law is non-negotiable. This is applicable to all sectors and industries – knowledge is a defence.
Finally, Paul Polman (Author, Businessman & Former CEO of Unilever) made a powerful statement about leadership – ‘being a good leader starts with being a good human being’. Becoming a manager or leader does not suddenly bestow you with the empathy, kindness and humanity needed to be a great leader. If anything, power/position can actually amplify your weaknesses. Today is the best time to begin to do the work required to be a decent/good human being, so that when you do attain position and influence, you are not at the mercy of your weaknesses.
I left Dubai with a heightened sense of possibilities and with my leadership toolkit equipped with resources and connections to accelerate me on my journey to fulfilling purpose. I can’t wait for TIWLC 2023!
General Manager, Financial Planning, MTN NIGERIA PLC
“Mind Spa!” When I reflect on my experiences being at the TIWLC Dubai 2022, this is the caption that comes to mind. A gathering of legends, brilliant minds like Mrs Sola David-Borha, Mrs Yewande Zaccheus, Leymah Gbowee, Chief Mrs Nike Akande, Mrs Ibukun Awosika coming together to release the essence of their experiences was soul-lifting aromatherapy.
Key takeaways for me were:
Mrs David-Borha’s opening statement “You cannot advance beyond your mind-set”. I found this similar to a sports massage, hard knocks but good for you. She shared her experience of not liking cocktails but she changed her mind-set to see them as a way of advancing her career. I have since identified a few things to change, it’s not easy embracing change in those areas but I am making progress.
A common denominator across the speakers was the matter of integrity. This was my pedicure, reminding me to put my best foot forward by being true to myself and speaking the truth without fear. Integrity is built over time but can be quickly destroyed by one incident. So always do the right thing.
To crown it all was the relaxing massage and sugar scrub of networking during tea breaks, lunch and the gala night.
Thank you Mrs Awosika for creating this Mind Spa. My mind is rejuvenated and I am confident to take giant strides.
Founder/CEO U-Connect and Gr8jobsng
In January 2022, I stumbled upon an awareness post about the International Women’s Conference, as convened by Mrs. Ibukun Awosika. I follow and respect Ibukun Awosika as a female pacesetter in Africa and was part of her 360 women in leadership session last year, it was transformational and was held in Lagos.
At first, I thought to myself, why Dubai? But my experience eventually answered that and I will say why shortly. Upon arrival, our official first event was the welcome dinner. It was at the dinner that I began to appreciate the value of coming out all the way. I ran into so many female leaders who are making a mark in their various chosen professions and businesses, yet they took out time to be there, void of any distractions.
The conference attracted high-quality participants who are at the top of their leadership journeys or emerging, but all needed to be more. I met participants from Barbados, South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and I mean locals of these nations.
Day 2 came and every session left me impacted because the speaker line-up were very solid. Noble Laureate Leymah Gbowee was one of the speakers. She said something that stood out to me, ‘Do not serve others what you cannot take’. This for me was a call to replicate excellence as I lead, excellence in experience, no matter what.
Then came day 3 where everything sort of peaked. I have never really seen the value in building peer to peer female connections but day 3 was all about that, it was all about building a community of like minds who are unified by a common goal, by growth, but challenged with the-same demons such as lack of parity in the C-Suite, family blockers, and even inhibitions that they have placed on themselves. As women, we need to do better than catching up over dinner and social conversations, we need to be deliberate in finding and growing our tribe, we need to be structured in the way that we are committed to that tribe. The morning session was followed by a breakout session that delivered some more positive personalised experiences.
The conference came to an end with a gala night at the Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeriah Dubai. It was an evening of colour as true African glam came to life. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful experience.
Founder, Zenliving Interiors Uganda
As the only Ugandan female to have had the opportunity to be part of The International Women In Leadership Conference, I came beyond eager to learn and connect with likeminded women. For a long time, I deeply admired Mrs Tara Durotoye and Mrs Ibukun Awosika amongst others, and I had fallen in love with Nigeria as a whole because of these inspiring women.
Attending TIWLC was easily the best learning experience for me. It all started when I walked into the hotel to register and within 5mins of my arrival, there was the amazing Mrs Tara who was so warm and kind (To meet your role model and they carry such humility is something I can’t put in words).
A few minutes later, I got talking with a fellow interior designer Mrs kaothar Agbaje who was quick to share from her wealth of experience in the industry. We talked in depth about how to handle and build trust with clients and managing personal finances. This was day-one and I certainly had light bulb moments.
I consider myself to be in the early years of my career, so I noted some of Mrs Sola Borha-David’s points:-
-It’s important that we learn extensively
-Professionalism is key
-Teamwork ( Learn how to work and engage with people)
-Leverage on other people’s strength.
“The journey is more important than the destination”
Mrs Leymah Gbowe’s talk stood out for me because just like her, I strive to be part of social change. Below is what I took away from her talk:-
-Your anger is tied to your purpose
-Where do I fit in this social movement? (Find your position and guard it)
-Selflessness is a value that spurs us to move and make social changes
-Your anger should be poured into doing good
I have truthfully and quietly reflected on the questions Mrs Awosika asked us to ponder on:-
-I know how I picture my life at 40
-I have an idea of how I envision my Legacy
-I know what is standing between me and where I want to be
The Oja tribe is definitely a force to reckon with and I learnt that if I need and want to build big and deep, I must build with a tribe.
There was a lot I took away from TIWLC and I am applying it to my personal and career life.
As a partial introvert who struggles to mix and make new friends, I still don’t believe how easy it was to connect, laugh and share with the ladies. TIWLC felt so safe.
I made a promise to myself and to God that I will not come back as the only Ugandan female, I will bring my sisters along next year.
God bless you Mrs Awosika for bringing us together.
God bless all the speakers who were willing to pour into all of us and share from their fountain of knowledge.
Regional Executive, Lagos & Corporate Banking, Heritage Bank
The International Woman Leadership Conference with Ibukun Awosika 2022, simply put was an All-Practical Hands-on Life Sessions with extremely relatable experiences.
I am rejuvenated with a “Play to Win” mindset. A strong learning point for me was that I cannot commit to a change without a seed. To this end, I have chosen not just to dream bigger but also create a space to express the ‘authentic me’ even while acknowledging my limitations.
Scenarios on how to engage, explain and make a case for resolutions still resonate on my mind from one of the presentations. I have been constantly reminding myself to take decisions based on facts and not emotions as the best of women do.
The conference charged me to be accountable and to be a value-based leader who is ready to embrace change and yearning to gain more knowledge.
I was inspired to embrace an ideology of ‘ticking the box, then, thinking outside the box’. This will foster my understanding of any process thereby creating an awareness to improve on it.
I left the conference making a pledge to always ‘seek to be the first to serve and last to be served’. The event afforded the opportunity to meet a network of awesome women willing to provide a support system and formidable tribe.
Selassie Esther- Laudis Tettey
Cluster Marketing Manager (Congo Brazzaville, Ghana & LPG Business) Puma Energy
Aside the rivalry between Ghana jollof and Nigerian jollof, I have always wondered why Nigerians keep getting my attention in all my global engagements. The International Women Leadership Conference 2022 with Ibukun Awosika Leadership got me applauding for Nigerian women in multiple ways.
Everyone of them I encountered personally had a GOOD DIGITAL PRESENCE.
It had nothing to do with the number of followers or likes but the consistency and value that was oozing from their social media pages. It runs through all ages, from those in their 60s to their late 20s. My opinion on personal branding just went up a notch higher. In one sweep, you could tell who they were and what they stood for. I was like “Selassie you are playing on these streets in Ghana”
APPEARANCE is everything. They were well put together from hair to make-up, clothing to shoes to accessories. See ehn! It was not overdone. Appropriate look for the appropriate activity. It was how they made a conscious effort from the conference days to the gala night to all the extra curriculum group activities.
They were truly GENUINE, showed interest and kindness at any given opportunity. They listened attentively and if they had further questions or thoughts, they will ask to catch up in person or via WhatsApp or any of the social media channels. These Nigerian women never hesitated to give a compliment to a delegate or a speaker. It was just the boldness of how they executed the compliments. It came to them naturally.
Let’s talk about creating MEMORIES. These women knew the essence of picture documentation and were unapologetic about the agenda. Even the video reels were premeditated. Their pictures showed synergy, ownership and the pride of being associated with the conference.
I hail all the Nigerian Women at The International Woman Leadership Conference 2022 for being intentional and showing me the way. In the words of the Nigerian singer Chike “I will be running running to you.”
Head, Financial Institutions Division, GTBank Ghana
Participating in the maiden International Women Leadership Conference #tiwlc with Mrs Ibukun Awosika is a self-development investment decision worth taking. It offered a great opportunity to meet, interact and share insights with women of all conceivable professional backgrounds and impacting the continent of Africa and beyond.
I had the exposure of a wider network with women of influence, power and varied experiences. My key take outs were from Achie Ojany-Alai of Kenya, Yewande Zaccheaus and Pearl Esua Mensah on stepping out of comfort zones. Achie mentioned that we should not look for perfect opportunities to step out, else great opportunities are missed in an attempt to tick all the boxes before applying for higher roles. They stressed the need to dare and face realities, knowing that in the corporate world, only the brave seize opportunities to change job roles. We should not be scared of failure and rerouting. One’s failure at rerouting may even inspire others. I have decided to reinvent myself and not live a life of regret.
As a Senior Relationship Manager in the Financial Institution space in Ghana, working with financial regulatory bodies i.e., BoG, SEC and the NPRA means that I need to understand all policies within the regulatory frameworks under which my portfolio operates. In order not to risk the loss or revocation of the operating license of a range of stakeholders in the industry, Yewande Sadiku’s caution that “tick all regulatory boxes before thinking outside the box” resonates very well with me.
Few points that also stuck with me in aspiring to higher roles are:
Learning to manage power and acting out with grace.
Upgrading my technical skills on the role, in effect I have enrolled for a certification course in Securities and Investment.
I need to be ambitious, bold and courageous to take the hard decisions that will get the results.
I learnt that every next level requires a different version of me and that is why I have decided to learn and build a stronger and supportive network of women as mentors. My biggest moment that TIWLC gave me was finding a mother and mentors to look up to. I will encourage ladies to join the next session in 2023.
To join the session, Follow #tiwlc on IG and Twitter for details of the next conference.
Online Course Business Coach
Don’t do life alone.
This was my biggest lesson from The International Women in Leadership Conference with
This message hit me at my core because I realized that I had built the habit of doing things by myself and not asking for help because I was afraid of getting rejected.
I had a lot of individual friends, but I didn’t have a tribe who were always looking out for me to support, share their wisdom, strategize and even go to war with me and so when I faced different crisis situations, I found out to my dismay that I was alone.
As I listened to the different speakers in the conference share their experiences about building a tribe, I realized that I had not been intentional about building this type of relationship. When I saw other people who had tribes, I just thought they were lucky and something must have brought them together and kept them together. It never occurred to me that they made a deliberate decision to nurture healthy and supportive female relationships.
Mrs Ibukun Awosika invited different tribes to speak to us such as the Oja Tribe, the Aseju Tribe,
Gaia and the Ambassadors tribe. They were all different but some of the things that I found was common among all of the tribes is that they knew what their objectives were, they knew that the tribe was a safe space, they wereintentional about how often they would meet and how they would meet, they were intentional about celebrating themselves, they were intentional about integrating their lives, and most importantly, they were intentional about resolving their conflicts.
I watched the different members of the tribes on stage and off stage and noticed the healthy camaraderie and I made a decision to build my own tribe.
I’m happy to say that I’ve teamed up with 4 lovely women and we now have a tribe. We meet every Sunday and already I feel such a strong sense of love, support, respect and trust.
A recurring theme I hear about being a successful female leader is that it gets lonely at the top, but after attending The International Women in Leadership Conference with Ibukun Awosika, I learnt that it does not have to be lonely.
We can all grow together!
MD, SKLD Integrated Services Ltd.
Attending the recent TIWLC in Dubai left me with some reflections I would like to share. After 22 years of entrepreneurship, I am in the process of handing over executive leadership to the dynamic leaders in our team and refocusing the next phase of my journey towards creating a platform to impact the next generation of transformative leaders.
Listening to the panelists share their unique perspectives of their leadership journeys in various sectors was both relatable and inspiring. From experiences of moving from corporate to business, entrepreneurship transitions and diplomatic service and public sector appointments; the possibilities were endless and exciting. The sessions were insightful and enhanced by the candor of speakers who shared their stories to encourage women to strive to be the absolute best in their fields without compromising their authenticity and smashing through self-imposed limitations and fear.
My biggest takeaway was that to blaze the trail, you need to identify and build your ‘tribe’ as a support system – a group of other women who would coach, advise, mentor and lift you up in your life’s journey. This was embodied in the presentation by OJA Tribe – birthed as a support group of four accomplished women (working in the UK ) who advise and support each other to achieve career goals and tackle life’s issues. The impact they had on each other inspired the formation of similar women tribes in the UK and is such an astonishing way for women to build themselves up as leaders, while serving as a platform to create real social impact within their communities.
The TIWLC left me inspired and determined to collaborate with others to build a tribe or a platform capable of lifting women to take on leadership positions in public, private and political sectors to enable them take their ‘seats at the table’.
Yvonne Chioma Ofodile
CEO OF Zetile Oil and Gas Ltd
Attending the International Women in Leadership Conference by Ibukun Awosika became for
me a personal development work and life retreat I never knew I needed.
One session that has till this moment left me in awe was the keynote delivery by Madam Sola David-Bora, she brought so much illumination and mind shift as regards professional work and life generally. She mentioned that in other to pivot, you must first have a change of mindset which would involve two highlights.
1) Embracing change
2) Confronting our fears
She spoke on the 3 phases of work life cycle which include:
1, Early Career Phase which has learning, professionalism and great team work as key ingredients. No one makes it on their own entirely, be a good sport man, manage relationships, growth on this level is about partnership, collaboration and leveraging on teams’ strength.
2) Mid-Career which has opportunity, integration and challenges as major ingredients here. Take up opportunities as they arrive, walk through doors as they open not necessarily knowing the answers, you will deal with obstacles as they come. Work and life may never balance so pace yourself, integrate as much as you can, prioritise consciously, and get great support system that works for you. You would face challenges as you go, knowing who to call especially because calling the wrong person can put you in bigger trouble. Never let problems immobilise you.
3) C-Suite has governance, legacy and grace. Purpose is about the greater good and positive impact, be able to retrieve without blemish. Lead with empathy, patience, less judgment, learning and many more.
The conference was of great value than we invested and I’m truly glad I was in the room filled with future forward, leading women within corporates, top CEO’s of successful businesses and top women in the politics.
Networking across the room was seamless as one could really feel the love for their fellow woman and everyone could not wait to meet each other. I personally connected with great women and aunties that I have admired greatly from afar for years with ease and also my peers, young leading, industrious women. I formed new relationships, joined a tribe of amazing global leading women and resolved to deepen existing relationships after the trip. I am definitely looking forward to coming next year.