Gender conversations are such a huge thing, particularly at this time, and most of the conversations tend towards giving more women a voice. This was emphasised in the 2022 International Women’s Day, which had as its campaign theme #BreakTheBias.
Prior to this time, in 2021, the SMC had organized a webinar on “Telling the African stories in the new decade: The enablers, challengers, challenges, and the opportunities.” The discussants at the webinar were five veteran journalists: Toyosi Ogunseye, Head West Africa at BBC; Stephanie Busari, Multiplatform bureau lead and Supervising Editor, Africa at CNN; and Adesuwa Onyenokwe, Editor in Chief at TW Magazine Nigeria. They spoke about how female communicators can be enabled to be the best version of themselves.
The common opinion among the speakers was that while more women are encouraged to take up the reins of leadership in organisations, it is often the result of hardwork that takes them there. Organisations want people who can both do the job effectively as well as deliver results.
The first thing is to work hard, and when organisations find young women who are ready to put in the work, these young ones will find someone to support them. Working hard, meeting the deliverables, making people understand that she can do the job, distinguishing herself for herself, not because of anybody, and making sure she is working with the right set of people are all it takes for the woman to succeed.
Every organisation has two sets of people, the progressives and the complainers. It depends on who you associate with when you come into an organisation. With reference to the boards that she belonged to, Toyosi Ogunseye said that for her, it was a word of recommendation from her support network; she didn’t bid for those positions. It was her work ethic and what she represents that brought her that network of people that she worked with. She said, “I am just someone, a human being who tries to contribute her quota wherever she finds herself.”
While she would want to push more on how women can do more and be more, Stephanie Busari said that she has been fortunate to work with people who see beyond her gender. She attributed this to the fact that she did not put gender on the front burner in conversations in the newsroom or in the board room.
Women should show interest in things that are beyond lipstick and hair. Though these are good, they should be able to contribute to any conversation. Women somehow allow patriarchy to continue to exist when they become inaccessible. They are the ones raising children, and the influence they carry is very powerful.
In her words, Adesuwa Onyenokwe said, ‘This is why I still choose to talk to women to realize that they need to raise their kids to see people as people; biology makes us male or female, but our intellect is neither male nor female.”
She said that marriage is not a be-all and end-all. It is just a happenstance unlike the gift of life. Therefore women need to come out more and see themselves beyond what they are as a gender.
Women themselves can begin to change the narrative so that people can come to them. They should publicize what they do and stop being afraid to say they are experts at something.