Remain focused, consistent to break the glass ceiling – Okonjo-Iweala charges WIMBIZ

By Felicia Nwosu

It was an interactive moment for learning and networking as Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ) concluded its much anticipated 20th anniversary conference, which held at Harbour Point, Victoria Island, Lagos. The milestone conference, which was a hybrid conversation, was a two-day programme with the theme “Celebrating Legacy”.

Industry leaders and professionals in various fields led discussions on their personal life journeys, as and how they were able to challenge the status quo when nobody else could, and succeeded. The conference featured different topics at different sessions.

The keynote speaker, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), while delivering her speech, revealed that it was a different life for her moving from the rural area to the University, having lived in the village with her grandmother, going to the farm and helping her with house chores.

According to her, people are afraid to take risk because they do not know what lies ahead on the other side. The WTO DG encouraged women to remain focused, adding that consistency remains the only way to break the glass ceiling effect. Mrs. Okonjo-iweala noted that her hope and dream is to see when references or mantras such as ‘first female minister, or first CEO’ and many others will no longer exist, with women taking their rightful positions.  The former finance minister said this can only be possible when individuals build self confidence in themselves.

“Don’t try to be anyone else. When you try to be somebody else, you don’t bring out the best in yourself. Remember to be simple, you can move through the glass ceiling effect.”

Ngover Ihyembe-Nwankwo, Chairperson, Executive Council, WIMBIZ Head Coverage, on her part, noted that the way in which WIMBIZ has been delivering her mandate for the last 20 years has been nothing short of phenomenal. These were inspiring stories of women, who despite the various challenges surrounding their lives and businesses, were able to pull through to arrive at an enduring legacy that has stood the test of time, making them pacesetters and leaders for others to emulate.

She revealed that, over the last 20 years, the non-profit organization has impacted over 217,000 women through various empowerment programs which are geared towards building an enduring future.

“WIMBIZ has been lauded for debunking the mantra that women do not work together for the good of women,” she said.

Another speaker, Princess Funlayo Okeowo, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, FAE Limited, shared a secret on how she was able to build a business empire left by her mother, quietly, consistently and sustainably.

According to her, it was a business her mother had harnessed for 44 years before her demise, and today, the same business has also flourished with her for 33 years.

The seasoned entrepreneur said: “Building an enduring legacy requires catching them young. We mothers should not have fear of losing control. We need to look at corporate governance by paying our children salary when they work to encourage them. She also asked entrepreneurs to create their own niche in any business segment they operate to be able to build a lasting legacy, as well as building partnership and having in-depth knowledge of the business.

“Create your own niche, do something that nobody is doing, because if you are not uniquely creative, you will remain in one spot. Create something that nobody has ever done that addresses a need within a society, people will definitely come to look for you. “

Maher Jarmakani, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Jagal Group, pointed out that what his business empire enjoys today was as a result of the legacy his late father built over the years through resilience and family values. He reaffirmed that for business to flourish to an enduring position, there is need for rewards, accountability of cash flows, and identification of customers and also building relationship with customers.

“Managing legacy in family business or even in corporate is a very tough thing to do. Not many companies can last 20years or more, and that takes very strong set of values, dedicated team of management and those with long term view of success.”

The 20th anniversary conference featured about 50 speakers leading the conversation on different topics, as they will be building on the successes of previous conferences and push the envelope by challenging women to break stereotypes and brave uncharted territories in emerging markets.


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