By Genevieve Aningo
Nigeria’s former Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, has encouraged women, especially those in the energy, oil, gas industry, to stay focused on career development to discover their full potentials.
This statement comes in line as Dr Oby Ezekwesili delivered a keynote speech on Gender Equality at the Society for Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Nigeria Annual International Conference and Exhibition (NAICE) 2019, where she talked about the challenges facing women professional in taking up important roles in society, and more especially occupying senior roles for companies.
Dr Oby explained that Gender Equality has been a challenge in major industries while some companies would pretend that they care about women but when you look at the company’s structure, you will discover that Women aren’t taking up important roles in the organisation.
She noted: “There is a theory that is saying that the lot of women is becoming better, giving women a rise in percentage involvement of about 50% – however, if you look at women involvement in the specialised industry like Oil and Gas, it is remarkably appalling. Recent research shows that the involvement level is about 20% while the management level is close to 17%.”
She said that two factors account for this, which are External and Internal Barriers. And some strategies could be deployed to close this big gap between men and women.
For external barriers, according to her, includes sexual harassment, disposition of high-quality jobs to men than women, the relegation of women, male-orientated ideas, different standard for both women and men, difficulty for women to advance into management due to male stereotype.
She hinted that the external barriers can be resolved through the intervention of a third party – probably hiring a couple of Women professional and put them in the top position to exercise power without sentiment.
According to her, the Internal Barriers are the ones that are self-imposed and are inherent in humans – whether be male or female. These internal barriers would either be the easiest set of barriers to remove or the toughest to deal with, depending on the situation the Women find themselves in.
“The third party power can try to override some of the external barriers but what if the individual who is the cause decides not to stop it, what would you do?
“What women should be doing in this age is taking personal responsibility in the field of engineering to use it as a medium to breakthrough. This radical change does not start from the outside, real change does not first begin from the outside – change starts from the inside,” she added.
Dr Oby stressed that Women professional has an opportunity in rejuvenating their capacity and convince the world that Women would do it better.
She continued: “Excellence is the quality of being outstanding and very superior; displaying extreme brilliance; the ability to set and achieve a set determined goal, one to which we are committed.
“Fear can be a tool. Fear motivates you. It doesn’t take you down. You should see fear in this light.
“You must work hard, be productive – no one would be nice to you. You don’t sign into mediocrity which has become the modus operandi of people in our society.
“Be known for consistency. Someone once said to me: “integrity is not complete until it is consistent”.
“There is no place for situational integrity: probably displaying integrity in the morning and an absolute lack of it in the afternoon. Integrity is a whole concept. So once there is a step out of it, it is no longer integrity.
“Most people display integrity when the amount is fifty million; the moment the money rises to five hundred million, they quickly wave goodbye to integrity!
“So, that’s part of consistency: that you are not ready to trade your integrity, no matter what the prize is – and that is what causes excellence.
“We equally have to be passionate – you have to believe in something and be prepared to lay down your all for it.
“Self-respect is key. There should be things you shouldn’t want to be associated with – it’s not another thing, probably pride or fear – it’s simply self-respect.
“Keep things in balance; nurture relationships. It is wrong thinking to feeling, as a man, that the essence of the woman is to sit at home and not pursue a career – be it whatever.
“You are equally bad as a woman to feel that you don’t need to marry simply because you want to pursue a career. Such kind of mindset is wrong. You are part of the problem.
“You can have a beautiful relationship in marriage and yet have an amazing career. That’s my thinking and it’s something that works for me. We must keep things in balance.
“Seek feedback. You can never go wrong when you seek feedback! Don’t be like certain elements that hate feedbacks. You hate feedbacks?” “We will see your backs!”
She also mentioned that other measures for professional excellence require building on technical skills, all of which are embedded in self-discipline.
In her words, “I am tired of people thinking it is a mad race, therefore smash everybody and don’t see that they are suffering. How can we live that kind of life? It’s unsustainable.
“Where the woman feels inadequate or undecided about a particular career or profession, just because they feel that they are not that good. What voice are you, as a woman, listening to? “Hey! Get ye behind me, Satan; I am good!” Say that always to yourself. You have to give yourself that validation.
“Fear of failing is another challenge. Men fail all the time and nobody puts a nail on their head. So it’s okay to fail. The problem never works at not failing. I’m uncomfortable with failing. Personally, when I fail, I’m at my fiercest when I come back.
“Fear of taking a risk; taking up personal goals; fear of recognition; fear of money; fear of success; fear of leading men and exercising authority and power.
“If your position comes with the need to lead men, you just need to be a human being. Don’t go trying to prove a point. Be your professional self. You don’t need to prove a point. A point has already been proven in the sense that you are the person leading.
“Fear of not been validated by external beings; fear of been lonely; fear of not been liked. Who told you that the world will like you? Just do what you ought to do.
“Solve problems. There are a lot of problems that need a solution. It is the self assumption that would make you think about whether or not people will like you. “Hey! Don’t like me – but I’ve got a problem to solve”.
“Fear of been judged harshly or compared unfavourably, especially with your male counterparts or with some female folks.
“Fear of being considered over or too ambitious. I say to women: leave the ambition issue and say to people that you are a woman with a vision.
” Fear of visibility and public speaking. Most of you women, if you are asked to come up here and pick the microphone, you would feel it’s already an exciting centre. You must get rid of that fear.
“Fear of been lonely at the top. Guess what? This fear is peculiar to the men too. From my perceptive as a Christian, you can not be lonely at the top.
“Fear of been defamed, slandered and lied about. I want to get through to you women – because these are the mechanism they use to stop you; most times fabricating stories that only existed in their wild imagination. Most times, the stories would be so perfectly coined that they would appear to have some elements of truth in them and this would pierce your spirit. But you have to say to them: “There’s no stopping us”.
She advised Women to remove the tensions between their Career, Marriage and Motherhood, adding that Women have to make the right choice and take responsibility instead of allowing family affairs to interfere in their profession.
She explained: “Prepare yourself to tackle that challenge by setting out a determined balance on your family affairs, workplace and many more.
“Determine also to have the growth mindset. Don’t have the fixed mindset, constantly telling yourself: “This is what I am”, “This is what I can be”. No, don’t ever do that!
“Be committed to frequent update of your adaptive skills. Don’t fade out. Upgrade every time.
“Set a clear goal of how high you wish to reach and put a personal development program that will not hinder your attainment of set goals.
“Women need diverse thinking. We can not afford to leave any talent untapped. Why are you wasting talent?
“You are just a bushman if you think that because somebody is a woman then she shouldn’t be allowed to sit in the same office as you. Know that you are the problem.
“If you are a Manager here, know this: Companies with increase gender inclusion have greatly increased in their rate of turnover. Companies that are breaking all fronts in goal attainment are deliberate in assembling gender diverse teams.
“This program in itself is a conscious, deliberate, intentional effort to awaken the world to more possibilities for Women professionals,” she concluded.