Women have been urged to wake up to the myriad of opportunities presented by a rapidly evolving 21st Century and take their rightful places in the highly competitive business environment, while making their voices heard.
The call came from a host of renowned female business leaders, seasoned speakers and resource persons as TD Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa’s leading distributor of technology, services and lifestyle products, formally flagged off The HERwakening, an initiative aimed at empowering female entrepreneurs.
Held on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day celebration, the well-attended session was hosted physically at the impressive Yudala Heights located at 13 Idowu Martins, Victoria Island, Lagos and online via YouTube. The event, which witnessed a gathering of women entrepreneurs and aspiring ones, provided a fitting opportunity for TD Africa to engage this critical segment and inspire women-owned businesses.
Speaking at the event hosted in partnership with Microsoft and Access Bank, Founder, Wholesome Inspirations, Dr. Ebere Njoku urged participants to take charge and own their space. Njoku, who was one of the keynote speakers at the event, disclosed that women have come a long way, adding that their voices must be heard. According to her, “Own Your Space” means giving yourself permission to show up as your authentic self, to be present, to be important and to define your boundaries. She defined elements of self-discovery to include, confidence, acceptance, responsibility, love, and ownership.
Earlier, in her address, Country Manager (Nigeria & Ghana) Microsoft, Ola Williams traced the evolution of technological development from the 4th Industrial Revolution, Steam and Water, Electricity, Electronics and IT, through Digital, Cyber, Internet and Networking. Williams, who spoke on the topic, “Staying Ahead in the Digital Age”, revealed that humanity uses one form of technology or the other as it touches every aspect of life.
Asking the women if they are prepared, the speaker said by 2026, demand for digital skills such as Web Development, Computer and Information Research Science, Data Science and Software Development, among others, will grow by 13 percent. Further, she described Nigeria as the highest ICT investment destination by volume and deals.
Adducing fear of failure, lack of network and mentors, poor IT background and perception of the field as stressful, etc. among reasons women avoid careers in Information Technology, Williams identified key action areas for interested females to include regular use of technology, keeping abreast of technological advancement, getting mentors, mentoring other women and joining relevant communities.
On her part, Managing Director (Nigeria) Apple Inc., Teju Ajani, who counselled participants on the principles of thriving in a competitive environment, disclosed that the most important thing is to train and focus on one’s goal. According to her, healthy competition can push one to success, even as she delivered tips to survive the competition.
Among these are need to understand your industry, studying the culture around you, paying attention to your environment, need to observe things, learn yourself, set your goal, dream big, work smart, lesser focus on other things, developing yourself and your team, learn more every day, adapt to changing times, unique value estimation, being ready for opportunities, changing your mood, learning to walk away and being bold, adaptable, strong and willing to reflect yourself.
Another keynote speaker and Founder, Wardrobe Merchant, Obis Oragwu bared her thoughts on the place of a woman in the 21st Century. In her view, the evolution of technology, innovation, economic challenges and societal change have brought more jobs requiring additional skilled manpower into the workspace. This, she said, brought about the need for ambitious women with special skills to take roles that were previously dominated by men. She listed core areas where a woman who wants to succeed in the 21st century must focus on to include, finance, family time, career, networking, self-care, health and fitness, fashion, one’s goal, ethics & value and structure. She submitted that these factors must be balanced for a successful career.
Equally important, a representative of Access Bank and Group Head, Women Banking, Abiodun Olubitan spoke on the bank’s The ‘W’ initiative. This initiative, according to her, is a platform by Access Bank for the empowerment of women in business with financial & lifestyle solutions and advisory facilities for investments. Olubitan revealed that the focus segments include W in Business, W Young Professionals, W and Family, Millennials & Gen Z and W Quintessential. Value propositions include access to finance such as loans, access to network and mentoring, access to capacity and career development and access to market. She identified the benefits of “The “W” Power Loan” to include flexible repayment plans, relaxed collateral requirement and competitive interest rates.
Meanwhile, Coordinating Managing Director, TD Africa, Chioma Chimere revealed that one of the value propositions of the HERwakening is to make it an initiative for vulnerable, voiceless and less privileged women. She averred that TD Africa, born in 1999, is a child of necessity to sanitize the ICT industry, noting that it had become a big giant leading the trade revolution across Africa.
Chimere disclosed that the majority of the Board of TD Africa are women who have been in business for over 25 years. These women, according to her, have been empowered and are empowering other women. She praised the untiring efforts of the Chairman, Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, for inspiring and promoting women to top management cadre positions, adding that Ekeh represents a new breed of entrepreneurs who value the contributions of women.
The icing on the cake was the enduring words of Chioma Ekeh, CEO, TD Africa.
While recounting the agonies women go through in raising new generations, she described the modern-day woman as a trailblazer, a hard-working home builder, and a compassionate companion. She, nevertheless, admonished the women to see their roles as not only divine but as a reward. Expressing gratitude to her husband, Ekeh, for finding women worthy to head companies in the Zinox Group, she equally thanked the staff of TD Africa, the organizers of the event and the guest speakers.
Notably, Ekeh, Chairman, Zinox Group, who addressed the audience briefly, also reiterated the key advantages enjoyed by womenfolk, including their concentration power, financial prudence, humility, as well as their natural status of being better counsellors, less prone to fraud and spiritual soundness, among others. Ekeh restated his prediction that from 2026, women will take over in major spheres of endeavour. He also promised to sow a seed to support the women-owned businesses selected for partnerships at the end of the event.
Other highlights of the event include a question-and-answer session, a memorable rendition of Beyonce’s Drop Challenge by some of the participants and high-level networking.