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Life Is Not A Race!! It’s Just About Getting There – Dr Anino Ewuwa

  •  Who is Dr. Anino Emuwa and what does she do?

    I am from Nigeria. I am the founder and managing director of Avandis Consultiing in France and we have an office in Lagos. We work on strategy and financial advisory with entrepreneurs and business leaders. We also work a lot with women, we build communities of women in Nigeria and internationally. We have communities for women who are CEOs, women who are entrepreneurs because we believe in having women in leadership. Also, we have our events all over the place, we had one event in Paris, we have them also in places where we have key decision makers appearing, for example, at DAVOS and essentially anything that has to do with women working together. I am a coach and mentor for many organizations like the Cartier Women’s Initiative and the chartered management institute and I am also an alumni fellow at Nottingham Business school, and I mentor students in the business school as well.

  •  A summary of your background, was this a planned career path? What was the journey like up until Avandis Consulting? 

I would say it was a journey, when I was very young, at the age of 16, I knew that I wanted to go into banking. I thought that it was fantastic because I would get to learn how finance runs big businesses, I was fascinated with this and so I did my A Levels in mathematics, I went into University to study monetary Economics as a preparation to go into banking. I started off my career working in banking in Nigeria with Citibank and at 23 I had a portfolio of large multinational companies. Here I was back in Africa dealing with large businesses and when I would come out of that workspace which I loved and adored, I would see gaps in the market, that is to say entrepreneurial gaps and so I went on to study MSc. Economics and eventually completed my MBA. I began my incursion into entrepreneurship and smaller business and understanding things in a sort of larger level and so I decided to do a doctorate studying finance in entrepreneurship and from there I launched my consulting business. I was working with people leading business and specifically of course with women because women have even more difficulty raising funds. There are huge gaps in leadership be it entrepreneur or cooperate world and for those reasons I entered into that space.

  •  What inspires/motivates you. What is your mission?

    I think in the bigger picture, what motivates me is development especially on the continent because I really don’t see that we have all that it takes for us to develop. It’s a big problem indeed and the space I’ve chosen to operate is in terms of leadership of smaller business and entrepreneurship and particularly women led businesses. I also derive a lot of satisfaction when I see businesses grow. I have the drive to grow the private sector as I totally and absolutely believe that it is the private sector development that is going to cause the development of any nation, this is a historical fact. I also love working with people as well, when I see others developing, it gives me satisfaction

  •  You seem to be a strong believer in the power of education being nurtured through several reputable institutions yourself what role do you believe education plays in fostering the increase of more women in Business?

The UN identifies education as a basic right, and I find it particularly painful that anyone/group does not have access to education and in particular girls in certain areas.

For me, I had a government funded scholarship which was given entirely based on merit to attain a public secondary education. And where I am today, I strongly believe is related to that access to education. I know education is a motor that propels and gives opportunity and without that it becomes very difficult. All the research is there to show that education is one of the important motors to development and so is necessary. That is probably another reason why I’ve acquired a lot of education along my way. Now when I study, it is for what I’m going to use it for, that is, whatever I learn I use for my speaking engagement and mentorship and so those who for any reason have not had the access to the information I happen to share can also benefit in some way. Those who have access to education should take it wherever they can, we are in the 4th industrial revolution, a technologically driven age which means so much is changing, and it is no longer technology as a sector but technology as the basis of all we do. We need to upgrade ourselves. We can now access education beyond four walls, there are online learning and skill acquisition platforms, so we can constantly acquire new knowledge. Things are really changing we need to acquire knowledge and skills as quickly as possible.

  •  If we were having this conversation 5 years ago, this would have been a different question, but we can see gender parity starting to make a positive shift, what is your view on this and what can be done by organizations and government today to push it even further?

When you look at gender diversity in leadership, it is often seen as one thing you do but I believe it’s actually a series of different things. We can talk about it in 3 areas, one in terms of government, one in terms of organization and policy.

When government works very closely with businesses it shows. People talk about having quotas at boardroom level, but I’m not really keen on quotas because sometimes people don’t simply want to adhere to rules, but it is for the organization to understand the value that women bring into it. If we look at the case of Nigeria which I think is fascinating, we had one of our ex-central bank governor – Lamido Sanusi – encouraging banks to have a minimum representation of women on board. While this wasn’t a rule or regulation, the central bank at the time monitored diversity by requiring that banks chronicle diversity while they are fulfilling their reporting requirements. This in turn encouraged banks to have more women on board. At the moment in Nigeria, I believe there are approximately 4 women who are chairs of boards, so it was no longer having them simply as directors which is a positive improvement. So of course, the government has a role! Also, we have organizations like business schools who do surveys and let people know what is happening. However, these are external contributors

If we look internally, there is also plenty to be done. Many excuses of these organizations are that there are not a lot of women available and this speaks to something we call the funnel effect, that as we move up the pipeline less and less women are being represented. What are the causes and possible solutions to this?
Organizations were originally built and designed to suit the beginning of the Industrial Age; they are not built for today’s world. The structures were built for men. So, what we are doing is trying to change a structure which was not really made to have working women and so there needs to be a cultural shift and we see several organizations that are starting to make it happen. Goldman Sachs for example say that won’t bring to the market companies that do not have at least one woman or a member of the minority on the board so if we have power things happen as well.
Another is lack of access to qualified women leaders. You find women when you go where women are. Our networks tend to be gendered so if you want a woman for a position, ask women and they would likely find the one you’re looking for.

  •  You are a mentor and coach yourself; please could you highlight the role of mentorship and networking towards supporting more women in business?

The whole network conversation started when you talk about the old boys’ network, where men would refer other men in the social groups to relevant opportunities. We work as networks; research shows that a large amount of people gets their jobs through networks. The idea of women in business is still sort of fairly new. The way networking was done was not traditionally suited to women, networking over drinks in the evening, after work just didn’t suit women who had to go home to take care of the kids. Now, I think people have found that there are many different types of networking. And as creators of society, women are finding new ways to sustain information flow and networking for themselves while creating values!

  •  Would you ever Run for a political office?

It has become most unfashionable for one to say no to this question, I had always known that I never wanted to work in government. But while working in economics, you find that private and public sector and intricately linked. Maybe in an advisory position but we’ll see!

  •  You already do so much already and you are also a mother of 2; please how do you manage to balance it all?

There isn’t one way, we all have different ways of doing things, it is simply finding the way that suits you. Don’t remove yourself from the competition because it all seems overwhelming, you’ll find a solution when you get there. Women may choose certain roles in organization because they feel there might be less pressure, but things are changing. Some women seem like they can do it all which is fine, but most women can’t do everything at the same time. It is not a race!! It’s just about getting there, so there are certain stages in your life where you might decide to take it a little bit of a slower, but the point is not to leave completely and remain always plugged in. Personally, when I take this route, I stay in touch with my mentors. Make sure your skills are up to date. If you take some time out of the job market, always keep an ear on the ground and keep in touch with people. The lesson is that you don’t have to do everything and get it all done right away, you can do some things later. The point is getting there, and not getting there at a particular age or stage.

Gideon Ajayi

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