Leading Ladies Africa…Yetunde Odugbesan-Omede
There doesn’t quite exist a simple way to describe Yetunde Odugbesan-Omede. In a time where being a multi-dimensional woman is seen as difficult, she does it with style, grace and aplomb – successfully wearing many hats at the same time. She talks to Francesca Uriri, and shares why it’s important for women to lead with confidence, to equip themselves and to consciously and purposefully live their dreams. Enjoy!
You are a Professor, an Author, woman’s empowerment advocate, entrepreneur, and a philanthropist amongst other things; how would you describe Yetunde Odugbesan Omede in your own words?
I would describe myself as a woman with many passions but with a central purpose which is to create a positive impact in others through service and profession. I don’t limit myself when it comes to explaining the many hats I wear because I feel that in this life you must boldly embrace the many facets of who you are and never put a period too prematurely.
That’s pretty succinct and impressive. As I say that though, I catch myself; because it seems as though we are always impressed when a woman achieves amazing milestones. Doesn’t that lull us into a false sense of complacency? Shouldn’t women be striving for greatness by default? What are your thoughts on that?
Everyone should be striving to achieve their highest potential. Everyone’s level of greatness is unique to who they are. I believe you do the world a disservice when you become complacent because complacency opens the door for stagnancy and laziness; which means you are not moving, not growing and not evolving. The world depends on your purpose, your talents, your gifts and your ideas. When you realize your purpose, the urge to keep going despite the obstacles will become stronger because it’s no longer about you.
Let’s backtrack a little; what were your goals as a young girl, would you say that you are now living your dreams?
I am living my dreams. As a little girl, I had a vision for my life. I would dream that I was always in a high leadership position. I envisioned myself being an Ambassador, President or the next Oprah or Barbara Walters; this is what I would see in my visions as a young girl. Having a vision or a big picture for your life is so important. I truly believe that my visions in my younger years became a strong and guiding force as I grew older. I still have a grand vision by my life which is still unfolding with each day.
What drives you; what is the thing that makes you keep striving to be a better woman?
I believe that it is essential to figure out what your purpose is in life. Knowing why you are here on earth gives you many reasons to keep going. In addition, I strive to always be the best version of myself daily. Striving to be a better version of yourself should be journey in which the real competition is yourself and no one else. I’ve never modelled my life by looking at what someone else is doing, what they have or who they are. I have always had the upmost confidence in myself that my dreams, my gifts and my purpose here on earth is divinely unique. I also hope that through my actions it inspires other young girls to push themselves to be better and do better.
You are an Adjunct Professor of Political Sciences; what made you decide to go into that field, and how has that decision shaped your life?
I always had a strong interest for politics and international affairs. Many of my professional, civic and extracurricular activities during my high school and college years were in politics, campaigning and humanitarian initiatives. Pursuing higher education was always a goal of mine. I knew that in order for me to be where I wanted to be professionally there were certain things that I need to accomplish. In addition, it was a personal choice as well to pursue higher education. It’s important to me to be an example to young people that anything is possible and not to settle when it comes to getting an education. I truly enjoy being able to be in a position to to educate and build students into well-rounded global citizens.
You are the Author of ‘Young Woman’s Guide,’ tell us the idea behind the book?The book, Young Woman’s Guide is named after the organization that I founded Young Woman’s Guide, Inc.; whose mission is to provide leadership and personal development for young woman from all backgrounds. I wrote this book because I wanted all young women to have a guide that will give them the tips, tools and advice on putting their best forward. I share personal stories and touch on topics that a woman will experience throughout her journey through womanhood.
What would you say are the 3 major things that prevent women from succeeding in life?
Comparison: I have a chapter in my book on Comparison. Women at times have a tendency to measure themselves against other women’s timelines, other women’s successes and life choices. When you compare yourself to others you are doing a disservice not only to yourself but to God. As women, we have to realize that everyone has their own divine timeline, their own journey to success, their own purpose, their own destiny, their own way of living, their own way of expressing themselves, their own style—everyone is different. I strongly believe that accepting yourself for who you are is the greatest gift you can give yourself; this will you allow to experience life and success in a healthy manner.
Everyone should be striving to achieve their highest potential. Everyone’s level of greatness is unique to who they are
Self-Doubt: Constant self-doubt or second-guessing oneself can also prevent women from succeeding in life. Self-doubt is a normal occurrence however; it is not healthy when it starts to infringe or hold you back from pursuing your goals. We often question if where good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, savvy enough, etc, and that constant questioning can be damaging to your spirit, mind, body and soul. As a woman you need to accept and validate yourself and never wait for anyone else to give you the assurance you need. When you’re confident and sure of yourself first, it opens so many doors that criticism cannot shut.
Choice of Friends: As women, it’s important to be around other women who truly support and celebrate you. There is nothing worse than being in company that does not bring the best out of you. You have to avoid being around people who are lackluster, lack ambition and never excited about life. The truth is, if someone is unhappy deep down inside its hard for them to be the type of friend or anchor you need when you are on your journey to success. I’ve seen so many women downplay their gifts, beauty or success just to make their friends feel comfortable around them. A real friend regardless of whatever situation they are in will never make you feel inferior nor covet or envy your success.
So, I’m sitting here thinking: “Yetunde seems to be doing a lot!” How do you balance everything out, how do you ensure optimum performance in all areas of your life – is that even possible?Balance is key. I deliberately and purposefully seek out balance. Balance does not miraculously occur in one’s life. You have to make a constant effort to prioritize and ensure that you are giving your best in the areas that matter. I do believe balance is possible, I give my all in my marriage, as a mother, as a family person, as a professional, as a friend, as a businesswoman and more; because I choose to and I fight for it.
Name 3 women you admire and look up to.
My mother, Oprah Winfrey and umm does it really only have to be 3? Lol! I have a lot of names!
Let’s talk about mentorship – how important is it? Do you think it brings any sort of value, to women especially?
I also write a whole chapter on mentorship in my book Young Woman’s Guide. It’s really important for young women to have mentors that can provide them with professional, leadership and personal advice. However, I believe that it’s important for young women to know that mentorship is not control, mentorship does not exploit and mentorship never belittles. Often times as young women or even in your adult age can be blinded by someone’s professional success that you latch on to them and forget that they are human and although may be successful in one area of their lives does not mean they are capable of well-equipped to give you advice on personal matters. Also, it’s important to level you expectation when seeking out mentors. I’ve had both good and not so great experiences with mentors; so it’s important for me to share both sides of the coin when it comes to mentorship.
Do you think there are enough black women in positions of authority and leadership, and if not what can be done to encourage more female participation?
I think we are steadily becoming more and more visible when it comes to being in positions of authority and leadership; however the more the better. One sure way of this is to start grooming young girls and women in leadership development which is why I founded Young Woman’s Guide. We need to ensure that when its time for them to “lean in” they are well prepared and confident to do so. Leadership does not happen overnight, it’s a process that needs to be honed and consistently developed.
If you could pick a theme song for your life, what would it be?
I have a couple of theme songs but my favourite would be by Beyonce titled “I Was Here.”
How do you let off steam, and where or with whom do you feel most relaxed and peaceful?
I let off steam by talking to my husband and always getting level-headed advice from him. I also let off steam by relaxing at home with my husband and son and catching up on a good Netflix series when I can. I am most peaceful and relaxed when I am in my zone and when I pray; that’s when I can mediate and just thank God.
If you could, what would you tell your younger self?
Three words that describe you…
A powerful, loving, leader.
Follow Yetunde on Twitter: @yetundeo and Instagram: @iamyetunde
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