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‘How young women can propel their careers’

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
30 July 2022   |   2:56 am
For Chidinma Nwankwo, Head of Media Buying at All Seasons Zenith, one of Nigeria’s largest media independent agencies, the journey up the professional ladder has been challenging but ultimately rewarding.

For Chidinma Nwankwo, Head of Media Buying at All Seasons Zenith, one of Nigeria’s largest media independent agencies, the journey up the professional ladder has been challenging but ultimately rewarding.

She has had to deal with the myriad of challenges that women typically face in the corporate world, such as deprecating remarks and being underrated, underpaid and undervalued because of her gender.

Nwankwo

Now, as one of the most senior executives in her field, Nwankwo yet pushes for the apex of her profession and is keen on sharing the lessons she has learnt on her journey so far, particularly the fact that ultimately the quality of work a woman offers at work will make the most difference.

“Showing up and putting in undeniable work,” Nwankwo says, “is the single most effective way I have been able to navigate an industry such as this, and I find that it is a formula that works for just about any industry and indeed anyone, male or female.”

Nwankwo, who began her career 12 years ago as a trainee client service executive at Verdant Zeal Marketing and Communications, currently runs a portfolio of high-value accounts for her current employer.

During her 10 years at All Seasons Zenith, the 35-year-old has occupied senior positions and some of the accounts on which she has oversight include Seven-Up Bottling Company (bottlers of Pepsi), 9mobile, and Nestlé. The annual media spend of these companies is valued at over N6 billion.

Nwankwo, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Enugu State University and is a member of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) and the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), likens her career journey to riding a rollercoaster. From the sting of being severely undervalued and side-lined to the thrill of fast-paced promotions, she insists it is the value of hard work and boldness that she has learnt along the way that has ensured her quick ascent.

“You have to stop the pity party and just do the work. Do it consistently, and do it very professionally. The accolades will come,” she stresses. “You might think nobody is seeing your work but people actually are. Your employers are seeing it and, as I always say to people, even if your supervisors don’t like your guts, if you’re the one producing the best outcome, they will naturally gravitate towards you because if they don’t, it also affects their [Key Performance Indicators].”

One of the facts she also strongly believes every woman must accept is the need to put in more work than her male contemporaries in order to get the same things they get. While she recognizes that it is an age-old cliché, and a thought that many women may find upsetting to hear, she points to her corporate experience as evidence of this uncomfortable truth.

Having put in the work, she prescribes boldness and assertiveness as tools for women to receive the pay they deserve in the workplace. It is common, she figures, for men to demand more compensation even if they do not put in up to half the work their female colleagues do.

“Men are rarely afraid to have conversations around their earnings,” she says. “Surely it can be a difficult conversation for many women, especially younger women just starting out their careers. However, it is a conversation that I have learnt to not be afraid to have. The keyword here is ‘learnt to not be afraid to have, because it is still a difficult conversation, even for a lot of seemingly well-established women who should be getting more but are not because they are scared to ask.”

While Nwankwo recommends having the conversation, she recognises the need for women to first be self-aware and confident in their contributions to their employers. Her advice is: “Know what you are bringing to the table and be prepared to highlight it, then knock on your boss’s door.”

Nwankwo also believes that female executives must continue to set yearly personal development growth targets and keep track of their achievements in this area.

“For me, every year that I’ve been able to record some growth is a high point. Growth is not necessarily in terms of pay,” she says. “I’ve done a lot of projects. I’ve done a lot of successful projects. I’ve done some that were not so successful but if I’m to underpin it, I think it’s consistent growth. Every year, I’m able to record something, another feather to my cap. Personally, I count that as a success. Success has to be consistent.”

Nwankwo considers the common derogatory comments commonly thrown at women in office environments as “distractions aimed at derailing you from your journey.” She suggests that it is best to ignore them. “Put in the work and forget about the distractions. People will make snide comments about you. Do what you can to shake it off, develop a thick skin, and be focused. It’s a marathon. You reward will happen.”

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