Adenike Emiloju: Towards A More Inclusive Professional World
Adenike Emiloju is one of the women shattering glass ceilings and setting new standards while at it. The Director of Treasury at IHS Nigeria has over 20 years of experience spanning Internal Audit and Treasury in multinational corporates, including the banking industry, and uses this to drive key business objectives. Passionate about operations management and the use of technology to drive business efficiencies and enhance customer experience, she continues to exploit these opportunities whilst doubling as a professional coach. She speaks to Guardian Life about contributing to mentoring and supporting colleagues’ professional development, breaking biases and inclusivity.
In the spirit of women’s month, it is clear that women all over the world still battle stereotypes and discriminations; how have you thrived in the face of these stereotypes and biases?
I might have developed a thick skin to gender stereotype over time, so I don’t notice it, nor am I bothered by it. My upbringing may have influenced this because my parents were gender neutral in their approach. Tasks were allocated without bias for girls or boys. It could be my turn to wash the car and I would wash it, while it could be my brother’s turn to sweep, and he would do it. Over time, I was encouraged and challenged to give my best in any and everything and, with continuous efforts; I learned to always give my best. The success that came from giving my best and excelling in my natural aptitudes made me realise that the key ingredients were hard work, belief, and an understanding of requirements, rather than your gender. I include aptitude because some things come more naturally than others. So, let me just say, I learnt to be gender neutral in my psyche, which has been helpful because it enabled me to develop a thick skin to stereotypes and instead, focus on achieving results. This is what employers notice and reward. However, I would not deny that stereotypes have affected me subconsciously. For example, the fact that increasingly more women are becoming CEOs, CFOs, and business founders has had a profound impact on my aspirations and ambitions. So, it must have been more difficult for the first generation of women leaders to break these stereotypes. It is easier for my generation because we have these role models ahead of us, and I believe the women coming after will be equally inspired by us after our own time. Hopefully, with more decades of deliberate efforts to encourage and challenge women not to limit their dreams, the business and professional world will become more inclusive.
Who are some women you have drawn professional inspiration from, and why?
I am honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to have female managers three times in my career, and these women have differed from each other. My current manager, Rhonda Wells, is a great inspiration because she is brilliant, open, and, at the same time, empathetic. She is the epitome of what it is to be an effective leader. This is what I want to be, and I draw inspiration from this.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Break the Bias”. What significant changes do you anticipate for women in Nigeria with this theme?
In the professional space in Nigeria, there is an intentional focus on women and an increasing awareness of the importance of gender diversity. For example, there are more female Managing Directors of large banks and higher gender diversity on their boards. This is a good thing, as it will help more women reach higher levels in their careers and inspire younger women. I see more acceptance of female leadership and hopefully not just in the professional space, but also in the political sphere, to see a woman become a State Governor in Nigeria and even a female Nigerian president one day, hopefully, sooner rather than later.
In your current role as a director, what motivates you about your work?
One of the most motivating things about working here is that it is a company that provides services critical to connecting people. IHS helps connect Nigerians via the internet and mobile to a global space of knowledge, education, news, fashion, music, and many more exciting opportunities. This was not even imaginable 30 years ago. We are helping to create possibilities for many Nigerians through digital connectivity and I love that my work contributes to making this happen daily. We are unique because while this is a large organisation with standardised processes, it has not lost its entrepreneurial spirit or ability to be flexible and think outside the box.
What valuable titbit would you tell younger women to be armed with while starting?
Be optimistic, dare to dream, stay focused and take good advantage of mentorship. Mentorship helps you learn and be guided by your mentor and have the mentor as a close inspiration.