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Ukoh: Gender Has Nothing To Do With Competence

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iquo ukohIf you called her the face of Nestle, you wouldn’t be far from the truth. Having spent many working years at Nestle Nigeria Plc., Iquo Ukoh, currently the Marketing Service Director of the food and beverage giant, has come to regard the organisation as an integral part of her.

And although she started as a medical delegate to the company, through sheer hard work, dedication and commitment, Iquo is today on the board of directors of Nestle Nigeria, a position no other woman had occupied before her.

After her graduation from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Iquo, who studied nutrition and dietetics, joined Nestle in 1981. “I had my internship at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital and did my Youth Service at the National Institute for Research in Yaba,” she recalls with nostalgia. “After sometime, I got tired of visiting hospitals and couldn’t cope again.

So, I changed from nutrition and dietetics to join Nestle Nigeria. Then, my job was to monitor Nestle products on Infants nutrition section, as well as talk to doctors and nurses. I have worked in Nestle all my life.”

Fortunately for her, after spending some years in this section, Iquo was given an opportunity in marketing and ever since, she has served there at different levels. Though men had always dominated her position, Iquo says she doesn’t feel threatened by gender difference.

“The company is very gender sensitive and this has set me in motion for my work. At Nestle, it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman. All that matters is competence.

It is all about one’s commitment to the work and gender has nothing to do with your quality,” she explains. With the heavy workload and the accompanying pressure, how does she manage the home front and create a balance? Is her family being given equal attention as Nestle? She says yes.

Having been in the marriage arena for many years, Iquo says she has devised her own method of juggling the two with neither of them sidelined. “Right from the outset, I made up my mind that my family must not suffer on account of my career or ambition.

To achieve this, I knew I had to strike a balance and pay the price involved. As a mother, I was able to manage my career and keep my family with the support of my husband.

What we did was to embrace and practise the idea that the two parents take care of the children; not the father or mother alone. So, when I am not at home, the father takes care of the children and when he is not at home, I also take care of the children.

When the two of us are at home, we both take up the responsibility. And now that my kids are all grown up, technology (social media) helps us to cover the distance.

We talk to one another every now and then,” she explains. Along the line, Iquo discovered that the majority of African women are faced with the challenges of what to cook, how to cook it and the recipe used in cooking different African delicacies.

So, out of her own creative ability, she started a food blog called “1Q Food Platter.” “This has gathered thousands of followers all over the world,” she says. “Getting to this stage in life is not as easy as it seems.”

So, what word of advice does she have for younger ladies wanting to carve a niche for themselves in life? “They should plan their life ahead and be sure to ask themselves what they want out of life and what their aim is.

There should be clarity in this regard. Nurturing a career is good and I have enjoyed every bit of mine,” she says in a low voice. “Therefore, the ambitious individual has to set a goal and be ready to pay the price involved.

Also, there must be consistency and persistency, as both are sure keys to achieving excellence in life.” In her view, everyone should have a good idea of what they want out of life very early and work towards achieving the set goal. “When you aim to touch the sky, and may be you were not able to do so, you will discover in the end that you have at least touched the cloud,” she says.


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