Folashade Medebem: Gender equality is a journey and Nigeria is moving in the right direction

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Folashade Ambrose Medebem has more than 23 years senior management experience delivering world-class strategic business transformation solutions with a variety of global FSTE 100 multinationals including LafargeHolcim Plc, Diageo Plc., PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ford Motor Company, Zurich Financial Services, Learning & Skills Council UK, Nigeria Ministry of Finance and Department for International Development (DFID) the UK. She holds a Bachelor of (Hons) Accounting degree from London Guildhall, a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the Open University, UK and is a certified Financial Management professional with the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), the UK amongst a plethora of other professional certifications.She was appointed as Director of Communications, Public Affairs & Sustainable Development, Lafarge Africa Plc in October 2016. Prior to this role, she worked as Integration Business Transformation Consultant for LafargeHolcim (LH) (2015) focusing on enabling a speedy integration (following the worldwide merger of LH) in order to deliver the country business ambition as one holistic organization in Nigeria.In addition to her corporate profile, Fola serves on the NESG 24 Executive Committee, is a member of the UN SDG Nigeria – Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) – Cluster 8 Co-Lead to the Federal Government of Nigeria and is the leading catalyst driving Women in Manufacturing Africa (WimAfrica) initiative, all of which Lafarge Africa Plc. is a member. In this interview with GuardianWoman, she talks about the mistakes women are making that is holding them back from career success and how she has established Women Inspiring Impact Network (WIIN) to enable women win in their career and in business.

What was growing up like?
Quite normal, I spent my formative childhood years both in England and Nigeria although I must say both experiences were very different, indeed, culturewise. In the UK I recall taking the class hamster home for the summer holidays – not something I could imagine ever doing in Nigeria! I also remember, learning Yoruba from my dad over the weekend, roller-skating with my friends etc. While here in Nigeria I recall being fascinated and excited to watch the Eyo festival with my parents, who are Lagosians, in Isale Eko and getting wacked by one of them for wearing shoes! I recall driving to Badagry beach for the afternoon for a picnic and vividly owning the kitchen every Sunday morning – I cooked breakfast. Mum and dad appreciated “always” eating it all except for my very articulate brother who refused to be polite like everyone else!

With over 23-year track excellent record in the business management field, what are the things that women following in your footsteps need to be aware of?
Be purposeful in all that you do and clear on what is important to you. I will illustrate sharing my journey – family matters to me tremendously, this means I have deliberately chosen to work with companies that have a culture and verifiable record of enabling women to excel e.g. women on their boards or in senior positions, flexible working etc.Listen-in always, by that I mean reflect intuitively. If it does not seem right, don’t rationalise, just heed. Be persistent, resilient and comfortable being uncomfortable in order to grow. If it is business as usual how do you move from good to great consistently. And it is okay to make mistakes, hey! dare I say even fail (yes, I said it) – dust yourself off and cause correct as soon as you possibly can.Seek out best practice (why reinvent the wheel), seek and connect with inspiring leaders, be inspired. Good old grit cannot be skipped- put in the hard work; success is never an accident- FACT.And, finally, SPEAK UP as often as you can with conviction, remember someone else paved our way, pave for others too.

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