While the ratio of women in leadership positions worldwide remains dismally low, some trailblazers and outliers have proved that women are not far behind men in terms of skill and talent when it comes to leadership. One of such women is Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
An economist and international development professional, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has inspired countless women and men with her leadership approach. She has been featured on Forbes magazine’s 100 most powerful women in the world for four straight years and was recognised by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. More recently, she became the first woman and the first African to serve as Director-General of the World Trade Organization.
In this article, we look at Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s six standout lessons on what it takes to lead and build solidarity in the face of gender bias and stereotypes. Read on for some nuggets of leadership wisdom from the two-time finance minister and now World Trade Organization leader.
1) There’s no right way to be a woman leader, be true to yourself. Convince yourself that you have the power to be all that you wish to be. It is you who could generate the power of motivation to push you forward and ignite you to think and to do.
2) Deal with sexist stereotypes by talking to your friends and colleagues about it. You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.
3) Debunk the sexist stereotypes when you come across them. As a leader, do not hurriedly discount any criticism as sexist to protect your self-esteem. Look at your shortcomings first before you make allegations. Stop victimising yourself. Stay objective.
4) Be a supporter of systems that aid gender equality, even if you don’t need them right now. Every woman who steps forward makes a small space for the women who come next.
5) Reach out and network, don’t take a backward step by shying away
6) The most important lesson of all: Go for it! Define success on your terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.