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Akpata: Women, enterprising, innovative

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Akpata: Women, enterprising, innovative

Joyce Akpata, Dirctor-General of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, no doubt has varied of experiences. One can say she’s a combination of natural beauty and brain. Apart from her intellectual prowess, she believes that marriage is about sacrifice, which both parties have to make it work. In a chat with Oluwatosin Omoniyi, she stressed the need for supportive husband to make the home worth living

Being a woman DG, how has the journey been?

Well…interesting!  I think people sometimes underestimate the abilities of women. In fact, we have organizations that don’t give women opportunities. Sometimes, it’s not about your gender,  though, there are  some discrimination against women. But if you are a hard worker, if you knew your onions and you’re able to prove yourself, you’d get any role you want. There are certain roles which are stereotyped for women and men, but I think it increases awareness on the need for gender parity and to have women in organizations and in key positions. There’s an increase level of having women occupying some of the key positions these days.

How assertive are you among your male counterparts?

Well I am very assertive because if this is the way to go, I stick to it. I don’t want people not buying into the vision where we are headed because we are working as a team.  It is not unexpected as a woman that you’d have male subordinates who sometimes feel they shouldn’t be taking instructions from a woman, the ego issues and all that. But, to a large extent, it’s all about relationship and people management skills. For any woman in the corporate world, you should expect those behaviours from either male subordinates or male counterparts. So, it’s just about managing them. Once you manage them, I don’t think it should prove much of a challenge.

What’s your management style with your male colleagues really like?

Like I said, I’m very assertive and I pay a lot of attention to details. For me, it is very critical and I can be very finicky. I pay attention to minute details, something as not mixing up a capital letter for a small letter.  That has become part of me. Once I’m reading a document for instance, I look out for those details, I can’t miss them. Your documents speak for you when you are not there. It’s an impression you’re creating and you wouldn’t want to pass it on shabbily…Because for me when a document comes to me and I see those errors, I just shut down.  For me, if you cannot do a proper document, then, there is no point wasting my time. I just like paying attention to detail and I appreciate hard work.

There seems to be disparity between men and women in key positions,  particularly in politics. How can they excel?

I think the opportunities are there. It is for the women to get up and use them. I think we also need to encourage women to get up. Of course, it’s not easy. It’s up for women to take the bold step because we’ve seen a few women and they’ve done it well. Though we have a few that didn’t do well, but I think even within the political sphere, they are making a conscious effort to encourage and support our women leaders as well.

How can a woman have a voice in the society without having to pay a price for it?

We have seen quite a number of women that have been successful. We have people like the Minister of Women Affairs, we have Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora, Mrs. Abike-Dabiri who have been in the position for a while as well, including Mrs. Remi Tinubu. We have quite a number of them out there. Of course, we still want more. I’m sure for the next elections in 2019, we will see an increased participation by women. Again, I think it’s about striking a balance. It’s just like in a corporate world. Some people would say for you to climb the ladder, you have to make some sacrifices. It’s more difficult for a woman because you have added responsibility especially from the home front and sometimes you might not get as much support from the husband as you should. But I do think, in today’s world, in most families, it’s not like in the days of our parents when the mother might be a stay-at-home mom. In today’s economic situation, everybody has to work. So the husband understands that you also have to earn to be able to live a comfortable life. Only few families have just the husbands providing. Most times, both spouses have to work. So I think there’s an increased scenario of people supporting each other. If you’re not there for certain things, your husband is there. That makes it easier. Then, of course, as a woman, you have to also take care of the other responsibilities in terms of raising children and attending to domestic issues as well. Of course, it’s tougher for the women than for the men.

So, how do women survive this tough situation especially as it’s getting tougher?

It’s just knowing what you want and not allowing yourself to be deterred by…just be resilient. It won’t be any easier. First, there are children and domestic issue to cope with. So, it’s about planning and balancing. You can’t win it all.

Ironically, women seem to be gaining economic upper hand over their male counterparts. What could be responsible for this power shift?

It’s our resilience. Women do not give up easily. They are very enterprising and innovative. They keep pushing. They have the goal-getting spirit. Some

 men are lazy! I think sometimes, men might give up easily, women don’t give up easily. I think that is mostly responsible for us in getting the economical power.

But it doesn’t go well with some men…

It is for the betterment of the home, I believe. I think it’s only a man that is not sensible that will say he is upset because the wife is earning more than him. For Christ sake, it’s all coming to the same purse. It’s all for the betterment of the family. It’s not that she’s earning and keeping it for herself. There’s no woman that will be earning and would not want the best for her family. So I think it’s for the benefit of both parties.

How can she strike the balance at the home front?

Like I said, it’s only a man that’s not sensible. Some men will not mind ‘for the woman to be earning and take the back seat to rest.  They will say, ‘ If she can earn and take care of us, so be it.’ I am sure there are some men that wouldn’t mind and all that. But I think the key thing, on a more serious note, is balance. You know your role as a woman. You respect your husband even if you earn more than him. He is the head. That’s how God has put it. You know, as long as you respect your husband, you do what you are meant to do as the wife, I think your husband will be your chair-leader because, just like I said, it’s for the benefit of both of you. Women have to make conscious effort. It’s not easy. The woman has to make a conscious effort to play up those roles. It’s not easy. I am talking from my experience. I have three kids. You try as much as possible to be available. As difficult as it might be, sometimes, you might not be able to make it. But, as much as possible, be available for them and their activities, like school events, be available to go through their homework. Depending on your work environment and especially, in today’s world, the use of technology, you are able to work from anywhere. As a woman, you don’t necessarily have to stay very late in the office.

If you close early enough, you can get home, you can still have some time with your children. Go through their homework and all that and still get your work done. As long as you are able to meet your deadlines and your deliverables, I think you should be able to manage it. But, like I said, there are certain times you will not meet up, because, for example, you have a very important meeting and your child has a school event. Sometimes, you’re not able to get someone to substitute your role on your behalf. You might miss some. So, that’s why a supportive husband is also necessary in that area.

We are having increasing rate of divorce among our women. What do you say could be responsible for that?

I think, sometimes people go into marriages with different types of expectations that might be impossible to meet. For me, I think what causes some of these marital problems is when these expectations are not met. Sometimes, you expect too much from people and you are not giving as much. It’s just human nature. You are not giving as much but you’re expecting so much from the other person. I think the key thing is not to focus too much on what you are going to get but if each party in a relationship is focused​ on what can I give to make this relationship better, it might make it last longer. 

Some women also talk too much. You have to know when to run your mouth and when to keep quiet so that you don’t provoke your man. Of course, there are some men, who, without provocation, indulge in battering and all that. But some also, the wives provoke them and push them. I think every case is different but for me, no matter what it is, as a man, that’s not what you should indulge in.

No matter what it is, men should exercise some restraint. I don’t think it should generate to the level of beating up your wife and all that.   Actually, marriage is a two-way thing. But marriage is about sacrifice. Both parties have to be ready to make it work. There’s no marriage that doesn’t have challenges. But I think, in this part of the world, there’s this idea that it’s the woman’s responsibility to make the marriage work. It’s a two-way thing.

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