It’s International Women’s Day! March 8th is a day set aside to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women and girls in different spheres. The aim of the day is also to spread awareness about women’s empowerment and gender parity.
The campaign theme for UN Women is “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow.” In a statement, UN Women said that the year 2022 is “pivotal” for achieving gender equality in the context of climate change and environmental and disaster risk reduction. Without gender equality, “a sustainable future and an equal future remain beyond our reach,” it added.
IWD’s campaign theme is “BreakTheBias.” Here’s a message shared from the IWD website:
Imagine a gender-equal world.
A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
Together, we can forge women’s equality.
Collectively, we can all “BreakTheBias.”
Both themes are very powerful and crucial for the times we are in. Women in the 21st century are still clamouring for equality in governance and the pay gap between men and women is far from being breached. Women’s rights are human rights. Gender equality is a prerequisite for development. These are facts. Nonetheless, our world is structured in a way that discriminates against women socially, economically, and politically. The existing social construct contains biases that continue to undermine women’s equality.
On March 2nd, 2022, Nigerian women went to the National Assembly to protest against the non-passage of some gender equality bills by the legislature as part of the amendment of the 1999 Constitution. A statement by Women in Nigeria, a coalition of women-focused NGOs in the country, stated that “Nigerian women are disappointed and angry at the actions of the 9th National Assembly (NASS) on Tuesday, March 1st, 2022, when they denied women the opportunity of inclusion and representation in governance by voting against the bills.”
For centuries, women have been continually passed over for leadership positions, either in government or in their careers. However, some companies have taken a stand to support women’s empowerment and put women in top positions. Mavin Records is one such African company, with women accounting for 43% of its workforce and women holding key positions.
Mavin Global is an African leading entertainment company that is home to some of Nigeria’s and Africa’s top stars such as Ayra Starr, Rema, Ladipoe, Johnny Drille, among others. For Africa’s premier entertainment powerhouse, Mavin Records, celebrating the exploits of women and putting them in leadership positions is part of their culture. The label has assembled a team that is unrelenting in their charge to lead the continent’s sonic narrative. Their exploits on the continent need no introduction. These teams are led predominantly by women, with incredible abilities and character. Key functions across the business are spearheaded by female music execs spanning Operations, Marketing, Finance, and A & R.
In an interview with these leading women of Mavin, who are changing the narrative and seeing their gender, not as a hurdle but a force, they shared with us their take on gender equality, their experience with gender bias and important advice for younger women looking to make their mark.
Meet Mavin’s Leading Women
Emmanuella Nnadozie, aka the “Shrink”, is the Head of Marketing at Mavin Global. She is nicknamed “the Shink” at the office because she’s the think tank for the marketing team she heads. She has experience working with brands in different spaces: FMCG, travel and lifestyle, retail, and currently, entertainment. She loves brands and the intricacies of understanding the needs of an audience and how to put brands and products in the spaces they’re needed.
Gender equality, according to Emanuella, means “not looking down on me because of my gender, and giving me a fair and equal chance in life and at work, It entails allowing me to be and live my life without diminishing my worth or capabilities simply because I am a woman.”
Emanuella says that two of the most important traits that have helped her get ahead in her career are a strong sense of self-accountability and ownership.
As the HR, Jennifer Imion, Mavin’s “fixer,” is the go-to when anyone needs anything fixed, and she oversees the affairs of all departments in the company as the director of operations.
Jennifer has experienced her fair share of gender bias. “On the job, especially when it came to vendor management and final decision making, vendors would ask to speak with the man in my department because they assumed he was the boss,” she explained. He’d then send them back to me, telling them I’d have to make the final decision. Some of them would make snide remarks, but I take the time to educate them and show them that my gender does not prevent me from being effective at my job.
To Jennifer, gender equality means equal opportunities, equal pay, and fairness.
If she could send a message to her 20-year old self, it would be “Live life but make intentional financial decisions.”
Because her job is all about chasing and securing the bag, Ifeoma Okonkwo has the nickname “Wall Street.” She is the Director of Finance at Mavin Global. A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA), an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) UK (ACMA, CGMA), and an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (ACTI). She holds a first degree in accounting from Lagos State University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, United Kingdom.
Ifeoma encountered gender-based bias as a young woman pursuing her degree to advance her career because she wasn’t the image of a serious female student that her peers expected. She describes her experience as follows: “I walked into a tutorial class as a young girl preparing for the first stage of the ICAN exams with a full face of makeup, high heels, and a beautiful outfit, and a good number of students, particularly males, began laughing at me. I was embarrassed and stunned, and I overheard whispers of “this one never know where she come.” A male student in his final year led the pack of people jeering me and boldly told me that I was not cut out for “this place.” According to him, this was a serious place for only intelligent people. He dismissed me because, to him, I was just a pretty face with no “brains,” and I am grateful that I not only proved him wrong but that I now sit on the Board of directors of this company.”
Rima Tahini is the director of Mavin’s factory, where artists are produced (found, developed, and rebranded). She has had a unique career trajectory, from energy and finance to now developing musical talents. She graduated from the African Leadership Academy in 2012, winning the Allan Gray Gold Prize for Excellence in Entrepreneurship. She also graduated with a degree in Business/Economics with the highest honours (Suma Cum Laude) from Brandeis University in 2016. After graduating from Brandeis, Rima joined Kupanda Capital in 2016, and now she works closely with some of Africa’s most recognized names in music. Through her role as Director of A & R at Mavin Global, she has played a key part in the development of one of the most successful names in Afrobeats.
When asked how she deals with gender bias, she responds, “First educate where I can, but also focus on the value I bring.” Knowing my worth gives me the confidence to stand up for myself and be assertive in my opinions and decisions. I stopped apologizing for being a smart and hardworking woman, and I no longer shy away from taking credit for the things I do.
To Rima, gender equality means affording all genders equal opportunities and the ability to choose. Having a choice and being able to make decisions for yourself as a person and decide the course of your life is freedom.
These four women, and so many others, have chosen to see their gender not as a hurdle but as a force. They are bridging the gap and breaking down biases one brick at a time. We celebrate you and applaud your tenacity in the face of challenges and setbacks.
A lot of social challenges and climate crises affect women. As stated by the UN Women, across the world, women depend more on, yet have less access to, natural resources and often bear a disproportionate responsibility for securing food, water, and fuel. As women and girls bear the burden of climate impacts, they are also essential to leading and driving change in climate adaption, mitigation, and solutions. Without the inclusion of half of the world’s population, it is unlikely that solutions for a sustainable planet and a gender-equal world tomorrow will be realized. Women need representation in governance and other major sectors, as only women can truly represent and fight for the needs that are peculiar to women.
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