How I felt being 5.8% of the room and how you can change that

How I felt being 5.8% of the room and how you can change that


Recently, I was engaged in a multi-cultural leadership meeting. The meeting had business leaders from eight different countries. It also had 17 participants. However, this isn’t the interesting part of the story. The real deal is that I was the only female in the group. ONE female out of 17 human beings is 5.8% female representation.fraction-f

Then I had an aha moment! I got it! This is the under-representation of females at decision making forums that the whole world has been raving about. It is not just enough for women to work, or to earn an income! It is as important for them to progress to leadership roles, to make decisions that shape companies, that change countries positively and more. This is not feminism. This is simply obeying the nature since women make up 49.6% of the world’s population.

For a moment, I felt like I was the ‘only girl woman in the world!’ ( in Rihanna’s voice). The only difference is that I wasn’t sought after for my body or my shape. Instead for my brain, mind and professional experiences.

Alas, I had a double aha moment! That I have a responsibility to enable several other girls, ladies, children and women to lean forward.

As the meeting progressed, I continued introspecting whilst reviewing the business challenge. (Yes, I multi-task in between serious discussions sometimes). I asked myself: what MORE should women do to progress in their careers and business?

There are about 200 countries in the world yet there are only about 20 countries with female presidents. What do these 20 have in common? What can we learn from them?

  1. THINK SMART:  This may sound cliché but really you cannot give what you do not have. Whether you are a man or a woman, the brain and mind have the capacity to innovate, solve problems and think through challenges. All women should feed their minds deliberately. Read, read and read! Learn, develop, and take courses, read educative pieces about your field. Get mentors that can inspire your creativity. USE YOUR MIND.
  2. ACT SMART: If all you do is think and you do not act, you will not progress. Action speaks louder than words. Act on your goals! You want to progress at work, then act! Deliver results. You want to grow your business, then invest! Find problems that need to be solved and solve them! If you have an idea, action it, try it! You may fail at first but keep going. Stop not.
  3. COMMUNICATE SMARTLY: This is so crucial. Many people are so smart but guess what? NO ONE KNOWS! Communication is both verbal and written. Learn how to write: emails, proposals, letters, requests, agreements and more! Learn to speak with confidence. It doesn’t come automatically. You need to rehearse a lot of times. Go to events and speak. Speak at your children’s’ school, at your office, church, mosque, to strangers, to friends. A key aspect of communication is listening. Listen to understand so you can really pass your messages across and receive from others too.
  4. NETWORK SMARTLY. Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are. Surround yourself with people that will nudge you towards your goals. Prioritize your family and important relationships. Avoid negative people and dream crushers. If everyone flees from dream crushers, they will have no dreams to crush. They will start building theirs too.
  5. BONUS: RESILIENCE: Maybe men seem to have this more naturally, just maybe! “Woman, man up!” Be strong. The corporate world is tough but you are tougher. You raise families, you bear children. You nurture! These are tougher roles so I know deep down that you’ve got this too!

See you at the top. Join the league! Lets move it from 5.8% to 50%. Thoughts? Comments? Questions?

Think, Act, Communicate and Network Smartly. Be resilient!

Tolulope Adedeji.


4 thoughts on “How I felt being 5.8% of the room and how you can change that”

  1. Well done Tolulope for this wonderful piece. I’m smart and I said this to constantly remind myself. I tend to be overwhelmed by my environment. I work outside my country of birth and I have an accent. Sometimes I forget how much sense I make when I talk and distract myself by trying to interpret people’s body language especially when I am asked to repeat myself or when they move closer or turn their ears to me. My husband has learnt how to pronounce words better with minimal mother tongue interference but this is not happening fast to me.

    I’m committed to increasing women visibility at places where key decisions are made.

    I hope to come back soon to share how well I have developed my communication skills. I will listen to verbal advantage, learn proper pronunciation of two words per day.

    Well done once again and I am proud of you

    1. Thanks a lot. Your kind words mean a lot . Everyone has an accent- Italians, French, American, British. It is only that their accents are viewed as more exotic because it is more widely heard. Look forward to your testimony- first, embrace your accent, learn how to speak more clearly so people can understand you, stand tall and be proud. Invest in knowledge. All will work out perfectly.

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