In a patriarchal society, Nigerian women have to put up with things like being sidelined in government or being the subjects of tweets like this:
But we aren’t spared in the corporate world either. In this article, six Nigerian women tell us what it’s like to be female bosses in male-dominated offices:
“I have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously”
— Bella*, 42, real estate consultant
I own a real estate company, and if I got a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “A man must be bank-rolling her,” I’d be a billionaire now. If people paid more attention to making money for their children, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to assume that everyone has to sleep with people to get wealth.
I’ve been in this business for close to eight years, and while it’s a lot better now, my earlier years were tough. I felt like people didn’t take me seriously, and I remember having to take a loan to buy a bigger car just so I could command respect when conducting site inspections. I’d be the first to get to work and the last to leave because I needed everyone to see how hard I worked.
But now? My achievements speak for me, and I couldn’t care less what anyone thinks.
“Stereotyping is so annoying”
— Dara*, 26, human resource lead
I lead my team at my workplace, and I’ve noticed that I need to pay special attention to treating people nicely just so I don’t fall into the “female bosses have wahala” stereotype.
I’m quite certain that my male colleagues don’t have to reread their emails five times before sending them to confirm that they don’t sound domineering. It’s a peculiar situation, but I’m happy to put in the work if it means that just one more person can attest to the fact that not all female team leads are out to stress you.
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“My imposter syndrome is worse”
— Kira*, 30, software engineer
Before I even started leading my team, there were multiple times when I questioned my abilities.
Imagine being the only woman in a department, in an organisation that has more women occupying the non-technical roles. Even though people treated me with respect, I subconsciously felt the need to prove that I deserved a place as “one of the boys”.
Now that I lead my team, I struggle to delegate tasks because I still feel the need to prove myself. It’s an internal struggle, but my team members are nice.
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“They have no choice but to listen when I speak”
— Funmi*, 30, operations manager
I manage operations at a real estate firm, and it’s a very challenging environment. It’s been an interesting ride, but I’ve not had any issues relating to my gender.
I’m very much respected because I know my onions, and they have no choice but to listen when I speak. I don’t feel any special need to prove myself because I’m confident in the value that I bring. If any organisation moves mad, I can just move on to the next one.
“Funny enough, ladies are my problem”
— Tosin*, 35, creative producer
I work in media, and most of my team members are male. They’re cool for the most part, with the odd case of expecting me to take notes in meetings just because.
It’s the ladies that stress my life. I think most ladies don’t like working with female bosses because of this stereotype that we’re difficult to work with. So when deliverables are delayed, and I crack down on them, it’s almost like I’m reinforcing this stereotype, but they don’t see that it’s because they’re slacking.
— Neema*, 29, finance professional
I’m just one of two female team leads out of seven in my organisation, but I wouldn’t say it’s due to sexism. It’s a startup, but the culture is great — I don’t feel disrespected or targeted because of my gender.
I once worked at an organisation where sexual harassment was rife, but I left immediately I noticed it. The people in my present company know they’ll lose their jobs if they even think about it.
I think it’s up to us as women to enforce a standard on how we want to be treated, or at least who we decide to work for. Companies also have a role to play in ensuring healthy work cultures for everyone, irrespective of gender.
*Names have been changed for the sake of anonymity, and statements have been lightly edited for clarity.
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