Amandla! Woman to Watch
Partner, Olaniwun Ajayi LP, Nigeria
One day, my mother bemoaned the fact that she did not study law as her father used to say 'all lawyers are liars". I was a bold, daring, and determined child and upon hearing that 'lamentation', I impulsively took a self-oath to be the lawyer 'that does not lie' and ran with that determination, against all odds.
My proudest professional moment was when I was admitted into the partnership of my firm, Olaniwun Ajayi LP, in 2014
I may have been more strategic about my choice of profession, and / or my choice of specialization when I was pursuing my Masters .... I would have towed my passion rather than my instincts. Nevertheless, I believe all things have worked together for my good.
Not surprisingly, with marriage straight after school, my journey as an associate in legal practice was riddled with the pressure of balancing career building with the more important, personal family pursuits. I have been very fortunate to work in institutions that are gender blind in the true sense of the word, but I wish I could say the same for the larger society, notably government agencies, where, I discovered the power of masculinity (both in physical form and simply by a touch of oratory testosterone in feminine physique) in commanding respect and in opening needed doors, and the need for a double dose of sobriety, working on national assignments, to hedge against the risk of gender insensitive jokes (smile!). Back in the private sector, not all firms maintain gender neutrality; to my chagrin, my male colleagues have sometimes had to be my heralding voice, to command respect from other lawyers.
I recall a t-shirt in the 70s/early 80s, with the inscription: “a woman has to do twice as much as a man to be considered half as good...fortunately, it’s not difficult”. Looking back at the proposition, and at mine, my mother, and grandmother's God-attained resumes of success, there is no gainsaying that the much-needed time and energy for career building, gives way to family pursuits. I have however learnt that the opportunity for career goals never lapses and the fulfillment of the attainment of family pursuits, propels one for rebuilding the suspended career attainments. I have also learnt that prejudices are not peculiar to gender, but quite glaringly, extend to ‘age’, and, sadly, ‘creed’. My mantra is thus: be the best of YOU at all times, and in line with the pillars of my firm, believe that there are no human limits or boundaries; you can be a God-standard beyond all.