Pressure Cooker… Success nuggets for career women in print

A cross section of guests at the book reading

There exists a sea of motivational books for women on how they can enhance their career prospects and navigate the rigours of caring for the family. However, the book, Pressure Cooker: Lessons from a Woman at Work, written by Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, is an exemplar for its simplicity but yet pragmatic insights into how women can be successful in their careers, while also maintaining a decent home-front.

A Marketing and Communications professional, Olumide-Ojo is an advocate of women’s issues and founder of the LightHouse Network, a social-development initiative that is dedicated to empowering young women by providing them a formal mentoring structure. Married with two children, she has also spoken at conferences and events on brand management and women issues and received several awards, including the 2008 edition of NIPRO Top 40 Under 40.

So when she recently decided to have a book reading at the Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, to discuss some of the pertinent issues she raised in her book and how she navigated through them in the course of her burgeoning career, women from different walks of life gathered to get up, close and personal with the author.

Olumide-Ojo started by sharing with the audience how she grew up in a no holds barred society in Port-Harcourt, where at a tender age, she was given the impression that not everything is supposed to be done by women. The constant innuendo, “Don’t you know that you are a girl,” became a consistent yarn.

Juxtaposing that in the work place, it could act as a restraint to women on how far they are willing to go in their careers because they have been brought up with an erroneous allusion that aiming for the top may well be the exclusive preserve of men. She said mentorship and guidance are two key areas that women in their careers should seek in order to set out on a right footing.

On why she decided to write the book, Olumide-Ojo said the Pressure Cooker: Lessons from a Woman at Work aims at helping young women in their careers, adding that she hopes that women would be able to glean lessons from her life experiences and avoid errors that are common amongst women in the work place and at home with their partners.

“I had two young children and was struggling to be great at everything – at home, career and friendships because they were all important to me. I wasn’t finding the right answers from people, so I started writing a column in BusinessDay newspaper called The Pressure Cooker to express my frustrations. Seven years after, it has morphed into a book. The book really means to say to young women in this same challenge that, ‘you are not alone.’ It also says there are simple solutions you can apply to make your journey easier,” she said.

Reading excerpts from the work, members of the audience are treated to the goldmine of nuggets nestled in Chapter 3 of the book, which is titled: The Boys Club. This chapter examines the prejudices women face in a mostly patriarchal work environment. In most organisations, men dominate top-level positions and as such it could be a daunting task for women to climb the corporate ladder. Olumide-Ojo, in this chapter, counsels women, using her experiences on how to react to subtle sexism, protect themselves and speak up in their organisations.

Delving into the fourth chapter titled Your Partner and Work, she says it is absolutely important that women build their lives in the way that it allows them to own the things that matter to them. In this chapter, she explains the importance of life partners and why it is so important for ladies, while dating, to address issues like shared values and goals and how they would fit into their marriages before settling down with their partners. She also examines the effect work could have in marital relationships and how couples could help each other to get the best out of their work and personal lives.

Meanwhile, the joy of attending book reading sessions is not limited to the fact that one gets to know the author better; there’s a certain semantic relationship that gets established. People are accustomed to their own internal voices and modulation while reading a book and this may include tenors that may not do justice to the manner in which the author might have written it to be read. Thus, when an author reads out a part from his own book, it helps the reader understand the tone and pace of the book better, says Jerry Pinto, the author of Em and The Hoom.

So, for Olumide-Ojo, it was a great time to meet with career women, who wanted to learn more from her and ask career-specific questions, which she was more than happy to respond to.

The 110-page book treats different aspects of the stages every career woman will experience and career success is predicated on how these different stages are handled. These work stages are grouped under 9 chapters: Mum at Work; Get Over Yourself and Get Ahead; The Boys’ club; Your Partner and your work; The executive suite: getting up the ladder; You and the next woman; Managing Up: you and your boss; Back to the beginning; and Lessons from failing.

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