6 top women CEOs set to mentor young professionals

6 top women CEOs set to mentor young professionalsSix top women corporate executives will today join forces to launch the Executive Women Network (EWN), an initiative that is targetted at building the capacities of young female professionals to achieve greater feats at their workplaces.

The six women comprise Patience Akyianu, MD-Barclays Bank; Lucy Quist, MD-Airtel; Freda Duplan, MD-Nestlé Ghana; Maidie Arkutu, MD-Unilever Ghana; Edith Dankwa, CEO-Business and Financial Times; and Pearl Esua-Mensah-Managing Consultant, Feniks Ltd.

Put together, these women have a combined corporate experience of more than 100 years which have propelled them to the summit of their respective careers. It is these long years of serving in the corporate world they intend making available to their younger colleagues to be harnessed.

As the first Ghanaian woman to rise to the position of Managing Director of Barclays Bank Ghana, Mrs. Patience Akyianu told the B&FT that her decision to join the EWN is part of her commitment to “lift while I rise. I came together with five other female Chief Executive Officers to create a community of like-minded women who aspire to greater heights and are determined to achieve their greatest potential.

“It is a network that seeks to inspire, empower and support women executives to succeed and become influential both locally and internationally. I am glad to be associated with such noble objectives.”

Patience has received various awards in recognition for her personal contribution to the industry and society: namely Nobles International Award (2013); Africa Female Economic Champion-Banking (Centre for Economic & Leadership Development (CELD)-2014); Induction into Global Women Leaders Hall of Fame (CELD- 2014); and Woman of Excellence in Finance (Ghana CFO Awards 2015). She was also named among the Top-50 Rising Stars in Africa (The Africa Report, May 2014),

Just like Mrs. Akyianu, the other council members of the EWN have made strides that were previously unheard of. While their stories alone may serve as enough motivation to the young professional, the network wants to go a step further and take such motivation and inspiration to the doorsteps of their younger colleagues.

Maidie Arkutu in 2013 became the first Black African woman to hold a general management position in Unilever Africa, and how she was able to painstakingly break that duck is what she wants to make available for all to emulate.

According to her, joining the EWN is her way of giving back to society. “The EWN will allow me to do something I love, which is working with individuals (professional women in this case) to grow, develop and achieve their full potential. I believe we can make a significant difference to the women’s agenda in corporate Ghana and beyond,” she said.

In 2014, under the leadership of Maidie, Unilever Ghana grew its revenue by 26.9 percent from GH?323.4million to GH?410.5million; 2015 saw revenue increase by another 26.4%, growing revenues to GH?518.73million. Earnings per share for the company have increased from GH¢0.22 in 2013 to GH¢0.57 in 2015.

While the Executive Women Network is also intended to serve as a support system for female corporate executives, Lucy Quist — the first Ghanaian woman to head a mobile telecoms company in the country — said the group will serve as a means of ensuring women keep to the higher standards.

“Our premise is very simple. I would like to empower, inspire and support professional women. We are looking at women who are ambitious and have demonstrated this in their career. Basically, we are just fulfilling the need for more professional women to engage each other,” the Airtel Ghana boss added.

Airtel Ghana is the fourth-largest mobile telecoms company in Ghana, with 4.7 million mobile voice subscribers per the National Communications Authority’s (NCA) December 2015 figures. Since Lucy was appointed in April 2014, Airtel has gained more than 1.2 million new subscribers — growing the market share from 12.04 percent to 13.7 percent over the period.

Mrs. Dankwa, CEO of B&FT, said career development rests mainly on the shoulders of young women. Women must position themselves and hone their skills in readiness for the next challenge in their careers, she said.

Although much depends on women in their career progression, interacting with other senior professionals and colleagues can provide insight and quicken the journey to the top, she said.

“Why must they [women] re-invent? They can leap-frog through our learning (both at home and in the workplace) because they will have their own realities and challenges to deal with,” said Freda Duplan, who has worked at Nestlé Ghana since 1992 and was appointed MD last year.

The EWN when launched today at 6pm at Labadi Beach Hotel, will organise a series of networking sessions via lunch and breakfast meetings among other platforms that will bring these corporate executives together. Prospective members can register online to join EWN by visiting www.ewntree.com.

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