For women in leadership, the play has one aim, to win!

A group photo of conference convener, Ibukun Awosika and delegates from Ghana, Spain, Barbados and Jamaica.
  • over 400 C-suite women executives gather for maiden International Woman Leadership Conference (IWLC)

For three days, starting from March 29 to 31, 2022, the Ibukun Awosika Leadership Academy, in conjunction with Dubai Tourism and Dubai Events, assembled over 400 C-suite women executives from across Africa and the diaspora for the first edition of the International Woman Leadership Conference (IWLC) at Hilton Dubai, Al Habtoor City in Dubai.

Themed: “Women in Leadership… Playing To Win”, the event which started with a cocktail reception on the first day, delved into women-focused conversations for the greater part of the conference, and closed with an exotic gala on the third day.

A selfie of Conference Convener, Ibukun Awosika with delegates from Ghana who attended The International Woman Leadership Conference in Dubai

Present at the occasion was the CEO of Ghana Deposit Protection Corporation, Pearl Esua-Mensah, who spoke on the panelist session:  ‘Stepping Out’, alongside County Minister, Kisumu, Kenya Tourism, Arts and Culture, Achie Ojany-Alai ,and Founder & CEO of Eventful Nigeria, Yewande Zaccheus.

The session focused on insights for the African woman to strive outside of her comfort zone and away from the suppression of society. Speaking on the panel, Esua-Mensah noted the fears that women face, especially during a transition phase, and provided a viable solution to overcoming such fears. “There is always the fear of ‘can I really do it?’ Take some of what you have done in the private sector into the public sector”, she said.

L-R Chairman, Zenith Bank Ghana, Freda Y Duplan; Non-Executive Director, CDC Group Plc, Dolika Banda; Conference Convener Ibukun Awosika; First Lady, Ekiti State, HE Erelu Bisi Fayemi; Chairman, Guinness Nigeria Plc, Omobola Johnson; Founder and CEO Alitheia IDF, Tokunbo Ishmael after the session on Managing Power.

Also present at IWLC was Chairman of Zenith Bank Ghana, Freda Yahan Duplan, for the session, ‘Managing Power… What To Do When You Get A Seat At The Table’ along with the Non-Executive Director, CDC Group Plc., Dolika Banda (Zambia) and Chairman at Guinness, Dr. Omobola Johnson (Nigeria), focusing on how women in power can sustain their positions and overcome setbacks while in a hierarchical position.

Duplan stated that in managing power, women need to “be authentic. Show compassion and commitment. Have technical expertise. Be outcome-driven. Be unlimited. Be thankful”. These she used to coin the acronym ACT OUT to serve as a guide for attendees to easily remember and abide by.

The IWLC was pioneered by Nigeria’s Ibukun Awosika, a renowned entrepreneur, notable businesswoman, coach and corporate executive, who has worked with women of various classes, calibres and ethnicity which inspired her to bring this initiative to life.

L-R: Founder, House of Tara, Tara Fela-Durotoye; CEO, Ghana Deposit Protection Corporation, Pearl Esua-Mensah; Chairman, Zenith Bank Ghana, Freda Y Duplan

“Having had the opportunity to work with women, both young and old, across various parts of the world and working with different platforms, I realised that for the African woman, there’s a need to create a common platform that removes our divisions to learn to share our knowledge, and to be connected in a way that we’re more powerful for effective change in the lives of our people and changing our countries.”

This first edition marked a huge success as it welcomed the 400 C-Suite executives representing over 50 corporate brands to witness more than 28 activities in the space of three days in the historical city of Dubai. The platform unified the African continent by utilising the networking power of influential women in Africa.

Some of the conference speakers L-R: Liberian Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee; Chairman, Zenith Bank Ghana, Freda Y Duplan; Conference Convener Ibukun Awosika; and Chairman, Eventful Limited, Yewande Zaccheaus

As influential women in Ghana, Esua-Mensah and Duplan have contributed greatly to the economic development of our nation and were duly represented at the conference which had attendees and speakers from over 10 countries including Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Burundi, Barbados, Jamaica or Barbados, United Kingdom, United States of America, Lebanon, Northern Ireland and more.

Other African dignitaries who spoke at IWLC were the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yami Osinbajo, who delivered a keynote address virtually. His wife, Dolapo Osinbajo, gave a goodwill message. Liberian peace activist and Nobel Peace Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, spoke powerfully on  ‘Social Change Mindset’ and advised, “Never be stuck on the avenue of regret. Let faith be your anchor”.

Keynote addresses were also given by former President, Procter, and Gamble, Western Europe, Paul Polman (Netherlands), as well as Stanbic IBTC Chairman, Sola David-Borha (Nigeria), who noted that: “The journey is more important than the destination”.

Nigeria’s first female ambassador to Greece, Nimi Akinkugbe; Chairman – Pepkor, Wendy Luhabe (South Africa); Non-Executive Director of CDC Group Plc. – Dolika Banda (Zambia); Kisumu Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture – Achie Alai (Kenya); thought Leader and Entrepreneur – Tara Fela-Durotoye (Nigeria); Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of MTN Nigeria Communications PLC. – Esther Akinnukawe (Nigeria); were also among the list of conference speakers.

The conference had attendees beaming with satisfaction as some prided themselves to have to be part of such a life-changing event. “The International Woman Leadership Conference was highly impactful because the content was practical, actionable, tailored yet relevant for both the emerging female leader and the established female leader. I found relevance in every session, and I’m empowered to lead boldly and powerfully going forward”, reported Kemi Onabanjo-Joseph, Associate Partner – McKinsey & Company, Nigeria.

Dzigbordi  Kwaku-Dosoo, CEO of Dzigbordi Consulting Group Ghana, also had this to say about the conference: “The International Woman conference was Made in Africa, for African women in Africa and all over the globe, the depth, the experience, the Environment, the Engagements, were worth all the time invested!”

L-R: CEO, Ghana Deposit Protection Corporation, Pearl Esua-Mensah; Group Marketing and Strategy Executive, First Mutual Holdings, Zimbabwe, Farayi Mangwende; Founder and CEO, SecureID, Kofo Akinkugbe; Chairman, Emerging Africa Group, Chief Mrs. Nike Akande; and Former Chairman, Access Bank Plc, Mosun Belo-Olusoga after their session speaking on The Boardroom Life at the International Woman Leadership Conference in Dubai

“The International Women’s Leadership Conference to me was an experience of infectious leadership, power and networking with like-minded people. The energy and the vibes were so sweet and positive I felt I was in a place where I belonged, and I could do anything and everything I wanted to be. It was amazing to see women in leadership from all spheres of life, and I left the conference with no doubt that I could be so much more if I wanted it bad enough, and willing to do the work.

“And yes, tribing is the next big thing! I understood more than anything, the need to build tribes around me. The fact is that when I go alone, I go as one, but when I go in the power of my tribe the multiply effect makes me awesome,” says Ibukun Awosika.

“Women are powerful by themselves; but when we come together, we create a superpower,” CEO, Adeko Minds – Dedo Kofi.

The three-day event launched on Tuesday, March 29 with a networking cocktail reception and concluded on Thursday, March 31 with a conference gala-themed: ‘African Queens and Princesses’, where the dignitaries showcased a rich display of their African culture through their dashing costumes.

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