Women tend to excel and thrive better in marketing communications —Oluwayemisi Mafe

Oluwayemisi Mafe is a ,marketing communication professional with over twenty years experience that cuts across banking,
insurance, e-commerce, among others. She is the head, Brand Communication, SUNU Assurances Nigeria PLC. In this interview by Kehinde Akinseinde-Jayeoba, she speaks on the power of women in the marketing profession.

Tell us about your journey into marketing communications and what informed your choice of profession?

While studying English at the University of Ilorin, I was freelancing for Herald Group of Newspapers. This was instrumental in my getting a job with The Quadrant Company, a public relations agency immediately after school.

Getting into Marketing Communications was by the guidance of my immediate elder brother. He was the one who encouraged me to take a career in marketing communications as he felt that since I  had a flair for writing, I could explore other things rather than ending up as a journalist. He went to great length to show me various opportunities  and career prospects in marketing communications.


How effective are women in marketing communications as it is believed that women are natural marketers?

Marketing communications refer to the various ways by which organisations take messages about the products and the brands they sell, either directly or indirectly to the customers with the intention to persuade them to buy, subscribe or get on board. This means the different ways that company adopts to trade the information about their goods and services to the customers is termed marketing communications. As a marketer, you are expected to use the tools of marketing communications to create brand awareness among the potential customers, which means some image of the brand gets created in their minds that help them to make purchase decision.

As a woman, you are a daughter, sister, wife, mother, niece, aunt, friend, colleague, neighbor, and many more to different people. The role you play in each life is dependent on how well you can perceive and juggle the various balls as it is thrown at you. Women tend to speak three times more than the average man, but does that mean we’re better communicators? Science says yes. Women are natural marketers because we tend to excel and thrive better in marketing communications as we are able to wear many hats, multi task and express ourselves better. Communication isn’t just about talking – it includes non-verbal cues, reading emotions and effective listening, all these skills are very important in this industry. Thankfully, women tend to excel all of these, according to science. Studies have found that women communicate better than men. It’s because of how our brains are wired and how we’ve been conditioned to care for others. These are reasons women communicate better than men, and it’s not just because we talk more.


What are the challenges women face in your line of profession?

It is quite encouraging to see a lot of women in marketing communications, but we need to encourage more women to get to the top of the profession and mentor younger women who are still facing considerable challenges in their careers. We need more women to be more forthcoming with empathy in cultivating personal growth and professional satisfaction for a more positive and productive working culture for those coming behind.

We have to be relentless in pushing for a balance in gender pay gap by ensuring that businesses are transparent about their push in this regards, so women can achieve their full potential. Whilst technical knowledge and ability are of vital importance, soft skills such as leadership, communication and strategic vision are what really elevate women to C-suite level positions. One way that this can be overcome is through the introduction of mentoring schemes which aim to coach women at younger career level on how to communicate and influence at a strategic and senior level. Marketing needs to be recognized as a specialised field which adds value and it should have representation at board level.


How effective has been girl-child enlightenment in Nigeria?

Until recently, the girl-child education was not a priority to families. Things are beginning to look up as government and various non-governmental organisations are at the forefront of clamouring for the girl-child education.

The literacy level attained by a girl is often determined by religious and traditional misconceptions in some parts of the country. Nigeria is a very religious country where many of its citizens tend to live according to the holy books, be it the Bible or Quran. Some households still think that girls should not receive education in the same way boys do, if they receive it at all. Girls are still being discriminated against based on their gender both in their communities and in schools.

Less attention is often paid to educating girls on the topics of their bodies and their health which often give rise to the problem of teenage pregnancy and when they give birth, they are often unable to receive or continue with their education. It is a vicious cycle that really never ends. A new monster that is growing faster lately is that many Nigerian girls suffer from abuse sexually and through harmful bodily practices at the hands of trusted allies and family members.

The insurgency also creates its own problem as girls and their parents do not feel like schools or even the trip to school every day can be safe, so they avoid them altogether.

Education helps the girl-child to acquire knowledge, values, attitudes, competence and skills which they carry with them into the future as bedrock of building an enviable society that thrives. As more Nigerian women are blazing the trail within their society than ever before, those who have gone ahead need to consciously create an environment that encourages investment in knowledge and progress.

I see this happening already as it is quite encouraging to see women supporting and empowering each other as they rally round championing the virtues of humility, togetherness, passion, excellence and enthusiasm toward career and personal development while urging women to go for what they want in their careers and not give up. As a woman, you need to hone the skills necessary to give you those opportunities, such as communication skills, leadership development, and emotional intelligence. Raise your hand in meetings. Speak up, and be heard, take the bull by the horns, know what you want and be relentless in your preparation. Do all these bearing in mind that you are shattering the shackles and giving other women the voice to forge ahead.


How true is the notion that women are taking more managerial positions in organisations

While the gaps are gradually closing in, we are not there yet and more organisations need to realise that gender diversity is the key to their success. Having a variety of gender occupying executive roles, is the way they can get a good mix of resources to maximise their potential. According to a Morgan Stanley report, “more gender diversity, particularly in corporate settings, can translate to increased productivity, greater innovation, better products, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction.”

It will take more than paying lip service to gender inclusiveness to overturn years of systemic inequality and create opportunities for more female executives; every organisation needs to promote the culture that makes it easy for women to thrive. This can help combat the gender gap and move our workforce toward greater leadership balance. Organisations can start creating this culture by focusing mainly on education and experience in the hiring process, offering salaries based on the market rate rather than salary history, and start rewarding outcomes achieved instead of hours worked. I will also reiterate the need for women to muster support for each other by investing in female-owned startups and also patronising such.


How do you create a balance between work and the home?

I must say keeping a job and family is not a walk in the park but I try to keep it all together by setting some guidelines and boundaries that help me set realistic expectations for what I can and cannot do in a workday. I try as much as possible to follow through on whatever goals I have set by putting them in the forefront of my daily routine, living one day at a time and I make sure to check-in and evaluate my progress from time to time. That way, I am able to create systems and routines to keep me organised both at home, work and everything else in-between. I also look out for when to delegate more responsibilities, privileges, and raise our expectations without losing sight of my overall life and professional goals.

Keeping in touch with family, old friends, professional buddies and other networks also helps to keep me in the loop of other engagements on the social and professional level. With all that sorted out, I also build a routine that keeps my ‘me’ time a top priority.


How relevant is mentorship to being successful especially as a woman in business or profession?

Mentoring is very important because it imparts you with the knowledge and skills you can learn from mentors and it also provides you with the professional socialization and personal support to facilitate success in life.

I have been privileged to enjoy the mentoring of Mrs. Ini Abimbola and Mrs. Betty Irabor as they have helped me to broaden my worldview by providing adequate support for me to soar and not be limited by my circumstances and I find the various nuggets they give me really relevant in my daily life. Not only have they been fantastic mentors and great role models to me, they also taught me how to mentor other people. I am forever grateful to them for the various way they keep opening my eyes to different stages of opportunity and strength.

Paying it forward, I volunteer as a mentor Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and WIMBIZ as I try to help my mentees navigate through life.


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