From STEM to Entrepreneurship

Interview with bossbabes.ng CEO Chioma Onoshakpor

At Yellow Rose Launch Pad, our mission is to inspire more young females from Nigeria and worldwide to pursue a career in STEM. So when we heard about Chioma, we got all excited and reached out to her to hear her story. Chioma is such an inspiration to us, and we are delighted that she could share her journey to STEM and beyond with us in this interview.

The Interview

Hello Chioma, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed by YRLP. YRLP is a U.K. based registered charity that is focused on increasing the diversity in STEM industries by encouraging more females through financial scholarships and mentoring. it is so wonderful to be able to interview you. Before we start, let me just say that we are in awe of what you are doing with bossbabes Ng and how you are empowering women to create networks and leverage those networks to grow their businesses and careers. We know that you are a huge brand creator but a little birdie told us that you actually studied engineering. Is that really the case? Could you please introduce yourself and tell us the story of how you got to where you are.

As a young girl growing up in Nigeria, Africa, I was taught by my parents and society that I had to study either medicine, law or engineering to be able to survive after tertiary education (university). It was a thing of prestige for parents that produced children in these disciplines. So in order to be an obedient child, I chose engineering not necessarily because I knew what it was all about, but since I had the prerequisite O’Levels needed to be accepted, I went for it.  I also went ahead to do a Masters in Oil and Gas in the Uk where I finished with a Distinction. I thereafter looked for a job in the oil and gas sector but couldn’t get one because of the stereotype against women in STEM. Out of an eagerness to do something for me and not solely rely on my partner, I floated a start-up in branding and design and the rest is history. But in everything I do, as it relates to branding, I see my engineering skills show up. From identifying what brands to work with, pitching to brands and identifying the best locations for any photoshoot, I am very analytical in my thinking. I also see my STEM background show up in my PhD research because after thinking and writing critically, I also think analytically which I believe is a strength.

Wow! That is so amazing. So many people would have carried on trying to break into a sector and would maybe start doubting themselves. I love how you dug deep and asked yourself deep questions that set you on the path you have taken to success. It’s also amazing that you are applying the complex problem-solving skills from engineering to the businesses that you have started. Once an engineer always and engineer, right!

Ok, here is the next question. Before this interview we took a look at your Instagram profile @personal_brand_boss and wow!!! Your pictures don’t look like what most people expect an engineer to look like. I know this is a myth but many people think that women who study engineering or technology are dowdy and mouse-like in appearance, with no colour and little personality. What would you say to people who say such things?

Absolutely a Myth! Style for me is for everyone irrespective of gender and profession. It’s true that a profession can influence your style because as a rig worker, for instance, you may not be required to appear in suits and ties at work. But ask yourself, when you get out of that professional scene, going out to public places, dinners, parties, you have no excuse to show up in a jumpsuit. The fashion police will come after you. I think we should invest in our personal style either by doing it ourselves or getting someone to help us do it.

Thanks for your great answer. It is so important that we understand our selves and stay true to our personal brand irrespective of the careers that we choose. Lets move on to the next question if you don’t mind – When you think back to your years of studying STEM subjects in secondary school and Engineering at Uni, what parts did you find most exciting about your subjects and course?

Hmm, I loved Maths in secondary school in fact I did Further Maths and thought it was better than Maths. I thought it was quicker to finish once I remembered the formulae. Then in the university, I loved Petroleum Economics and Offshore Operations, the whole idea that you can optimize anything intrigues me.

Being an Electrical/Electronic Engineer myself and having completed a Masters degree in Advanced Control Systems, I also love the thought of optimising processes and systems. Isn’t it amazing that two women like us from different backgrounds share a common interest in optimisation, and this leads me on to the next question. The Statistics from JAMB show that only about 14% of the intake into Engineering in the last few years have been women and this number is falling. Nigeria is a country where so many problems that we have can be solved by applying engineering and knowledge from technical subjects. Against this backdrop, do you think that Nigeria and the world needs more women to study engineering and other STEM subjects and why do you think it is important to have more diversity in STEM industries?

Simply put YES! The world needs more women in STEM because I believe in equality and the world is unequal today because it all started with the inequality in STEM. Even in the field of entrepreneurship, the credit gap facing female entrepreneurs can be linked to the lack of relevant education and managerial skills that a STEM background can offer.

We have really learnt a lot from this interview With you. Thank you for being so open and honest about the challenges you faced and the things that inspired you and the actions you have taken to be so successful. The last question we have for you is this- what would you say to young girls studying STEM subjects in school and young ladies who are on the journey to reading degrees in STEM courses, what advice or encouragement do you have for them?

I would say go for STEM, it builds you, gives you that extra edge to do anything you possibly will want to do later on in life. You will be well calculated, analytical, mannered and very progressive. So my dears, GO for it!!

Well its a wrap. It has been an absolute pleasure to speak with the amazing Engineer Chioma Onoshakpor. Key messages from this interview are; It doesn’t matter what you choose to do with your STEM degrees or certificates, you can work in a bank or own you own business as long as you are using your skills to make this world a better place. Once a woman in STEM, always a woman in STEM.

Interviewed by Anuli Marshall on behalf of YRLP.

Success and Motivation

There are many definitions of success, but I like this one that says that success can be defined as impacting the world with the investments of your personality. This means you must invest in your personality and with that investment; you will be able to impact the world around you. When it comes to investing in yourself, you must determine what type of information you put into yourself; be it through the materials you read and or through the people you listen to. Why? Because it is important to choose what you feed your mind because that will affect who you will become eventually. Who do you want to be like? What kind of impact do you want to make? Understanding the answers to these questions can immediately help you to streamline the type of information that you allow yourself to imbibe.

Section 4 on the YRLP application form poses a question about role models because we want young ladies to identify those individuals who inspire them in one way or the other through their works and achievements so that you can aspire to become successful in your life. A key step in developing yourself is to identify the characteristics you appreciate in your role model/s and find out more about their life journey so that you can learn from their mistakes and success, and then take the necessary action to meet your life goals. For example, if you are a young girl who wants to pursue a career in Engineering, it would be useful to use your network, including that of your parents and friends to identify females in the engineering industry, to observe what they have done and are doing, and learn from them. You could also read articles written by these women, study their work or find a way to reach out to them under parental supervision (for children in secondary school) to get some guidance.

Everyone says that the youth are the hope of the future; rightly said but you should also narrow it down to yourself: I am the hope of the future. Then you begin to ask the right questions; if truly I am the hope of the future, then what actions do I need to take now that I am young to build towards my desired future. As you ask yourself this vital question, remember that people who have invested in developing themselves in the past are now inspiring others and motivating them through that investment. The key message here is to take time to think about the investments that you can make into developing your personality and take action now.

Refuse to listen to the voices of doubts and determine to make a success out of your life. Become inspired and motivated by the success of others. Be hopeful about the future and never be afraid.

Written by Chidinma Ozulumba

Yellow Rose Ambassador

INSIDE GIST WITH THE YELLOW ROSES(The Series)

We caught up with Ndukife Chijindum Ogochukwu, one of the 2019/2020 beneficiaries of the YellowRose Launch Pad scholarship Scheme recently and below are highlights from our conversation.

Can we meet you please?

My name is Ndukife Chijindum Ogochukwu

How then did you hear about the YRLP scholarship scheme?

My mum’s friend introduced my mum and I to the launchpad scholarship programme.

What’s your level of education?

I am currently in ss3.

We love that you chose to study science subjects. Could you tell us what exactly sparked your interest in STEM?

I have always loved science especially the engineering aspect it makes me express myself and the ability to use my hands to achieve something very meaningful.

Tell us more about getting the scholarship, I know you are very pleased that you got it. What did the scholarship mean to you and your family?

I was very excited and happy to receive such good news

Why did you choose to study STEM?

I have always loved engineering so I continued developing interest in it which made me really determined to study it.

Do you currently belong to any STEM Group/Organization?

No I am currently not in any STEM organization.

Can you share your thoughts about females studying STEM?

I feel it is important because you hardly find a woman/girl who is interested in science most especially the engineering aspect so the men feel it is their jurisdiction and no lady can occupy that position .

If you could have any superpower,what would it be?

I really can’t decide but if I had any superpower I would use it for a good cause.

Do you have any word of advice for young girls who want to study STEM?

My advise to them is to give it their best and put in a lot of hard work into being the best and also not to let any man or boy intimidate them for choosing STEM .

Celebrating the International Day of the Girl

Girls at the CEE-Hope Head office at the International Day of the Girl Event hosted on the 11th of October 2020

Every year, the International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated on the 11th of October. This day of observance was declared by the United Nations and first celebrated for the first time on the 11th of October 2012. The day was instituted to support more opportunity for the girl child and to create awareness of gender inequality still faced by girls worldwide based on gender.

A huge number of girls in countries round the world continue to experience severe challenges to access education, health care, nutrition and protection from discrimination and it is vitally important that we continue to focus on improving lives of young girls, to give them the opportunity to complete education and achieve independence.

This year, Yellow Rose Launch Pad partnered with Cee-Hope Nigeria to provide ‘Keep- Girls-in-School-Kits’ to 60 girls located in 4 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – Lagos, Ogun, Ebonyi and Benue states. This package of basic necessities were selected to ensure that teenage girls have a fighting chance to stay in school and complete their education.

Contents of one of the Keep-Girls-in-School-Kits

One of the components in the kit is a 6 months supply of menstrual hygiene products or sanitary pads as they are popularly called in Nigeria. Through working with Cee-Hope on a documentary that was produced for world menstrual hygiene day, Anuli Marshall a co-founder of Yellow Rose launch Pad became aware of the negative impact that period poverty has on the lives and educational chances of teenage girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is well documented that young girls routinely sell their bodies to be able to afford menstrual care products. The unfortunate outcome is that some girls fall pregnant which curtails their educational progress. For the girls who are lucky enough not to fall pregnant, these experiences may alter the way they value their bodies, and they may come to see their bodies as an item that can be battered in exchange for money or material goods, also a terrible outcome.

The Yellow Rose Launch Pad continues to be committed to removing barriers to girls achieving their educational dreams by providing access to basic supplies including sanitary pads and will continue to work with CEE-Hope to reach young girls in need. Our aim is to keep as many girls in full-time education as they go through this critical period of development. We also call on the Nigerian government, policy makers, the private sector and international organizations to continue to prioritize education for females by removing barriers that keep girls away from school.

Ensuring that the girl child receives the right education will unlock diverse potential that is critical for solving economic and social problems faced in many communities today. We stand with every supportive person, community and organization to celebrate the value of our female children.

Happy International Day of the Girl Child 2020.

A Woman’s Place

photo of woman wearing flower crown
Photo by McCoy Photography on Pexels.com

Dear Yellow Rose, you are growing into a young woman and I am sure you have heard people say puzzling things about the place of a woman in society. You might have heard people express views such as ‘the man is the head and the woman is the neck’, or ‘a woman should be seen and not heard’ or even ‘that behind every successful man is a woman’….

The message is loud and clear, society believes that women should be behind men in everything. Current cultural norms ascribe value to women based on connections to the men in their lives – usually a father figure or a husband. And so, women are typically nurtured to play up to these stereotypes and believe that it is their place to serve and support men’s dreams. Women are trained to subject their thoughts and desires to those of their fathers or husbands. Women are nurtured to believe that they shouldn’t lead and that their voices should only be heard by other woman. Women are raised to quietly accept all types of behaviour from men, irrespective of how disrespectful this might be. Society insists that a woman’s place is firmly behind a man. But this isn’t true. 

Let’s critically assess this for one moment. Why should the value of a woman be tied to that of a man? After all we are all human. We all have the capacity to think and act on our thoughts. We have been imbued with unique skills, talents and experiences. We are all born with a strong desire and dreams to reach our full potential. We all have these traits regardless of whether we are male or female, so why should males have the freedom to exercise these desires and talents while females are held back and largely frustrated?
Well, breaking news! The world has been moving on since the suffragettes fought for the right to vote for women. Since that time many more women and male advocates have been pressing to remove obstacles that prevent women from fulfilling their full potential.

While many organisations and governments are working to realise equality and balance that will ultimately unleash the fullness of female potential, the battle for equality continues. However, we can make a difference in our lives and impact other women around us in the meantime. Here is how:

  1. Face down the limiting beliefs that you hold about yourself and your value. You are enough, you must convince yourself of this and start thinking of yourself as an equal with everyone else. You must think of yourself differently and view yourself as equally valuable with the right to reach for your own dreams and fulfil your own purpose.
  2. Face those fears about society’s definition of what it means to be female and embrace your own definition for yourself. Make those choices and decisions that suit you and help you achieve your life goals rather than pandering to people because you are scared of being labelled a feminist or a ‘strong woman’? Granted you may lose some people if you make some decisions, but you have one life to live and living in misery to please others is certainly not a great move.
  3. Start believing that you can lead yourself and others by developing self awareness and finding people who can help you understand who you are. Trusted people who value your unique skills and abilities. When I was younger I often proclaimed that I wanted to be Vice President of Nigeria. Now looking back, I realise that I limited myself to reach for second place because of what society told me about women. I don’t believe this anymore so don’t make the mistake I made which held me back for years. We have examples of powerful female leaders such as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Jacinda Ardern to name a few to help smash that belief. So believe that you can lead and then lead! 
  4. Demand respect. You are beautifully and wonderfully crafted. Gifted with a unique set of skills combined with experiences that makes you a talented and valuable human being. Own this! Do not let people treat you or other women in your circle of influence as second class citizens. Develop an arsenal of responses to combat comments that aim to demean you, and turn those moments into opportunities to help people think about what they are saying about the value of women.
  5. Finally, surround yourself with like minds. There are so many women and men out there who believe this- that we all regardless of physical sexual characteristics, should have equal access to opportunities that are available to us wherever we are stationed in life. Reach out to people who share the same ideology about the equal value of women and stick with them. Learn from them and fill up your arsenal with useful tools that you can use to shield of the attacks that will come. Oh believe me, they will come.

The greatest teacher Jesus said to his disciples:  ‘and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free’. The truth is we are all created equal in God’s eyes. We are all created to bring value to the world. The contribution of women is needed in every area of society and not just on the domestic front. I encourage you to value this truth and let this truth set you free. Good luck!

Yellow Rose LP.