I’ve known Dolapo for a few years now; she’s a great soul with lots of energy! Last week, she asked me if she could interview me for a gender and job opportunities project she’s been working on and I asked her if I could interview her for this! The season is nearly over and I’m so glad to have her as a part of this.
(LJS) Hey Dolapo! How are you?
(DM) Hey Laila I’m great thanks and you?
(LJS) I’m good thank you! What does being a 21st century woman mean to you?
(DM) A 21st century woman acknowledges the fact that inequality is still rampant, despite it being downplayed in all aspects of society. She is also aware of how her femininity represents her as a person. Lastly and most importantly, she is determined to rise against societal pressures and goes for what she wants!
(LJS) Very beautifully said! What barriers have you faced as a woman today?
(DM) I interned at a technology firm in London over the summer and was relatively shocked when a Nigerian mentor told me, “As a black woman in this industry, your line of progress will undoubtedly be different to that of your caucasian peers”. He advised me not to bother having conversations with the average employee about progress and opportunities within the firm. Rather, I was encouraged to focus on networking with as many black women as possible, to get the most pragmatic insight into what it means to be a woman of color in the workplace.
You can imagine my surprise when the 7 black women I spoke to corroborated his claims, and even recalled their own experiences. All in all, from these ladies, I learnt that getting into a firm is the relatively easy part of the job, but upwards mobility is an extremely different conversation. Regardless of how unfortunate this is, hearing things like that only spur me on to exert myself more than I already do. At the end of the day, I haven’t put in this much work to watch opportunities just pass me by.
(LJS) Woah. I’m glad you’ve kept your head up. Rising above societal pressures like you said is key for women today, especially young women. Do you recognize yourself as a feminist? If so, what type of feminist are you?
(DM) Yes, I am a liberal feminist who believes in the equality of opportunity (not outcome) for men and women. I am also an intersectional feminist because other factors such as race, class, ethnicity and religion impact the discrimination women face.
(LJS) When did you first recognize the fact that gender inequality exists?
(DM) Whilst living in Nigeria for the vast majority of my ‘teenage’ years, I’d admit that I was oblivious to either one of sexism or feminism conceptually.
But, I’d say I first recognized gender inequality at about 16 when I started noticing girls being heavily scrutinized based on their clothing choices. However, at university was when gender inequality became more obvious to me. My course is tech-based so, in terms of boy-girl ratio, it’s ridiculously skewed in favor of the guys. Therefore, it was eye-opening to observe both the rampancy and subtlety of misogyny, particularly in programming projects which was previously a “guys thing”.
(LJS) Being a woman in a male dominated field is possibly one of the hardest challenges. From scrutiny to the way we are constantly demeaned… honestly I respect you! When you’re faced with barriers because of your gender, how do you overcome them?
(DM) It is very difficult for me to give up and accept defeat because of my persistence nature. So when faced with barriers, I try to always be confident in myself (still working on that), remind myself of my worth and make sure I actually know my stuff. Additionally, I also believe with God all things are possible, so that has also laid a foundation of confidence for me. To exemplify this, overcoming this barrier at work would involve me ensuring that I actually know what I need to know thoroughly and even above and beyond if I can. As it were, a large part of my current mindset stems back to the fact that gender inequality does exist, so I’d rather be proactive in trying to curb it than naïve. Especially in Nigeria, you almost need to go the extra mile as a woman to gain respect, even more so in the workplace.
(LJS) That’s really inspiring. Self confidence is key but it’s a journey and I know you’ll reach your peak! What is your greatest achievement so far?
(DM) Hmm, maybe ask me in a couple of years (lol). But if i had to choose something, I’d say my greatest achievement is that I have grown to be true to myself. i.e in my relationships with people and in following my aspirations. Hopefully I’ll be doing what I genuinely want to do after I graduate this summer. I have also come to establish a genuine relationship with God so despite the few challenges I have faced and will probably continue to face, being able to speak to God and knowing he has my back is really the greatest feeling ever!
(LJS) Once graduation is out of the way I know you’re going to fly! What does “The Future Is Female” mean to you?
“The Future Is Female” to me simply means that women are unapologetically growing to be themselves in all aspects of life, and I love it! Women can no longer and should no longer be seen as substandard and it is something we all have to fight for together!
Dolapo is a 21-year-old final year undergraduate at University College London, studying Information Management for Business. She is passionate about the use of technology for social development, particularly in Nigeria, and she is also interested in global politics, equality for all and fashion, hoping to launch her clothing line soon.