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Six top women CEOs set to mentor young professionals …launches Executive Women Network

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Six top women corporate executives have joined forces to launch the Executive Women Network (EWN), a non-profit organization of women in senior management and executive positions in private organizations/ institutions and women entrepreneurs of well established businesses in Ghana.

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.

The vision of the network is to inspire, empower and support women executives to be successful and influential both at the local and international level.

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 like-minded women.

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.”

Mrs. Akyianu 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),

The other founding members of the EWN have made strides that were previously unheard of.  While their stories alone may serve as enough motivation to other professionals, the network wants to go a step further and take such motivation and inspiration to the doorsteps of their fellow 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. Edith Dankwa, CEO of B&FT, said women must position themselves and hone their skills in readiness for the next challenge in their careers.

In just fifteen years, Mrs. Dankwa has succeeded in building one of the biggest media brands in  Ghana. The B&FT has not only become the leading provider of business information in the country but it has evolved to be a thought leader through its other media forms.

When it comes to career progression, Mrs. Dankwa argued that although much depends on them, interacting with other senior professionals and colleagues can provide insight and quicken the journey to the top, she said.

Freda Duplan, who has worked at Nestlé Ghana since the early 90s and was appointed MD last year said she joined EWN to be part of a support system for career women sharing her experiences through inspiration and empowerment so that there can be more women who can aspire to be like us and even better.

Mrs. Duplan, who is now responsible for 1,300 employees, has had a rewarding career at Nestlé having managed a good number of roles both within Africa as well as in other parts of the world notably in  Philippines.

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,” she said.

Pearl Esua-Mensah, a certified professional accountant (FCCA) with an MBA from Manchester Business School in the UK is another founding member of the Executive Women Network. A dedicated and dynamic professional with over 20 year’s global experience in finance and business strategy with excellent interpersonal, communication and negotiation skills, and the ability to identify and influence business critical opportunities, Mrs. Esua-Mensah is widely recognised for her stint with UT Bank as Deputy Managing Director.

Having left UT Bank, Mrs. Esua-Mensah is now the Founder/ CEO of Feniks Ltd, a business consultancy company with special focus on supporting medium sized companies to achieve their growth potential through optimisation of Finance, Brand Strategy and Governance.

Credit: Richard Annerquaye Abbey | thebftonline | Ghana