Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner of Biola Alabi Media, Biola Alabi, has been named in the FT & HERoes 100 Female Executives list for 2018, in recognition of her tireless commitment to gender diversity and inclusion of women in the African workplace. The prestigious annual list celebrates female role models who are actively playing their part to increase gender diversity in the workplace as well as supporting the increase of women in senior business roles.
On receiving this accolade from the Financial Times, Biola Alabi says, “I have always placed a strong emphasis on doing what I can to support and nurture talented women in business – through mentorship and creating opportunities for others to excel in business and the workplace across Africa. I am humbled and honoured to be recognised alongside so many outstanding female executives who are championing gender diversity and inclusion. Yet I am, also aware of how much there still is to do to increase the representation of women in business at all levels.
“Let me be frank; ‘Africa PLC’ cannot and will not advance at the pace it should, without the amplification of female roles in senior positions. Until we see parity in leadership teams and in the boardrooms, I will be resolute, and vocal, in my mission to bring women to the forefront of corporate Africa”.
In light of this award, Ayiba’s editor-in-chief, Eyitemi Popo had the opportunity to reflect with Ms. Alabi on her career.
Congratulations on being the only Nigerian-based woman to be included on the Financial Times global listing of female executives. What made you decide to build a career in Nigeria? What advice do you give young women hoping to do the same?
I grew up between the USA and Nigeria, and although I had a successful career working for the likes of renowned children’s programme Sesame Street, and as much as I enjoyed living and working in the USA, I felt like I could do more and that my skills would be much more useful at home. So I moved back to Nigeria in 2008 and built a career in Africa. I have worked across the continent building a Pan-African Broadcaster.
There is boundless opportunity in Africa and if you feel that you have an idea that will add value to your home country and the continent, then take that leap and come home. If you’re in school or even if you’re working, take the opportunity to visit during your vacations, network, collaborate with others, understand the demographic, cultural and business nuances. Do your research before you decide to take the leap, but by all means, do it – if that’s what you really want to do!
You’ve received many accolades and honors over your career. What does success mean to you? What moments in your life have come closest to meeting that definition?
Success means different things at different stages in my career. There was a time that success only meant getting a great job, but now it’s all about how can I help others and make a positive impact in the world, how can my work have meaning. So everything I do now is all about living a meaningful life.
Were you hesitant to move into the world of entrepreneurship with Biola Alabi Media? What was the most challenging part of the transition from M-Net?
I have always lived my life in stages and this was a new stage that I knew would push me to expand and grow in new ways. I think there are both challenges and advantages to being an entrepreneur. I’m going through that journey now and there are things I miss and others that I don’t.
How do you choose film projects for Biola Alabi Media? What’s the narrative you hope to create through your media company?
We are always on the lookout for great talent and great collaborators. Since people know us, we are always in a position where people bring us great stories; but as a continent, Africa is blessed on so many levels. We have inspirational stories and have an immensely rich culture. It is up to us to tell our stories in the manner that we want them to be told and presented to the world – our narrative is our representation. I’d like to believe Biola Alabi Media is playing its part in presenting this narrative to Africa and also globally.
This interview is part of our #CareerGoals series, which helps millennials navigate corporate careers and entrepreneurship. Tell us:
- Who inspires you? Is there anyone you’ve modeled your career after?
I am inspired by people who operate on a high level of a set of values; those values must include integrity, discipline, and kindness. I have modeled my career after so many amazing people: some of them have been former bosses but at the end of the day, I realized that we all have different journeys. So the biggest thing for me has been about charting my own course and being true to myself.
- What advice would you give someone early in their career?
Hard work is paramount to achieving anything in life. Especially early on in your career – once you’ve shown that commitment to whatever you find yourself doing, and are working to the best of your ability to show your dedication and your willingness to be excellent, you will build your character and thrive. Additionally, always be willing to learn from those around you – your seniors and your peers.
- Would you ever return to full time corporate role? What would it take for you to make that leap?
My goal in life is all about making an impact and I’m always looking for ways to make the biggest impact. If something comes along and puts me in that position I will definitely look at such an opportunity.