“Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” —G.D. Anderson
There is a new generation of women; an empowered league of women who understand that women can succeed together by supporting each other rather than being competitors as it used to be.
On Whoot Africa’s inspiration Africa, we talk to one of Africa’s inspirational women, a woman who is not only walking in her passion, but also carrying other women along on her journey. Today, we talk to Dee Poku, a businesswoman, serial entrepreneur, former media executive and now Co-founder of the Women Inspiration and Enterprise Network (WIE).
Dee Poku shares her thoughts with us on her life as a businessperson and an advocate for women empowerment.
Here are excerpts from her conversation with Whoot Africa’s Olushola Pacheco.
Outside of the press write-ups and journals about Dee Poku, can you share with Whoot Africa; who is Dee Poku and what is the inspiration behind Co-founding the Women Inspiration and Enterprise Network?
I am a social entrepreneur, content creator, mother and activist who believes strongly in equality for women and the need to empower future generations. The inspiration for WIE came from my own early experiences in the workplace navigating corporate culture. Women occupy a very low percentage of leadership positions globally, and unfortunately hard work and passion alone is rarely enough to get you there. Young women need mentorship and real world advice to help them achieve their ambitions.
Before Co-founding the WIE Network, you spent years as a Hollywood studio executive, how hard or easy has it been transitioning to focusing solely on women with the WIE Network?
It isn’t an easy transition going from a high-powered job with all the attendant perks and support structure, to being an entrepreneur. It takes courage, perseverance and a thick skin but for me, the autonomy and flexibility is well worth the pain.
You are equally an inspiring businesswoman, as the founder of Right Angle; a branding and marketing company with major conglomerates and International brands as part of your clientele portfolio, how do you manage to combine all these ventures without any aspect suffering; how do you create a balance between being a mother, a wife, and a businessperson?
Thank you for saying that. I’ve stopped striving for balance – that’s a futile endeavour. You juggle, and priorities change and shift. I find that being quite regimented with my time helps, but every working mother has her own way. The main thing is to set priorities and do away with the guilt. Focus on what you need to at any one point, carve out time for the things that matter and don’t sweat the small stuff.
The WIE Network has become an international platform that brings women together; considering the phrase “Women are their own worst enemies” do you buy into this phrase and how has your perspective changed about women pulling and working together since the WIE Network kicked off?
No I don’t buy into that phrase. The workplace of today is a male construct that hasn’t changed much in 100 years and we’ve had to fit into that mold. Yes, there are instances of women not supporting one another in the workplace but that applies equally to men. However I do think women should utilize their networks more and not be afraid of asking one another for support. You’d be surprised at what you get back. Everything we’ve achieved with WIE has been through our network of amazing women
You are Ghanaian by descent; Ghana’s culture prides itself with strong, ambitious and hardworking women, how has your Ghanaian heritage and culture impacted your journey so far? What are your plans for young and upcoming Ghanaian women?
I wouldn’t be here without the values instilled in me by family and my culture. I’ve grown up around strong hardworking women as you say, and those are my value systems. I very much plan to launch WIE in Ghana within the next 3 to 5 years. Ghana has experienced some strong economic growth over the last few years and I want to ensure the women of Ghana share in the benefits
With the WIE Network breaking new grounds every day, do you ever feel pressured to achieve more with this platform?
Always! Reach more women. Provide more programming. It’s never enough. We have a very interactive community who provide great feedback and ideas and we want to deliver on their needs. But I’m happy with what we’ve achieved so far and I am excited about a couple of really big new initiatives we have planned.
There was a conversation at a women’s gathering sometime last year in Nigeria at a women’s conference, the question “Do good girls get the corner office?” was such an interesting and thought provoking one, what are your thoughts on this topic?
The answer is rarely. You have to fight for what you want. That isn’t to say you should be a bitch but if you’re a pushover and don’t make yourself known and heard; if the powers that be don’t know who you are because you’re too busy giving everyone else credit (a female trait) then you’re hurting your chances of success.
What drives you? What is that one thing that keeps you going against all odds?
I think my parents instilled this hardcore work ethic in me. I just don’t know how to be idle. It’s actually a negative in some ways, being constantly driven, unable to wind down and take a break. But there you have it. I would add to that, that I never do anything I’m not passionate about. I’ve worked in fashion, film and now social enterprise and all are personal interests that got me fired up every morning
Any regrets? Would you rewrite any part of your journey up till this point?
There are quite a few mistakes I’ve made along the way I’d love to change. But they’re all part of life’s experiences and led me to where I am now, so the main thing is to hope I’ve learned from those mistakes and won’t repeat them in the future.
As the Co-founder of the WIE Network, do you think women ask/demand for too many opportunities and constantly compare the playing field to that of men; rather than proving what they are capable of?
Women don’t do it enough in my opinion. We tend to be very practical and very thorough and often ‘pay our dues’ too long thinking we’re not quite there yet, not quite good enough to get to the next level. We need to be better at asking for what we’re entitled to.
If you had to address a room full of aspiring young businesspeople, what is the one thing you need them to know about success and maximising their full potential from your experience?
You need to set goals, and you need to have a game plan. You can’t just muddle through hoping the answer will eventually reveal itself. Know where you want to be in a year, 5 years and have some idea of how you’re going to get there. And the power of your network is the key to everything so keep growing and cultivating your contacts.
What is the best advice you have ever received, from whom and how has it impacted your life as an individual, businessperson and an advocate for women empowerment?
As an addendum to my note above, the best advice I was given was to have a plan for your career but to be open to changing course if something better or smarter comes along. Be strategic but don’t be rigid. Be prepared to take advantage of every great opportunity. That’s certainly what happened to me. I never thought I’d be in the business of creating content to empower women but now it’s my life’s work.
Lastly, 30 years from now, what would you want the world to remember when the name Dee Poku is mentioned around the world?
That partly through her efforts, women finally achieved parity in the workplace