The Real Meaning of International Women's Day

My advice to any woman, no matter what point in their career or personal journey, is to aim high - aim as high as the limits of what you can imagine you're capable of. If you can imagine something, then you should just go for it.

We are all responsible for our own success. But as you reach your initial goal, and what you had initially labelled as "success", things change, and you have to start thinking about how to take it to the next level, which inevitably means your goals change constantly. For me, my hopes and aims now are very different from the drivers that bought me to where I am today. The answer to the question of "how to make it happen" or rather continue to happen, is always evolving. It's shifting at a pace I can barely keep up with, which often proves to be the source of anxiety, or at the very least, a never ending to-do list! It leaves me to ask the question "Will I ever be done with trying to make it happen for myself?"

The journey to success looks different to every individual, depending on what you want to get out of your career, and where you want to end up. But most journeys have one thing in common: you won't make it to your destination without determination, passion and hunger to succeed.

My own journey started off in east London, and has taken me to the executive suites of Hollywood and to the most established fashion houses in Paris and Milan. As the CEO of ITB, my job is to navigate the world of fashion and entertainment on behalf of my clients.

ITB works on behalf of over fifty corporate clients, film studios, producers and talent. At any given time, we're working on securing talent for at least a dozen integrated advertising campaigns and brand integrations within four or five movies. This is a fiercely competitive world, and all of us within it, have to earn every inch of our success.

My advice to any woman, no matter what point in their career or personal journey, is to aim high - aim as high as the limits of what you can imagine you're capable of. If you can imagine something, then you should just go for it. No one will thank you for sacrificing your own ambition, and you're the only person who can really make it happen. I wake up every day, thankful for my child, career and husband, and then I go out with the same hunger that I had starting out.

What was important to me when I started out in my career - money, success and recognition - are just as important today, but as a new mother, a wife, a sister to three sisters and an employer of many women, I feel it's my responsibility to look further than my immediate family and wider professional circle. I want to seek out ways to help others make it happen in their lives.

Last week, in the midst of London Fashion Week, or rather "Nigeria Week", as I later discovered, I attended a small lunch at the House of Lords. It was hosted by Lord and Lady Mitchell on behalf of the charity Women for Women International. Only half familiar with their work, I decided to attend, during what for me is one of the busiest months of the year, with no time to stop for a sandwich, let alone a three-hour luncheon.

What I discovered was a world totally unfamiliar to me. A mixture of extremely powerful men and women, bankers, journalists, agents, marketers and charity workers all totally aligned with one common goal. That goal is to help women survivors of war and conflicts, women who have suffered and continue to suffer the most unimaginable hardships, the most marginalized in society, move from crisis and poverty to stability and self- sufficiency. This is achieved through a year long programme which offers direct financial aid and emotional support, business and life skills training including health awareness, budgeting and saving advice, legal rights, decision making, negotiation, civil participation - all the skills required to move towards economic stability for themselves and their children. Whilst I was there, all I could think to myself was - "I've got to get involved, these people are actually enabling these women to make it happen for themselves and their families." What could I do?

As it turns out, the answer to that question is quite a lot - starting with basic sponsorship of women or one of their programmes. I signed up immediately.

The lead up to International Women's day is the best time to take stock on the progress women have made for themselves globally. And I of course think about myself and the women - and men - I employ today, about ways we can improve our business, the work we put out for our clients and how I can keep ITB at the forefront of our industry. But it's shocking to me that while Patricia Arquette stands on the stage accepting the Oscar for best supporting actress, calling out for equal pay for women in the west, I'm sitting at a lunch listening to the Women for Women Nigerian country director, Ngozi Eze, nonchalantly talking about the life-threatening dangers that she and her staff face in carrying out their work.

There is no denying that the ideas of success and "making it happen" mean different things to all of us, depending on our background, our ambitions and the driving forces behind us. But I've realised that the real point of International Women's Day has somewhat been lost. Shouldn't it be about every woman being afforded the basic rights that I - and all the women I know - take for granted?


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