Lola Aworanti-Ekugo (Weekend MBA 2019) is a Digital and Innovation specialist with over 15 years of experience in the industry. She started her career as a software engineer at Investec Asset Management, London. Since then, she has worked in various capacities across different roles in the financial services industry in Europe and Africa at companies Dresdner Kleinwort, Commerzbank, BNP Paribas, Union Bank and First Bank Nigeria. She is currently the Chief Digital Officer at FBNQuest where she is responsible for defining and implementing the Digital & Innovation strategy and roadmap with a focus on identifying new digital product/service/fintech opportunities, optimising customer experience across channels and improving operational efficiency using technology.
Lola is an advocate for women in STEM, an entrepreneur and author. She has recently launched her first novel “Lagos to London”. A fiction novel aimed at inspiring youths to find their own paths and strive to be their best wherever they find themselves in the world as global citizens.
What does break the bias mean to you?
Having a world where people are not limited, but they are encouraged to fulfil their potential without bias. A world where people are not discriminated against and they don’t lose out on opportunities based on stereotypes or biases, both unconscious and conscious. It also means deliberately identifying areas where these biases and stereotypes are and tackling them head on, not leaving them to chance. With the objective of building a world where people are valued and celebrated because of their diversity and what they bring to the table, regardless of gender, ethnicity, and religion.
I read a statistic that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. I think it’s important for employers to recognise this and be aware whilst recruiting, and for women to realise they are so capable, and to not be afraid to take these opportunities.
How have you faced bias in the workplace?
I did struggle quite a bit at the early stages of my career. A lot of these struggles were internal battles as I never had any representation. I have never had a female manager because they just were not there. I remember little things like learning to speak up in a room full of men and feeling like maybe I don’t have anything to contribute. I used to feel as a woman in tech, I had to dress down to fit in, hiding my love for fashion and feeling like I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I dressed the way I wanted to in the office. Later I realised that my outfits do not determine my output. Owning and growing into my own self, and my own identity, I started to feel more comfortable as I was being my authentic self.
As an employer and in a leadership role I have the opportunity to mentor and give opportunities to young women, which is something I am so passionate about because I know how difficult it was for me.
How has Imperial equipped you with tools to deal with gender bias?
When I was researching Imperial College Business School for my MBA, what stood out was the diversity, the information and reporting on how diverse your classmates would be. I wanted to learn about global trends, and this really appealed to me. When I think back, my class was so diverse with so many people from different industries and cities all over the world, and it was really about learning from each other as well. For me, it was a big eye opener, it really widened my perspectives, from the case studies to the learning. It was totally mind blowing and worth every scent.