On July 14, 2018, in New York City, Face2Face Africa honored me with the 2018 Corporate Leadership award. I remain deeply grateful for this recognition and view it as a catalyst to continue to inspire and serve others.
In my acceptance speech, I spoke about three things that inspire me:
1) my family,
2) driving solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges, as presented by bribery and corruption, and
3) empowering immigrant women leaders to live their fullest potential.
Face2Face Africa and the FACE List Awards
If we don’t define ourselves, the world will define us. I thank Face2Face Africa for intentionally creating a face of Africa that we are proud to live every day, and for building a legacy our children will be proud to embrace and build upon.
Face2Face Africa is a pan-African media company based in New York that is shaping the image of Africa in the diaspora and beyond.
The Fascinating Africans Committed to Excellence (FACE) List Awards is a prestigious celebration of pan-African achievement, recognizing and commemorating pan-Africa's most influential icons, moguls, and trailblazers.
The award was presented to me by two women who represent deep friendship in my life:
Aku Fabusoye, head of Public Sector and Government Relations, Consultancy and International Service practices at Whitlaw Solicitors, and
Bisila Bokoko, former FACE List Africa award recipient, Spanish-American businesswoman, entrepreneur, speaker, philanthropist, and founder and CEO of BBES International.
Three Dreams Entrusted to Me
I dedicated this award to my mother, Philomena. Not very long ago, she began a PhD program and obtained her doctorate in 2013, after all five of her children, including me, had completed our college and graduate degrees. For her, it was a dream fulfilled—deferred, but never abandoned—and in doing this, she showed us an unquestionable example of resilience.
If there’s a dream that’s been placed in your heart, don’t ever think it’s too late to pursue and fulfill that dream.
I also recognized my ten-year old daughter and fashion consultant, Ola, who styled my entire outfit for the evening.
I am inspired by the generations of women in my family before and after me. I am inspired by gratitude to my parents who gave so much and helped make me the person I am today. I am inspired to be an example for my daughter coming after me.
Solving the World’s Biggest Problems
In our unique interests, passions, and deep-seated curiosities,
In our unrepeatable stories,
Therein lies the magic we are called to bring to this world.
I’ve approached my professional journey with a desire to grow and evolve, and to pursue my unique interests. I told mentors early on that I was interested in anti-bribery work and that it’s an area where I believed could add value.
As a company with offices in 100 countries and doing business in over 160, Citi has offered an incredible opportunity to be impactful and drive positive change on a global scale.
As an example, last year Citi led an initiative called Tech for Integrity (T4I). T4I was a global partnership with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Facebook, Microsoft, and other companies. The purpose of the initiative was to use technology and innovation to disrupt bribery and corruption issues.
I served as the global anti-bribery subject-matter expert for the initiative, but also led the public and private sector engagement in Africa. Africa has a vibrant tech community, and African tech startups did us proud by winning global awards and recognition.
This initiative reinforced my belief that with boldness, optimism, and ingenuity, we can continually drive change and bring about meaningful solutions to the decades-old problems posed by bribery and corruption.
Empowering Immigrant Women to Reach Their Fullest Potential
Each year, approximately 750,000 immigrant women enter the United States, and approximately 10.7 million women in the U.S. workforce are foreign-born.
In 2009, these became more than numbers to me.
When I was a law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, I met a young woman in my Securities Regulations course. She was lacking in confidence and was too self-conscious to speak up in class.
Yet one day she revealed to me, through a question after class, that she had one of the most brilliant minds in our midst. She was stunned to discover I was an immigrant as well and that I had been too shy to speak up in class as a college student.
After an unsuccessful quest to find resources to support her—resources focused entirely on inspiring immigrant women leaders—it became clear to me that I was being called to serve. And thus my project to inspire immigrant women leaders was born: I created a resource I wish existed.
It has been said that “as we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way,” and “those who bring sunshine to others cannot keep it from themselves.” It’s been a blessing to me to work with others to share the lessons from my journey.
May We Be a Blessing to Others
Life is less about the objectives we set out to accomplish than it is about who we are being, and who we become in the process.
I hope to be love in my encounters. I hope to inspire others to embrace and live their full potential. I hope we embrace the blessings that are around us each day. Ultimately, I hope we collectively make the world more radiant and more beautiful than we found it.