…“ I never set out to deliberately break any glass ceiling”
By Neta Nwosu
The Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL) has honoured Dame Sena Anthony for her contribution to the growth of the Nigerian Oil and Gas sector. Speaking at the 53rd edition of CVL Leadership Without Title (LWT) Sector Leadership Tribute Colloquium held on Monday in Lagos, Prof. Pat Utomi, Founder of CVL described Dame Sena Anthony as the first female Coordinator, Corporate Secretariat and Legal Division/ Secretary to the Group Board of NNPC. “The CVL family is pleased to continue the celebration of women who broke the glass ceiling. These special Leader Without Title tribute colloquium series is designed as part of championing inclusion, to rising role models, particularly for young women. “The LWT series has recognized outstanding women from the beginning, but a greater sense of urgency has come from seeing how Nigeria lags behind smaller African countries in Beijing goals. “Among the women we have celebrated are Prof. Grace Alele Williams, Engr. (Mrs.) Maduka, Mrs. Toyin Olakunri and Francesca Emmanuel.
“But these series that groups women by sectors had enabled us to discover that women can thrive in areas considered macho territory. One of such is oil and gas. The Texas Oil man in his Cowboy Boots and Ten Gallon hat personifies the genre. But a careful look in Nigeria will surprise you. “The downstream sector Association in Oil and Gas in Nigeria is led by a woman, Dame Winifred Akpani and there are quite a number of women engineers active in the upstream. Today we recognise Chief Amal Pepple who served as Federal Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum and Dame Sena Anthony who was the first woman to be Secretary of NNPC and Head of its Legal Affair,” Utomi explained. Speaking on the theme of the event, “Breaking the Glass Ceiling for Pioneer Women, Dame Anthony said that the theme is important, because it’s important to motivate younger women, for them to realize that those who broke the glass ceiling got there by dint of hard work, not by begging for positions, not by lobbying for positions, not by cheapening themselves”.
She stresses, “Because if you cheapen yourself, you will not be able to do your work properly, you will be obliged to be beholding to somebody. So it is important to occupy a position, knowing that nobody can claim that if not for me, she will not have gotten that position, and it is important to occupy a position that you know you are qualified for, the worst thing that can happen is to find a non qualified person occupying a position , and that is why I keep on saying that the important thing about breaking that glass ceiling is the qualification, the training, the preparation of women, to be able to do what needs to be done.” In a continued conversation with the CVL team on how her life, achievements and career path can inspire the younger generation of women, Dame Anthony stated, “I think the important thing is for women to concentrate on working hard.
I must confess, I never set out to deliberately break any glass ceiling, for example in joining NNPC, I was the first female to work in the legal department, but then I was employed there because I had worked whilst in the Ministry of Justice, on negotiation of the Warri refinery and obviously, the team I worked with enjoyed my work each step of the way, I was trying to do my best in whatever task I was given, rather than saying that oh, I want to break a glass ceiling. “So I think the important thing is to concentrate on being the best at what you do, to study hard for the work you need to do, prepare for whatever task you are given, and to ensure that you are doing your best, despite the fact that you are a woman, I don’t think people should, or ladies or women should concentrate on the fact that they are women, it is important to concentrate instead on being the best at what you do, and breaking the glass ceiling then automatically follows.” The event which had industry eggheads in attendance discussed “Breaking the Glass Ceiling for pioneer women in the Oil and Gas Sector of Nigeria” featuring Dr. Layi Fatona, President, Petroleum Club and MD, Niger Delta Exploration Company; Mrs. Seyi Afolabi, Principal Consultant/CEO, Reservoir and Faculties Solution Nigeria Limited; Dr. Godswill Ihetu, former MD/CEO, NLNG/NGC; Ms. Ibby Iyama, Nigeria Country Director, Renner & Renner Consulting Ltd. Also in attendance were other prominent dignitaries.