#MeetThePresident is Women in Business Romania’s newest project, a series of special interviews with international leaders from organizations from all over the world, people who aim to make a change in their communities and at a global level, people who have distinguished themselves as professionals and shaped the business environment as we know it.
We are firm believers that the global business and economical landscape can grow only through unity and shared experiences – if we want to develop in the fast-changing times we are living in we have to learn and we have to keep our minds open to the lessons that others have to share!
Dr Bola Olabisi is a social entrepreneur, author, innovator, personal and community development consultant, well sought after international speaker, founder of a successful global network and a promoter for an inclusive society that allows for gender equality, diversity, equal opportunities, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Bola is the Founder & CEO of the UK based Global Women Inventors & Innovators Network (GWIIN) covering various regions in Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America. Bola set up GWIIN in 1998 in recognition of the challenges that women face in bringing commercially viable products and breakthrough developments to market and has developed it into a key vehicle for assisting the examination, exploitation and sustainability of ingenious concepts and ideas.
Mihai Chiratcu, Women in Business: Hello Bola, in 1998 you took on a challenge most of us are still reluctant to engage. What was the spark behind GWIIN? What drives you forward still after all this time and all these battles?
Bola Olabisi: The spark behind GWIIN is simple. I truly enjoy what I do. I am passionate about reaching out to others and as a result I continue to meet and be inspired by fascinating and remarkable women and of course men as well. It has been an incredible journey since I first started in 1998 and the lessons learnt and experience gained is priceless.
I am absolutely passionate about my work and I believe I found my calling so this drives me forward. It has not been an easy journey; however I continued to believe in the importance of the cause of GWIIN and knew that if I was to achieve any milestones I would need to have the energy and vitality to keep going despite the odds. I had high hopes and dreams and there were times when I struggled to achieve much. It was difficult to keep the spark going and at times I would feel the frustration. However, this negative feeling would never last long as my dream of the GWIIN concept has kept me motivated with a high spirit of conviction. I soon learnt that to keep the spark going and to stay focused I need to understand that there is a season and time for everything. I have learnt to manage my expectations and be a realist in understanding my circumstances while having deep faith that I have no limitations and will succeed against all odds.
Mihai Chiratcu, Women in Business: You are also a trainer, motivational speaker, and writer. What is the one thing you hold closest to your heart? What best defines you as a professional?
Bola Olabisi: I would have to say ‘keeping a smile on my face’ despite the times that I have found most trying is something I keep close to my heart. I find that this world is full of ups and downs and it is easy to go down a depressing road. I have always chosen to see the positive side of every situation and I almost become philosophical when things do not go according to plan. I tend to tell myself it must be a blessing in disguise. It is that simple! I believe this has kept me strong and quite determined. It really does not cost anything to be pleasant and smile. It is a great mindset that I have learnt over the years. Quite a lot of aspects define me as a professional and limiting it to one is quite difficult. I would like to think that I am defined as a professional that has the right attitude and cares about how my interaction affects others.
Mihai Chiratcu, Women in Business: All of your projects have a significant social element. What are those projects you think had the biggest impact, change something in mentalities? Which of your „babies” are you most proud of?
Bola Olabisi: The projects I have worked on have one fundamental thing in common, it recognizes and appreciates the differences in people. I soon learnt that this world is not an equal playing field therefore some will need support and others would not. It therefore became necessary to provide capacity building projects which focus on open innovation and how this could be of great benefit to many of the ingenious women who are developing remarkable innovative services, products and concepts. We launched the new initiative – INNOV2GROW for women where it involves a series of road shows with the mandate to assist with the capacity building of women in areas of innovation and technology. This includes the social element of empowerment for many women especially in countries where the infrastructure for social support is somehow limited.
I must say that I have worked on many projects and each one has brought significant positive contribution to communities as well as to various nations. I have four grown up adult children however I can never choose one over the other so likewise I am most proud of all my babies as a lot of effort, commitment and sheer determination has gone into every one of them.
Mihai Chiratcu, Women in Business: Innovation has always been one of the engines of business and development. You are one of the experts in this field. How do you see the future of innovation? What should we expect in the next years?
Bola Olabisi: First, we need to understand what innovation actually means, as this means something different to many people depending on what part of the world they are from or what their various disciplines are. Many will however agree that it means the process of translating an idea or invention into an improved valuable concept, service or product. To me this means ‘progress’. I believe with this progress must come responsibility. I would like to see a present and future that puts ‘responsibility’ in how we innovate and bring new improved items into the world. We must be responsible in understanding that it is crucial that we leave the world in a more sustainable environment for the next generation. We must be more responsible with the decisions we make in relation to the materials we use and bear waste minimization in mind. We must strive for a future that ensures that innovation is just and kind to the earth for the benefit of all mankind. This I believe can be done without compromise on our business ethics and social values.
Mihai Chiratcu, Women in Business: We all have models, but when the veil drops, our models are still just human. Who was your role model? Who did you want to be when you grew up!
Bola Olabisi: Without a doubt, my biggest role model has to be my mother. She worked hard against all odds to ensure that she instilled the best of values in me and this has helped me all the way through my business and social life. Along the way I have had and continue to have ‘real women’ that have inspired me and motivated me to achieve great things. I believe everyone should have and appreciate role models as they really do help us to improve ourselves. I think we should also be aware that they may not be the answer to all our challenges and that they may have a specific area where they are great therefore seeing our role models also as real women is crucial. I guess this is why I admire many celebrity film stars to a certain degree but never have found them as my role models.
Absolutely right about when the veil drops, they are simply human beings and no human being is perfect therefore I have learnt to have many role models I look up to and focus on the areas where they mostly inspire me. I am sure I may disappoint some people as I have always wanted to be me – simply just a better and respected me.
Mihai Chiratcu, Women in Business: I would like to challenge you with an imagination experiment. Let’s say that starting tomorrow you will have the power to change, implement or eliminate three things in the global business and innovation communities. What would those three things be?
Bola Olabisi: Implement Absolute Equality and Inclusivity in areas of (1) Leadership (2) Decision Making (3) Influence in the Government of every country so that it impacts women and the disadvantaged in ensuring a fairer and more just life therefore providing a better quality of life for many.
Mihai Chiratcu, Women in Business: 2016 looks like a good year but at the same time it comes with some challenges. Fast pace changes, Brexit and so on. What are your objectives for the year and what should we expect from you and your organization?
Bola Olabisi: We all have to be prepared for the eventuality that situations can change at any time and be well prepared to take on whatever challenges come along. I have every confidence that no matter what ‘Brexit’ may bring if at all it does happen, we will continue doing what we do best. My organization is consistent in its aims and objectives and this is to recognize the challenges that women face in bringing commercially viable products and breakthrough developments to market and society. We continue to a key vehicle for assisting the examination, exploitation and sustainability of ingenious concepts and ideas while showcasing the originality, intellectual property, product development, technology, investment opportunities, business acumen and route to market on a worldwide basis. This is unlikely to change.
Mihai Chiratcu, Women in Business: You wear so many suits. Sometimes it may get confusing. Is there still time for Bola? Did you found that Holy Grail called balance in your busy life?
Bola Olabisi: I do my best to live a healthy balance work and family life although I do struggle with this from time to time. I have spent a good bit of my life caring for my children and husband with very little time to think of myself. Thankfully, my children are all adults now and I am now a grandmother so I have come to believe that I really deserve this ‘me’ time. It makes working more refreshing and worthwhile. I think everyone no matter their age should have and create ‘me’ times for themselves. There always seems to be so much to do however over the years I have consciously made it a point of duty to find time for myself, relax and have some fun. I love to go to the movies with friends, have a good time out and most importantly have my quiet time where I can enjoy a good book.
Mihai Chiratcu, Women in Business: What do you know and like about Romania, excluding the places promoted by Prince Charles? Have you ever visited our country and if not, when should we expect your visit?
Bola Olabisi: I have learnt that Romania is a beautiful country with wonderful people. I learnt that there are orthodox churches everywhere with beautiful landscapes. As a result, it has become a fast growing attraction for tourists. This must be good for the economic and social growth of the country and Europe so I am really interested in learning more.
Interestingly, I also learnt that it is the land where the famous ‘Dracula’ the fiction story was born so I am certain there is a lot of creativity there, I have never visited but I am excited because I will have the opportunity this year and I am really looking forward to a great experience.
Mihai Chiratcu, Women in Business: With all the changes and sometimes chaos, Romania still has some good opportunities on its plate. How do you see the collaboration with Women in Business Romania in the future?
Bola Olabisi: This would be an invaluable opportunity to learn more about the fascinating diversity of culture of both organizations and build upon this. I am aware that Romania women cover an incredible wealth of sectors from different backgrounds just like here in the United Kingdom and I recognize that we would be in a better position working together in partnership for the common good of our members if we collaborate. Collaboration is an essential part of business life as it would help improve our international performance and cultural knowledge. There are many opportunities to widen our contacts and work together to gain a stronger voice for the capacity building of women in business and innovation for our countries. I look forward to building a solid relationship for the benefit of our UK members and members of Women in Business Romania.
Interview by Mihai Chiratcu
Editor Women in Business Romania
If you are part of or know an organization and you would like to recommend the president to be a part of the #MeetThePresident project, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us why you think that person is a great leader!