How much a dollar (or cedi) cost?
Going with Kendrick Lamar’s song, it would probably cost you a place in heaven, not the more practical, physical things that might have just popped into your mind. And that’s not surprising. Most, if not all, of us encounter some variation of that question as we go about our daily business: to spend or to save, to go out or to stay in, to opt for a thing or an experience. Where do we put our money, scratch that, value? That is the question.
In December 2015, She Leads Africa announced they would be bringing their hive to Accra for a five-day event. They called it SheHive Accra, a professional bootcamp geared at women entrepreneurs and professionals looking to invest in their career development. Over those five days, attendees would listen to some of Ghana’s brightest in 15 sessions on a variety of topics, including business development, technology for startups, feminine care and health, and career transitions. The very things that are lacking in our educational institutions and work places, yet highly sought after by forward-looking companies (see this 2012 McKinsey Report). What’s more, attendees had the option of fine-tuning their SheHive Accra experience with flexible payment plans – you could opt for the full experience at 570 GHS (approx. US$140), choose one day or – if you really couldn’t attend – sign up for a virtual pass at 40 GHS (US$10).
But that’s not the only reason Circumspecte supported and covered SheHive Accra. It’s a bit closer to home. You see, I know first hand what access to career resources and tools does – professionally and personally. I also know what it feels like to be surrounded by supportive women who challenge and look out for you. Both build you up, teach you things you might otherwise not have known, and prepare you for the ever-changing tides of your career trajectory and life.
During my first year at Mount Holyoke College, I worked two jobs – one as a dishwasher (yes, you read right) in the kitchen of Wilder Hall and the other as a receptionist and office assistant at the school’s Career Development Center. While I dreaded waking up during those cold winter mornings to scrub pans and wash dishes, I couldn’t wait to get to the CDC – my time there would not only set me up to take a keen interest in my professional development, but also that of others. Many of my friends would turn to me to review their applications or be a sounding board when they were considering career options. Many times, I would do the same and seek them out for some career advice. And even when we were gunning for the same opportunities, we would still lend each other a hand, celebrate (and mourn) together. We might not have known it then, but by virtue of our sisterhood and our interest in each other’s wellbeing we discovered the power in supporting one another, in letting another shine.
This is exactly what She Leads Africa dished out at She Hive Accra – sisterhood and strategic career insights. Look no further than She Leads Africa founders Afua Osei and Yasmin Belo-Osagie and you’ll see what I mean. As far as content quality, potential for enrichment, and networking goes, She Hive Accra was, to put it simply, unparalleled. I say this as someone who has been involved in numerous professional development initiatives. All the sessions I attended were relevant – both in terms of career development and market needs when it comes to soft skills – and with the possible exception of one speaker who didn’t seem to understand the audience, the diverse group of resource personnel delivered their knowledge, insights, and tips with finesse. They also succeeded in injecting a breath of fresh air into Accra’s professional events scene, which can be quite a broken record when it comes to format.
The only downsides were the general lack of internet access and lunch on the third day, but the organizers quickly rectified the food situation (brownie points for quick implementation of feedback!). SheHive Accra attendees might have spent as much as 600 GHS – and probably skipped out on some little luxuries for the next few months – but what they got in return was tenfold that amount. It was definitely an investment that will keep paying back for decades to come, and if the positive vibes and discussions on the WhatsApp group created by one of the participants is any indication, the ladies are already well on their way.
Another impressive element of the event was the fact that it really did cater to female professionals (and men, honestly) at different stages of their career – from the university student exploring career options, to the mid-level professional navigating a career transition, to the entrepreneur looking to start or scale up a venture. Moreover, they kept it interesting format-wise with icebreakers, live interviews, engaging presentations, chit-chat over jollof rice and chicken, a vision boarding exercise and let’s not forget the SLA-An African City launch. Then again, I’m not the only one who was there. Here’s what other attendees and partners had to say.
Ruth Otchere, Ghanaian HR Practitioner & Part-Time MakeUp Artist:
“I heard of this from Instagram randomly, and I won a free pass. I am very happy, I don’t regret being here. If next year they come again I will pay to be here eventhough I won a free pass. That’s how much impact it had on me. I would pay for my friends to come actually. I met a friend today and I said chale, I wish I paid for all of you to be here.”
Faith Biko, Zimbabwean Professional Singer & Song Writer:
“I think the session that was perfect for me was on entertainment that Vimbai [Mutinhiri] took and just watching how she grew from being a Big Brother contestant to literally owning half of a corporation. That was just so inspiring to see the opportunities within opportunities…Honestly I’ve loved all the sessions – some weren’t even tailored to business but they’ve all been so interrelatable, so that’s been really great…I’m a mother of two and it is so important that us mothers feel like it’s not over, but actually your life in some sense becomes fuller and an extension when you have kids. Because now you have something to work harder for. So I’d love to see a session for mothers.”
Ebenezer Gwumah, Ashesi Univeristy (SheHive Accra partner):
“One of the things that made it very interesting for Ashesi was Ashesi shares similar goals when it comes to women, in terms of educating and empowering women to help lead the way, do more, do better. So it fit in quite nicely; She Leads Africa was really kind in terms of allowing room for some of our students to attend for free. We have many Ashesi students volunteering. I think programs like this, it’s good to have them more frequently, more often. Because sometimes women don’t have a lot of collaborative spaces to share; it’s good to be in these sessions and hear what more you can do with yourself.”
Jessica Ali, Ashesi graduate & career services officer (SheHive Accra Volunteer):
“I just came in to come help with logistics and stuff like that. But sitting in the sessions I have been able to think of myself and what I want to do. Personally, there are so many things I want to do. This particular experience has helped me to think about or prioritize what’s important. It’s been very, very insightful and I think it came at the right time for me.”
Orphélie, Ivorian student living in Accra:
“I’m a student in Accra, but I want to start a business in internet and online shopping. I found this event very useful for women. Many of the people here are very inspiring and that really pushes you to wake up. I didn’t know that something like this happens, so it was really great.”
Anisat Ngoli, Gabonese student living in Accra:
“This event enabled me to meet people with a similar vision as myself and to meet people who could potentially help me set up my natural hair business. I now know what I need to do to start. I had the idea, but no implementation plan. Now I have a plan.”
Ruka Sanusi, Management Consultant and Executive & Business Coach (She Hive Accra Speaker):
“It takes a lot to organize something like this and to have women like Lucy Quist coming, Roberta Annan coming and sharing their stories. [SheLeads Africa] had to convince people like Lucy and Roberta that this is a worthy place to talk at. It says a lot about Afua and Yasmin and for the people who actually attended as well. Because they also want to learn and they’re committed to their own development; we can’t have enough of these quality kind of meetings. It can only grow, it can only expand.”
I’m not going to mince words, if you’re reading this, had the opportunity to attend – that is both time and money at your disposal – but didn’t, and neglected to get the virtual pass, you missed out big time. But there’s no need to beat yourself up about it any more than you probably already have. That’s also what Circumspecte is here for, to make sure you don’t (completely) miss out on great resources and experiences like this. We’ve created a summary of tweets from Days 3-5 of the event which you can view below. We’re willing to bet you’ll find some gems in there that you can apply immediately. You can also check out photos of the event below as well, and this video recap by Auntie Oboshie. Interested in attending the next event? She Leads Africa is taking the She Hive on a tour across Africa and the Diaspora, as early as next month. Find out more via their website.
Written by Jemila Abdulai.
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