I read The Top 50 Women in World Business– the Financial Times’ flagship analysis of female business leadership and was very excited and impressed by the positions held by these women.

I thought, finally women are coming into their own in this traditionally male dominated field. As a woman of African descent, my initial reaction on reading this article is to quickly scan it for a representation from the ethnic minority community. Below is a breakdown of the nationalities represented on the list – which was as usual dominated by America, China, India and Britain.

America 19 Israel 1
China 6 Italy 1
India 6 Japan 1
Britain 4 Malaysia 1
Singapore 2 Saudi Arabia 1
Sweden 2 South Africa 1
Denmark 1 Switzerland 1
France 1 Turkey 1
Germany 1

I was happy that it was a multinational list; however there was only one African-American, Ursula Burn on the main 2010 list. Olunfunke Iyabo Osibodu Group Managing Director and Chief Executive of the Union Bank of Nigeria was the only Black African candidate mentioned in a sub list of contenders for 2011. Read the article – Women at the top from the Financial Times – FT.com.

Ursula Burns is the first African-American woman to lead an S&P 100 company and the first woman to take over from another woman chief executive of an S&P 100 company. Ursula’s story is very inspiring and I find myself wanting to know more about this woman who has beaten the odds and made it on to this most impressive of lists. Read more on Ursula’s story at Ursula Burns, Aiming to Redefine the Xerox Culture – NYTimes.com

Here is what I’ve learnt from Ursula’s journey:

Look Beyond Your Circumstances – She was influenced by a mother who believed that “Where you are, is not who you are! I personally think this is a very powerful statement. It immediately conditions your mind to aim higher and stay positive. Her mother expected them to be successful and always told them to aim to give more than they took away from the world. This helped to shape her belief system and her ability to overcome adversity and stay focused. These two quotes will stay with me as I also continue to rise above my circumstances and give back to those that have supported me along the way.

Be True to Yourself – The resonating fact about her in all the articles is her boldness and fearlessness which seems to have set her apart in an environment of “terminal niceness”. I was particularly impressed by her resolve to be home on weekends which implies strong family values and a commitment to work-life balance. This is really refreshing in an era where success is equated to zero social life.  As a new mom, I’m really inspired by this as I’m still struggling to find that balance between family and work.

Get a Coach/Mentor – Ursula was coached by her predecessor and other heavy weights at Xerox. She was willing to learn from all these people and took their feedback on board. This prepared her for the leadership position she now holds. I have personally experienced the difference a coach makes between dreaming and taking the necessary actions that will facilitate the achievement of those dreams.

Your dream may not be to end up in a board room but I believe these lessons will see us all a step closer to making our dreams come true.

Griselda K Togobo

by Griselda K Togobo | Follow Her on Twitter Here

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