Stand Tall Against Gender Bias: Interview with Solape Oguntayo (S20)

An Interview with Solape Oguntayo, September 2020, HEC Paris MBA

by Monica Yusuf

Hello Solape! I remember talking with you before about your work experience in Nigeria. Could you describe your previous job function and role?

Prior to Joining HEC Paris, I was the Assistant Vice President of Origination and Client Coverage at InfraCredit, a specialized guarantor set up to support the development and investment in infrastructure assets and project in NIgeria. Prior to that I worked 7 years in Investment Banking which was largely male-dominated. My role involved raising funds for clients through debt capital markets.

Sounds like you had challenging jobs! Can you share, in your opinion, what are the three main barriers for gender inequality based on those experiences?

In my experience I'd say there are a number of barriers to gender inequality but three that resonate with me are firstly, the limited female leaders in my field, the unconscious bias and lastly, stereotyping based on gender.

Which actions do you think we can do together to remove these barriers?

While I acknowledge there have been actionable steps towards removing these types of barriers, it should be a constant collective effort and not just that of women alone. After all, if we are going to change the status quo, we need the help of those perpetuating the status quo, we need allyship from men.

I cannot agree more! Have you had any chances to make a difference towards gender equality in your professional life?

At my previous role, I noticed women in the first were often not included to attend networking conferences. With the help of a senior colleague, I was able to secure sponsorship approvals for all women in the firm to attend the Women in Business and Finance (WimBiz) conference. This group is the largest community of professional working women in Nigeria that inspire, empower, and advocate for greater representation of women in leadership positions in the public and private sector. I am told that sponsorship for all women at the firm is ongoing with plans to continue in the future.

That was such a great initiative! Women empower women! Last question from us, do you have any tips and tricks for our strong women out there that want to join a similar industry?

Investment banking is very client-centric and requiring a lot of people skills combined with technical skills. One tip that helped me, quickly recognizing the power of my network and leveraging it. I also never tried to act like a man. I acknowledged my strengths and abilities as a woman and made the most of my time prioritizing because everything is super urgent!

Finally, a strong support system is crucial especially for those looking to start a young family. I had the support of my husband and family every step of the way which helped me grow in that industry.

An excerpt from the November 2020 WIL Magazine, don't forget to check out the full issue!