Joy Salaja: “Persevere. Anything worth having is worth fighting for” | IWD 2020

International Women’s Day is a celebration of female accomplishment and a call to action for gender equality worldwide. This years’ theme #EachforEqual is about recognising women’s value in society and actively choosing to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. With this is mind, we spoke to some of AIT’s trailblazing women - past and present - who are paving the way forward. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world. Let’s all be #EachforEqual.

In conversation with Joy Salaja, AIT alumna and head of accounting, EY Global Fusion, London:

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for me to reflect on those powerful women that have paved the way for me to be where I am today. It is a day to honour the work that has been done to fight against gender inequality and break the ‘glass ceiling’. It is also a day to reflect on the work that still needs to be done and remembering that we can only accomplish it if we work together.

Who are your female role models?

My mum is my main role model as she has sacrificed so much for me. Michelle Obama would be the second as she’s served as a role model for women all across the world. Last but not least would be Ann Atwater, probably not as well know, but she was an American civil rights activist in the ‘70s.

How can women better support each other?

Women can better support each other by speaking more about the issues that affect us and being more vocal about it. We can support each other by amplifying each other’s achievements or by prioritising our relationships with each other. Being supportive of each other mean we can achieve more together than if we tackle issues as individuals. It is important we collaborate so that we can have more impact.

What advice would you give women either in or struggling to break into traditionally male industries or sectors?

The advice I would give women in struggling to break into traditionally male industries is to persevere. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. The beautiful thing is that after they do break in they can then encourage other women along the way and become a mentor to others trying to break into such industries.

How can young women find mentors and what’s the value of mentorship?

Someone who encourages you, pushes you to do better and who wants you to reach your full potential - these are the type of traits one should look for in a mentor. Mentorship is valuable in that you can tap into the knowledge of a more experienced person as long as you are willing to learn. It also empowers mentees to take ownership of their own development through the supportive cheerleading of the mentor.

What do you think has helped you in your career to date?

Being authentic is what has helped me in my career to date. Being yourself and staying true to who you are will catapult you forward in your career.

How can we encourage young girls to dream bigger?

We can encourage young girls to dream bigger by educating them from a young age on the opportunities available to them and informing them that the world is their oyster. They should not feel limited to what is typically known as female roles. They be able to explore and use their talents in every facet of life be it in arts, academia, science etc. but this will only come through education. There is nothing such as a male role because whatever men can do women can do too, if not better.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give your 18-year-old self?

Don’t worry, be happy. Things will fall in place, once you are walking the path that you are meant to be on. If you can’t control a situation, then don’t worry about it.

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