Olumide-Ojo’s Pressure Cooker motivates women for ambition
Often, online, when women-centred issues come up, especially in the context of the Nigerian woman at home or work, it quickly dissolves into arguments about feminism. It is often one of those rehashed subjects with rarely anything new being said, and with both sides coming and going away with the same sentiments they had at the beginning.
Yet, I find those discussions important—if not necessarily for their depth of thought, but for the work they do in bringing important issues to light. Women-centred issues and experiences—whether institutionally entrenched systems or personal struggles we face navigating the world as women—were rarely talked about so openly in the past, and not with the frequency with which we do now.
Nevertheless, online, the limited characters and attention span often make it hard to take much away by way of how to navigate those issues. This is why books will never die. We need more than tweets or articles to allow for proper context and dissection of topics, especially when it comes to things that affect about half of the population, as women issues do.
I consider Nkiru Olumide-Ojo’s The Pressure Cooker: Lessons from a Woman at Work an important book for this reason. With practical experience drawn from real life scenarios, it’s a front-row seat to envisioning the life of an average Nigerian woman, one navigating personal dreams and ambitions, work and family. It does not just describe issues, it reads like a practical guide on how to navigate them.
Olumide-Ojo’s book is unapologetic in its insistence on, and even motivation for ambition. Often, we think of ambition as just career-directed, but The Pressure Cooker… takes a holistic approach to it—self, career, and family. Even as she talks about her career and family life, at every point, it is about self, so that you realise she is not defined by work or family, but rather takes a healthy approach to her own well-being, knowing herself, what she wants from life, and figuring out—often along the way—how to go after it.
Sometimes, when one looks to those ahead for advice, you are left with responses that make you wonder if they don’t want you to know how they did it, or they don’t even know how they did it. In the past, I have found it quite disheartening to read interviews of some successful Nigerian women and when it came time to share tips on maximising work or family life, the response would be a tepid:“Just work hard”, “God did it,” or “I still cook all my husband’s meals.” Of course, while none of these things are untenable, they leave you rolling your eyes wishing there was a little more substance and a little more realness about their process—including the struggles, victories, and how they were navigated or negotiated.
Olumide-Ojo, however, shares her own experiences (and sometimes those of other women) finding her feet in life, starting out a career, starting a family, and climbing the corporate ladder amongst other things. She is refreshingly honest about personal shortcomings, institutional hurdles, and the generality of things she had to work through and how she did that. She isn’t trying to be superwoman; so, it’s easy to read her anecdotes and nod because one can relate or think of a friend who will.
Perhaps, one of the most liberating things about reading The Pressure Cooker: Lessons from a Woman at Work is feeling less alone in one’s experiences, and coming away with a real sense of possible ways of navigating them, whether it’s knowing how to pursue personal ambitions or addressing sexism at work or even picking a spouse. As I turned each page, I came away with new understandings of how to deal with the world, work/colleagues and even family as a woman.
One of my favourite things about the book is that it does not claim to be a one-size-fits-all prescription for women, in the workplace or at home. Instead, the author is clear in her use of personal anecdotes and personal telling of how she approached issues. However, the reader is sure to find a number of things that are applicable in their own life, or at least, find a thread that’ll get the ball rolling in learning better how to steady one’s feet, assert oneself, and get the best out of self, work and home.
It is essential reading for the Nigerian—perhaps, African—woman, who would like to live her personal ambitions (career and otherwise), and the man, who truly seeks to understand how work or social spaces treat women, and how to do better.
Olumide-Ojo is a marketing and communications professional and founder of LightHouse Network, a social-development initiative dedicated to empowering young women through structured mentoring.
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