Women in leadership: and interview with Dr Bolanle Adebola

Dr Bolanle Adebola

Current Job Role: Lecturer in International Commercial Law

Previous roles/ background: I’m a qualified barrister and solicitor of the Nigerian Supreme Court. I have a PhD in Law, with expertise in corporate insolvency and restructuring law. I’m also an associate of the Governance Institute (ICSA). Co-leader of the UoR Staff BAME Network.


Talk us through your approach to leadership:

To be honest, I am also just moulding my approach to leadership. I know it is a process that engages power to influence others to make change or to achieve goals. I never really thought of the various dimensions of it but as I grow in my various roles, I have come to recognise the need to form my own approach to leadership. For that reason, I have embarked upon training and reading. I am more likely to be influenced by a leader who is approachable and willing to get her hands dirty but who has a clear vision into which I can buy. Perhaps, these thoughts will contribute to my own approach to leadership.

Do you feel that enough has been done to advance women in the workplace?

Admittedly, a lot has been done to improve the entry of women into and experience of women in the workplace. We can see the evidence all around us. Nonetheless, there is still a lot to do. There are more women in the lower grades at work; contributing to the gender pay gap, as well as the gender power gap. In fact, the latter permeates every aspect of the woman’s life. It must be addressed adequately to advance the cause of women in all spaces.

What has been the most significant barrier in your career?

At the moment, I don’t think I have hit barriers yet. My career is still in the nascent stages. Nonetheless, I have felt the discomfort of my gender, age and ethnicity when navigating the workplace. I hope that the necessary changes keep getting made by the giants I follow; so that I can have an easier experience than they.


What encourages or motivates you when you face a challenge as a leader?

I see challenges as just that: challenges. I recognise that much of life revolves around power, and that many of the barriers we face result from distortions in the distribution of, and misapplication of power. I was taught that a person’s mindset is fundamental to tackling and resolving challenges. The person who thinks she can, can and the one who thinks she cannot, cannot. So, I try not to take things personally. That leaves me room to think, believe and act, knowing that I can.

Is there anyone who inspires you and why?

There are many inspirational figures in the world. I admire lots of people for various reasons. I suppose that those who stand out for me tend to be those who exude a quiet strength. The story of Rosa Parks and her initially just quiet revolution or that of Mother Theresa in the way she lovingly changed the world. Closest to home would be my mother. She instilled such strength and conviction in her daughters, in such a blatantly patriarchal society, without seeming to do anything. She is like water that breaks down a rock: single-minded in her focus, unyielding in her faith that it will all turn out well. I remember her words always: ‘it will be well in the end’. It always is.