Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Makes History As The First Female Leader of the WTO
Congratulations to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on becoming the first female, first African Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.
She has a few more firsts under her having twice served as Nigeria’s Finance Minister (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and briefly acted as Foreign Minister in 2006, the first woman to hold both positions.
Sadly, her appointment was blocked and delayed by Donald Trump and only became possible after US president Joe Biden became president.
The Nigerian-born economist and international development expert has had the most illustrious career having spent 25 years at the World Bank and rising through the ranks to be No 2.
She currently sits on the Boards of top international companies and organizations, including Twitter, Standard Chartered Bank, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity (ARC).
She takes on the leadership of the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation at a critical time in our history as we seek to “bounce back better” following the coronavirus pandemic’s economic and public health crisis.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala is married to neurosurgeon Dr Ikemba-lweala.
They have four children and three grandchildren.
Here are a few of our favourite quotes from her:
I’ve developed my own style. It’s a colourful one. It’s African, and it is me.
There is always guilt. Just make it work.
If you have a sense of purpose that drives you, then aim high and become a leader and make room as you go.
There is no right way to be a woman leader. Be true to yourself.
Get anyone you know talking about gender stereotypes. These false assumptions cannot survive being held up to the light of day.
Don’t take a backward step. Don’t shy away from taking up space in the world. Don’t assume you are too junior or that people are too busy. Reach out and network.
Investing in women is smart economics, and investing in girls, catching them upstream is even smarter economics.
I’m told, I’m like my father, and he was the most wonderful man. But I think he was gentler than me.
I believe that when you find problems, you should also find solutions.
In the 73 years of GATT WTO, I am honoured to be First Woman and First African to lead. But now the real work begins. Ready to tackle the challenges of WTO. Forget Business as usual!
If you haven’t already, you should check out the book she co-authored with Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Women and Leadership, Real Life, Real Lessons