SEI – Adaku

“I am originally from Nigeria, but have lived in Ireland for over 18 years. I was excited about the incredible opportunities I would find here but I wasn’t prepared for the reality I faced. While living in Nigeria, I experienced a lot of discrimination based on my gender. Despite my university degree in accounting, my take-home pay couldn’t even take me home. And when I spoke out and asked for a raise, I would be regularly interrupted, talked over or reminded that I was a woman and would not need as much money as a man would. It felt like I had no voice because nobody was listening. When I arrived in Ireland, I realised that gender inequality was not the only problem I would face. As a woman of African descent, I also faced racial inequality. I have been called a black monkey and told to go back home. I have been subjected to a stricter level of scrutiny compared to my white colleagues. There were a lot of stereotypical judgements and labels attached to me and people like me because of our skin colour. It is emotionally and mentally challenging to go through this each day. Despite my qualifications, I found it extremely difficult to get on the career ladder. I was told that I was over-qualified for certain jobs because I had a master’s degree. So, to get my foot in the door, I had to completely delete my master’s degree accreditation from my CV, which was devastating. I’ll never forget when a recruiter said: ‘Oh! Your English is really good!’ – during a phone conversation where I rang to check on the status of a work placement application I had made weeks earlier. That was an unconscious comment that highlighted an assumption she made about my level of spoken English based on my name. I soon realised that to build a career here in Ireland, I had to prepare to take a few steps backwards before I could move forward. I also experienced a lot of microaggressions in the workplace. A supervisor assumed I bought my work clothes from charity shops because they looked expensive. I also felt that there was a code for ‘acceptable’ forms of emotions. It felt like I wasn’t allowed to express my authentic self. There was absolutely no room for individualism.”

“However, one thing I was keen to do was to turn my experience around and be the change I wanted to see, to be a role model for other migrant women and for my three daughters. That motivated me to become a voice and a beacon of possibility for others so that whatever their life choices are, they know they have an opportunity to have their brilliance shine through. In doing this, I inspired others to become beacons of possibilities too. I have always hated unfairness. I cannot fold my hands and watch someone being treated unfairly. I can’t be a silent observer. I am a passionate person and have a deep desire to do work that allows me to make a difference, so this naturally drew me to my path on diversity, equity and inclusion because it’s really about making a difference. I connected with people within my community and realised that I wasn’t the only one going through these challenges. In fact, people from refugee backgrounds or those seeking asylum had more challenging experiences than I did. I decided to connect with them, understand how our challenges connect or differ and how we all can come together as one strong voice to bring about change. It gave me an opportunity to listen to the poignant stories and migration experiences of these women. The more I listened, the more I told myself that I needed to do something about it. I decided to volunteer on several social inclusion and community integration boards and forums where I had the opportunity to represent ethnic minority communities. For over 8 years, I coordinated and facilitated several women empowerment events and training programmes.”

“I would say that my personal experience, values, volunteering roles were the drivers that led to me setting up PhoenixRize, my Diversity & Inclusion consultancy. With the critical support from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, I was able to develop and grow, and I now help migrants, like me, to better integrate into Irish society. They can pick up their lives more quickly, with less heartache, so that they can resume contributing to society as quickly as possible. I also provide bespoke training and consulting for company leaders, executives, HR, managers and staff on Anti-racism, Microaggression, Allyship & Privilege, Unconscious Bias, Inclusive Leadership, etc., so that they can dismantle oppressive systems and create and sustain inclusive workplaces where everyone will thrive regardless of gender, race or whatever diversity dimension they may have. In this way, PhoenixRize tackles the problems of conflict and division in society from both sides of the equation so that everyone benefits.”

This post was highlighted by @SocialEntrepreneursIreland who are providing financial bursaries to people with ideas for solving social problems.

SEI is making €8,000 of funding available in amounts of up to €500 to people with very early-stage ideas for solving social problems to carry out some initial research and scoping. Everybody is welcome to apply, but SEI is particularly encouraging applications from people from under-represented communities. 


Applications close 11th November.