Nkiru Olumide-Ojo’s “The Pressure Cooker” and its feminist Agenda – Toni Kan
Landscape Press Limited, 2017, pp.111)
am not sure whether I offered to review this book, The Pressure Cooker or
whether I was bullied by the author, Nkiru Olumide-Ojo into accepting to be the
reviewer because this is a book that is addressed directly to women.
Now forget the fact that I spell my name Toni with an ‘I’, I am actually a MAN.
Pressure Cooker is an agenda setting book. One that seeks to help define a path
for the career minded woman. It is not as much a map as it is a navigational
tool, a wish more than a command, one that expresses the hope that the author’s
personal choices and experiences can help influence a younger woman’s choices
and experiences as she navigates the minefield laden corporate landscape.
book has been described as a gift. But it is a unique gift, a labour of love if
you will, because the author has looked at her own life and experiences and in
an unselfish act of mentoring, decided to use her life as case study for what
to do and not do as a young woman intent on climbing up the rungs of the
makes Nkiru Olumide Ojo, the PortHarcourt girl with an Igbo mother and Edo
father an expert? Well, as my old English teacher used to say at St Patrick’s
College Asaba, “Experience is the best teacher.”
Nkiru has loads of those. She has worked in a hospital and in advertising, in
banking and telecoms, aviation and an FCMG and every job has seen her climb a
rung higher but while we have celebrated her strides as friends and family and
co-workers, many of us have not been privy to her struggles and battles to as
she writes “take space, knowing that you belong, and not wait for it to be
handed to you.”
words echo, in many ways, a quote attributed to the French Thinker and Nobel
Laureate Jean Paul Sartre who once asserted that “there is no given freedom” it
must be taken by force.
This is at the heart of Nkiru Olumide Ojo’s slim volume, the title of which came from a long running column in BusinessDay. The Pressure Cooker is her own way of capturing what it is to build a career with 3 strikes against you – Woman. Wife. Mother.
did say at the beginning that this is an agenda setting book and I will
explain. It sets an agenda for the woman intent on making a success of her
career in the dog-eat-dog corporate environment and to that woman, Nkiru says to
get ahead you must learn to add value and to add value you must focus on
quality over quantity.
sets an agenda for the human resource professional in how to engage with and
hire female staff. It also sets an agenda for a successful female executive who
wishes to mentor a younger woman. Here, Nkiru’s agenda is unequivocally female
(or feminist). Referring to the glass ceiling and what she calls “The Boy’s
Club” she declares – “men support their fellow men. It is time women started
doing the same.”
there is a conundrum at the heart of Nkiru’s feminist agitations. An overt
female agenda will be seen as gender insensitive and biased (a charge women often
make against men) but a gender neutral approach will perpetuate the male dominance.
This is a Catch 22 situation.
book also sets a psychological agenda with its well-presented thesis on how
working mothers suffer guilt emanating from feelings of abandonment of their
children. Nkiru’s insights demand further psychological enquiry. She writes in
her book of feeling “mummy guilt” when she had to leave her young children and
go to work. She also writes about two pitfalls young women starting out must
avoid – the “pride trap” and the “pity trap.”
and human resource professionals will find a treasure trove of insights in The
Pressure Cooker especially in the second chapter – “Get Over Yourself” and “Get
Ahead” where she points out clearly that “when it comes to getting ahead, it
has been my experience that the first and greatest battle you will fight is
to prepare for that battle, Nkiru like a true General, sets out parameters. She
says you must pay attention to “Self-Development”, carry out periodic
“Self-Assessment”, then learn how to “Collaborate” and “Communicate”
To conclude, I was not a big fan of motivational or self-help books but Nkiru Olumide Ojo may have found a way to make me a fan with The Pressure Cooker.