Hi everyone, I hope your day is going fabulously well. Remember how I promised to share the interview I had with The Fabulous Mrs. Elsie Addo Awadzi, 2nd Deputy Governor of Bank of Ghana during our Women Leaders Retreat in August, 2021? Well here it is. Grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy.
Ama Duncan(AD): Lady Elsie, it’s such a pleasure to sit at your feet today. Thank you so much for honouring our invitation.
Elsie Addo Awadzi (EAA): Thank you too for having me, Lady Ama.
AD: I recently watched a video you shared at a conference and couldn’t help but tear up. Many of the things you said spoke to me and I particularly loved your advice to women to find themselves. Please share the story about how you found yourself as a woman.
EAA: I grew up in the early 70s and 80s in a strict family setting, where I had to keep my head down, study hard, and stay out of trouble. There was very little room for going outside the confines of school work, church, and house chores. I also got an early start with education, so I was usually always one of the youngest if not the youngest in class. I went through much of my education until university without knowing who I was or what I was supposed to be looking out for in life.
Self-awareness for me started in University and later in Law School and in my early career. I fell in love with studying and working with the law, and that opened up new doors of opportunity to understand myself and my passion better and how I wanted to channel that. My passion and curiosity led me to develop new professional interests in finance, banking, policy and regulatory reforms, regulation, and teaching, and related areas. I got clearer and clearer about my self-worth with time, and made career and life choices from that perspective.
My relocation to the U.S. in my late 30s for family reasons was perhaps a major awakening for me, as I confronted the question ‘Elsie who really are you?’ I felt quite lost at the beginning in a foreign land. It dawned on me that all along, my view of who I was had been connected with my work and professional achievements and the validation society had given me in the past. I had to discover myself all over again a little at a time. I had to remind myself of what made me unique and what was in me that I had brought to the U.S. That unique personality, talents, experience, and values that were enduring, in and outside of Ghana.
Finding myself again was the key to charting a new course of personal and professional growth that would eventually bring me back to Ghana to serve in my current official role. Knowing who I am has meant that in addition to my official role, I actively seek opportunities to mentor and support others, especially younger women, to find their own self-worth and to pursue their dreams and passions diligently. I owe it to others just as many others have over the years invested in me.
I can’t stress enough the importance of knowing oneself intimately. Without that, there is the tendency to chase and pursue opportunities that may not be a good fit with who you are. The world is going to try to give you a vision of yourself which may not be your reality. So if you do not know who you are, how will you be able to pursue your unique path and fulfill your purpose?
AD: Wow, this is some profound truth! Speaking of roles, you’ve had some of the biggest positions in the country and you’re a woman, a wife, a mother, etc. Have you ever felt overwhelmed and how did you deal with it?
EAA: Interesting question, because that is a daily challenge. I have younger people ask me always whether it is easier to juggle my roles at my level. The challenge doesn’t get any easier. I have just come to terms with the fact that not all aspects of life are going to be perfectly balanced at the same time. So what I do a little better every day is to work smarter and make a little more room for self-care and for discharging my parenting and other responsibilities. There really is no perfect formula for all times, and I take it a day at a time.
AD: Fantastic response! Chai! Lady Elsie, in my dealings with women, I’ve realized that one of our biggest challenges is what goes on in our minds e.g. imposter syndrome, low self-esteem, etc. Have you ever had to deal with insecurities because of gender, age, race, etc. and how did you overcome it?
EAA: Great question Ama. The so-called “Imposter Syndrome” is real and women especially fall victim to that often. I felt that from when I set up my boutique law firm in my early 30s. It was then considered unusual for a young professional, a woman at that, to launch out on her own. I was however convicted without a shadow of doubt that it was the right thing to do to develop my niche in law and finance and to serve the world with my experience and passion. Developing the client base of the firm and growing the business was quite a challenge initially, not only because prospective clients were not sure whether they could trust me with their business, but also because there were times when I doubted myself. I soldiered on nonetheless and was determined to prove that I was a serious professional and that age and gender were not setbacks. My confidence grew with each client mandate successfully executed. Soon clients had become my biggest referees and success created more success and I eventually sold the firm.
Many years later on when I started working at the International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C., I felt lost again. I saw myself as a woman of colour from Africa, working with the best professionals in economics, finance, and law, from around the world including advanced economies who provided examples of what was considered “best practices” in economic governance that Africa wasn’t particularly known for. I worked in and on countries that were very advanced and I had to again believe in myself and remember the value I brought to the table. To overcome some of my initial self-doubt, I invested time and effort in finding mentors and coaches who guided and encouraged me. I began to discover how my previous experiences had prepared me for an international career and that was very helpful for me.
AD: I like that very much – know the value you bring to the table and leverage it– thank you! If there’s a little girl reading this, admiring how fabulous you are and thinking ‘I can never be like her’ what would you say to her?
EAA: Dear young lady, you can be better than me. There’s so much ahead of you and even the sky is not your limit. Keep pressing forward. Dream big and work consistently and patiently towards them.
AD: Yeesss! On a lighter note, what do you do to ‘happy yourself’?
EAA: For me, most of the time, if I’m able to get a few hours of sleep at night, I am happy and grateful. I tap into the love of family and dear friends, and that makes a difference. A movie night with my children, arranging fresh flowers, calming music, and good books are some of my favourite things to do for relaxation. I like to let my hair down when I can safely do so, hahaha.
AD: Aren’t you just awesome? Haha Before we wrap up, please complete the following questions…
If I could advice my younger self in one short sentence, I would say, “Elsie, love yourself deeply”.
I am fabulous because, “I’m fabulous”.
One book that has greatly helped me in leading is, “Discover Your True North by Bill George” which was recommended to me by a former coach.
AD: Fantastic! Thank you so much Lady Elsie. You have been amazing. We wish you the very best and keep soaring and inspiring.
EAA: Thank you so much Ama. It has been wonderful talking with you.
Well ladies and gentlemen, I hope you have been as blessed as I was on the day of this interview. Share with me please, what spoke to you? I’ll be looking out for your response. And if this blog post has been a blessing to you, kindly share it with others. Until then, keep being the fabulous you.