Vanguard (Lagos)

6 July 2012

Nigeria: You Will Never Find Me in a Skirt - Eyitemi Taire

interview

Tough is the best way to describe Eyitemi Taire. In a world where men have refused to shift grounds, Eyitemi has excelled.

You have been in the FMCG industry for all your career. What can you say as an insider that an outsider can never know?.

I have been privileged to work now in three major FMCG companies, with experience spanning across Africa and the Middle-East. I'm happy to have spent the major part of my career in FMCG companies where people and development come first. That is one thing about FMCG companies I think you can hardly find in other industries. People management and development is taken extremely seriously and to a very large extent, is managed without the level of bias you might find elsewhere. The FMCG sphere is quite competitive and I'm happy to say that it is becoming more so as the industry loosens up.

Has being a woman ever been an issue in the industry?

I know that a lot of women talk about the glass ceiling but I have never in any way felt limited by the fact that I'm a woman. I have always been certain that I can do anything that a man can do and those who know me can probably attest to the fact that I am a bit of a tomboy. There are more men at the top than women but I think that trend is rapidly reversing. One thing I am certain of as I sit here, is that I have no intention whatsoever of not getting to the top, woman or no woman!

Do you unwind? How?

I am passionately in love with my boys. I spend most of my free time with them and I try not to do too much that does not involve them. They are my greatest source of joy and I want to be their greatest source of joy. Our favourite programmes to watch together tend to be the crime ones .

Another thing we really enjoy doing together is eating. Boy, do we eat?. I like to make all sorts of "concoctions", mainly from my imagination or memory. I generally prefer one on one interactions so I like nothing more than hanging out and chatting with one or two friends in their house or mine. My idea of heaven is asking a couple of friends round for food concoctions and gists.

What is your take on fashion?

I'm not really a fashion-conscious person, especially in recent years. I tend to focus my attention on the few things that do suit me. I'm a lover of trousers, you will find me in trousers and a top most of the time. I am lucky to work in an organization with quite a relaxed dress policy so trousers and a top are favourites of mine. Having said that, I love dresses, with clean cut lines and no fuss. You will never ever find me in a skirt. I am really into bold colours and accessories. I love layering bangles and bracelets and rings have always been my thing.

What would you say is your style?

In terms of what I wear, I must confess that I haven't really outgrown my tomboy phase. I would say that my style is quite down to earth and certainly too casual. I have recently rediscovered makeup

What is your most prized fashion item?

I don't really care too much about material things. But for prized fashion item, I would say a diamond and a smokey topaz ring I wear all the time.

Women are often criticized for revealing dressing. What is your take on this?

I do think that women should not dress so revealing to the point where they look cheap. Showing off your "assets" is not a crime but a woman should know what flatters her but yet preserves her modesty. I definitely agree that you shouldn't show off too many parts at once. For example, if a woman wears a short skirt, I don't think she should reveal her cleavage as well. It is definitely more tantalizing to just show off a hint of what you have.

Do you have a beauty routine? What is it?

Yeah. I guess I have a beauty routine. My mother started sending me off to the old Chic Afrique hairdesser and spa during my school holidays, from the age of about 12. I guess she was hoping I would become very ladylike, like herself. I didn't, become very ladylike that is. But I developed a love of spa treatments which I still have to this day. I do have facials quite regularly and a good massage or body treatment is definitely an important part of my monthly repertoire. For daily routine, I make sure I cleanse my face twice a day. My most important beauty necessity is African Black Soap.

What is your take on CSR? Should Blue chips do less or more?

Blue chip companies are doing quite a lot although some of them could be more targeted and structured. CSR should be a win/win situation. This is a society in which whatever companies have to give can never be enough. At the same time, companies have to ensure that their CSR efforts also deliver benefit to them. Companies should not try to be in too many CSR areas - focus is the key to their differentiation. If they are going to do it, they might as well do it right.

Is there enough local content in blue-chip industries?

When I was young in the FMCG industry, local content ruled. You had very prestigious and well respected personalities heading up the best and the brightest companies. Today, the situation is quite different. Multinationals apparently feel that they have to protect their investments by keeping their companies run by expatriates at the very top, mostly from the company's home market. What this means is that a lot of our very senior and well rounded talent might not get the opportunities they deserve. But at the same time, the world has become a global village, there are many more opportunities for Nigerians to go out and excel in other markets. .

The corporate world is currently obsessed with entertainment. Why is this?

Jokes aside, I can tell you that entertainment is serious business. What companies of branded products and services are doing is focusing on three key streams of communication, where they look at the tangible benefits of their products, the emotional needs that these product segments meet and then the area where entertainment plays the biggest part, the translation of these brand messages into consumer experience. That is why entertainment around the key passions of consumers such as football, music, film and dance are extremely popular.

What is on your reading table right now?

The book I just finished is The Social Animal by David Brooks. It is a study of the part the unconscious mind plays in individual behaviour and decision making and thus ultimately in individual success. It is such a clever book and one that I want to read again very soon. I am also a fan of Malcolm Gladwell and also recently finished re-reading The Tipping Point for the upteenth time! It is a study of how phenomenon grow and tip into an epidemic. It is a book that I think has very serious learning implications for us here in Nigeria and I strongly urge everybody who can to read this paradigm shifting book.

Compared to what is obtained today, would you say moral values have fallen and what would say is/are responsible?

You have stumbled upon my greatest pet peeve of the moment, which is the way children are now being brought up. I do not claim to be an expert/know-it-all but as a mother, I have strong feelings about this. It seems to me that many parents are abdicating responsibility for the ethical grounding of their children, even if they don't know it. They think that a school or even a Church can substitute for their personal imprint on the moral landscape of the child.

As a career woman, could you describe some of the challenges you face on the job and how you cope with the men especially the surbordinates?

My biggest dilemma is balancing a career with the demands of my children and my home. It is a tightrope but I will continue to try my hardest to do the best I can on all fronts. Failure at work is not an option and failure at home is definitely not an option. We cannot all run the same race but I don't think it is too much to ask to expect people, men or women, to get by through their own efforts.

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