The G20 conference attracts international attention and debate each year as world leaders, economists and academics meet to discuss global issues. What a lot of people don’t know about however, is that the G(irls)20 conference meets several weeks before the G20, where young women from each of the represented countries discuss and debate advice and proposals for the world leaders to consider during the summit. This took place in Germany this year on the 20th of June.
G(irls) 20 was launched in 2009 by the Clinton Global Initiative with the aim of placing girls and women at the heart of the economic decision making process, by advancing the idea that increasing female labour force participation will generate growth, stabilize communities and countries and lead to social innovation. Women aged 18-23 can apply to represent their country in the summit. The first global summit was held in Toronto in 2010, and has since moved around the world alongside the G20. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau is a strong supporter of the organisation.
‘advancing the idea that increasing female labour force participation will generate growth’
As the summit began I was lucky enough to interview the UK delegate this year, Dunola Oladapo. At only 22 years of age, Dunola has secured a position at Morgan Stanley as an FX trade support analyst. Her cheerful personality became clear immediately as I introduced myself and dove into my first question. ‘Can you tell us a bit about yourself?’
‘I’m 22 and I am passionate about making life better for others. I am a First class Honours BSC Economics graduate from Royal Holloway, University of London and I now work at Morgan Stanley. Alongside this, I am a Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassador, a leadership board member of the #iwillFund and a Girls20 Global Ambassador. I have had the honour of representing the UK this year in Italy at the Youth G7 Summit and in Germany at the Girls20 Summit.’
My next question asked ‘how did you get involved with the G(irls) 20 summit?’
‘Girls20 caught my eye at the bottom of a chain-mail a friend sent me. Some quick desk research brought up their website- I loved everything I saw and because of my experience and background in this area, immediately applied to be the 2017 Girls20 UK ambassador.’
Dunola explained how she had to apply as ‘the application process requires submitting 10 short essay along with a video answering the question ‘how do you empower others to be the best version of themselves?’-I went through this process and nervously waited. Not long after, I was overwhelmed to hear that I was one of the two applicants shortlisted per G20 country. The final stage included being interviewed by the incredible Farah Mohamad (Girls20 Founder and now Malala Fund CEO). Finding out I was selected to be the Girls20 UK Ambassador was an incredibly overwhelming, exciting and humbling moment for me’.
Focusing on the G(irls)20 itself, I asked Dunola what she had learned from the experience and the other delegates.
‘I have learned that the issues women face are universal- the specifics maybe idiosyncratic to different communities, but it is fair to say that worldwide there is a lack of female leadership and labour force participation. Listening to the delegates and speakers, I learnt of different issues women face from Argentina to the MENA region to South Africa, to the United States.’ Dunola emphasised ‘I am proud to be a part of a group of young women advocating for change, not only in their country of origin, but on a global level’.
I am proud to be a part of a group of young women advocating for change
Dunola’s story is very inspirational, her hard work has truly paid off and helped her to get where she is today. Having moved from Nigeria at a young age, she also brings an international perspective to her work. Being a delegate for Girls 20 also provides you with the chance to start a project of your own in your country. Dunola explained to me how she is planning on starting a mentoring program with young girls in Luton, where she grew up. Her goal is to provide young women with the same drive to succeed that she has, and to also encourage them to choose the subjects to study, and career paths that they want to. Boosting the confidence of women to enter STEM subject paths is something she feels strongly about, and her program will really look to tackle this in the Luton area.
I was interested as to who had inspired Dunola in her hard work, and asked her ‘Who are your role models?’
Her response was quick, ‘hands down my mum- she is an incredibly strong, talented and hardworking woman, but equally is the most selfless, encouraging and supportive person I know. In addition, I look to Indra Nooyi as a role model- she continues to rapidly excel in the business world as PepsiCo’s CEO, while paving the way for world-class, professional leadership. And finally, Vivian Onano- she is a young, passionate activist who inspires me to speak out for what I believe in regardless of my age’.
My next question was ‘what advice would you give to University students and young women?’
Dunola laughed and explained ‘I feel its quite hard to give advice as I only graduated last year.’ She continued to add that ‘if I were to say something I would just say go for it. This is because when I was at University, especially in my final year I was the sort of the person who did a lot. I was the President of African-Caribbean Society, I was the Black and ethnic minorities’ officer, treasurer for the business and investment society’, ESOL English tutor to young refugee and asylum seekers, and Dunola’s impressive list goes on. ‘At the same time I was doing my economics degree that was quite rigorous, and taking Zumba classes that I absolutely loved. You get people saying you can’t do this and you need to do that, or you can’t do everything, but I think its important people really know themselves. I’m not saying everyone should do so much, but I was doing what I really enjoyed and it doesn’t feel stressful as I found value in it.’
Dunola’s advice has really shaped how she is after University as she explained that she is ‘so driven to help make these policy changes, and that is why right now having a full time, intense job at an investment bank, I am still finding time to think about how I can contribute innovatively and positively to my environment. It’s not so difficult because I was so committed at university.’ With regards to how to get more experience in different fields, she argued that students should ‘build your CV and find things that will help you stand out. Also make sure you speak to your careers service.’ Laughing again she added ‘I am a huge advocate of the career service.’
I am still finding time to think about how I can contribute INVENTIVELY and positively to my environment
Dunola concluded the interview by summarising her advice, ‘basically, go for it, do everything that you want to do, give yourself a chance to explore.’ With a focus on community she explained ‘I am huge advocate for social activism, if you can find time to volunteer – do it, please do consider what you can give back. It isn’t just good for your CV but also for your personal development.’ With regards to women at University age she told me ‘for young women, study everything you want to study. I feel like at university age you already know this but, go for it, apply for it, ask questions and really enjoy yourself along the way.’
The G(irls) 20 features delegates who are inspirational in many different ways. From all around the world, all of these women demonstrate and advocate the clear importance of boosting women’s education globally, and helping women to become more engaged in political discourse. The United Kingdom luckily provides women with this chance, but some countries aren’t so far forward in achieving this. Dunola explained that the G(irls) 20 promoted the idea that it is economically advantageous to encourage women to become more involved in the workplace, and in STEM subjects and careers. This is the main principle behind the founding of the organisation.
Dunola’s message is clear and inspirational ‘Girls 20 is an incredible organisation and I would really encourage everyone, men and women, boys and girls to really think about women’s issues and global issues. We need to all commit ourselves to achieve change.’