•Life Coach, Woman Activist & Speaker
Dr Laila St. Matthew-Daniel is an internationally recognized Personal Growth & Transformational Expert, Writer, TEDx Speaker, Emotions Coach, Executive Coach and Leadership Trainer with a passion to help connect people to their authentic purpose.
As the CEO of Jacinta Ltd, a Lifestyle Re-Engineering Firm, she uses her background in administration, psychology, behavioural science, NLP and Clarity Coaching to improve the performance of organizations to impact on their return on investment.
She works with executive leaders, especially women, to assist them to be emotionally resilient to withstand the stress of responsibility and leading direction.
18 years ago, she founded an NGO – ACTS Generation focused on empowering women and offering intervention in the area of domestic violence and abuse. To date, she has intervened in the lives of over 4,000 women, in different parts of the country, in advocacy, counselling and empowerment issues.
She believes that only when a woman is emotionally, spiritually and physically sound will she be able to take her God-given position as a builder, a healer and a nurturer of generations.
In this interview with City People’s Contributing Editor, IYABO OYAWALE (08033564055), Dr. St. Matthew Daniel explains how she’s sustained her life coaching business and advocates for other women.
Aside from being a life coach, you’re a woman activist, how did you get into woman activism?
As a young woman, I found I had a natural propensity for helping disadvantaged people. I dislike seeing people suffer in any way or form and it didn’t help that I had a heightened sense of the gift of discernment. With my earnings, I would pay for school fees, exam fees and in some cases, assist some women close to me with foodstuffs for the home. Sharing what I had was nothing to me and I still do so now.
Getting into being a woman activist was not planned but I found myself lending my voice to that sector due to my compassion and empathy for what society exposes women to due to various cultural and societal norms. Then I zeroed into advocacy for domestic violence and abuse, gender parity and empowerment for women. It has been a long journey spanning about 20+ years of advocating and intervening in that sector – working with other like-minded people and non-governmental organizations to get the government and people to understand the various ramifications of violence and abuse, and how it actually impedes growth and development in our society. Women from at least about 49+ of the society – and when they are not allowed to function in their full capacity, the development of the society is also set back by the same %.
Why did you decide to focus on women’s issues?
I will say I got the leading to focus on women’s issues because I relate more, being a woman myself, and also because I know what it feels like to be misunderstood and be sidelined as a result of my gender. Most times, people tow the path of being silent about injustices to women…they don’t want to be seen as being meddlesome. This is an attitude that has caused untold hardship for women – even men. It is an attitude that also gives perpetrators of violence and abuses the confidence to carry on their nefarious activities – that people will not report or even if they report, they find a way of circumventing repercussions. A child gets abused and they ‘settle’ the matter and then go on to continue the act. Other people see this and also feel they can get away with their own abusive behaviours. Advocacy over the past years is to encourage people to ‘speak out’ and report anonymously. Gradually, people are breaking the barriers of silence and ‘it doesn’t concern me’ attitude – because, at the end of the day, anyone can be affected by the actions of abusive and violent people.
How can women make it in Nigeria of today?
Opportunities abound in Nigeria for women to break the bias regarding what they can or can’t do. Over time, women have evolved from focusing on the profession and careers deemed to be only for women, like teaching, dressmaking, catering, nursing etc., to other areas like engineering in every field, journalism, the creative arts, entertainment field and so on. The important thing for women to do is to be focused, intentional and know their ‘onions’ – meaning that whatever they set their mind to do, they must be knowledgeable about it, and not depend on their femininity to do it for them. Contrary to what many think, men respect women who are competent and can ‘hold their own’ and still be feminine.
In your opinion, what are the career problems of Nigerian women?
Career challenges can be diverse depending on the sector. But most are around equal opportunities and equal pay – women still earn only about 73% of what men do for the same job.
Whilst it is bandied that diversity is good for business, realistically there are less than one in five CEOs in most top-level organizations. What happens is that representation issues stem from companies short-changing women during the hiring or promotion process.
Discrimination remains present in the workplace; sexual harassment is unfortunately not a thing of the past and the higher up women are promoted, the fewer women there are.
Also in some cases, challenges that women face in the workplace are the same as those for men. These challenges include work/life balance, parenting, juggling many responsibilities and multitasking.
How can these problems be solved?
Whether perceived or real, women leaders sometimes feel pressure to conform to the male leadership model and if she bends to that pressure, she sacrifices one of their own sources of strength and personal power.
The first step toward overcoming any challenge is awareness. Once aware, she can put some queues in place to remind herself to rely on her emotional intelligence and what the immediate situation demands rather than conforming to some role model and associated actions she is preconditioned to think are required.
Women can overcome this by staying true to and acting from their innate strengths (e.g. creativity and collaboration) in their everyday approach to work and by overcoming the inevitable obstacles. Women tend to lead from a more interactive, cooperative style which often results in strengthening the sense-of-team employees and inspiring a higher degree of commitment to strive to achieve the business’ goals. As I said, it is for women to be consistent in their areas of focus in business or career and be ready to upskill and elevate their capacity at every given point.
How do you think women can rise to the top of their profession?
Women can do anything that they are determined to do. So to rise to the top of their profession, they need to want to get there and this will take diligence in what they are doing, raising their voices, and being competent in what they are involved in. Women need to identify their unique talents, understand what they bring to their work environment to best enable success, and then, make sure their voice is heard. Not in an aggressive manner but with a confidence that only being confident and emotionally intelligent can enable. They need to speak up, speak out, and contribute. Women may experience difficulty with this in many work environments. So, it’s important to find a community within the organization – mentors, role models, and networking groups who can help them navigate through the organization and provide a support system.
What life coaching services do you offer?
I am a growth and development Coach, Facilitator and Trainer. I assist leaders navigate any issues that may compromise their ability to perform optimally in their very stressful positions through individual or group coaching. When organizations know the importance of coaching and mentoring for their executives, it brings about better work relationships and helps promote their health and wellbeing. We also train and facilitate on organizational governance, leadership and cultural transformation, through attitude and behaviour change which in turn enhances productivity and performance geared towards the organization’s vision, mission, values and goals.
I also give personal and accountability coaching to individuals who need clarity in their personal and work life.
How have you been able to sustain your life coaching practice?
Coaching is beginning to gain traction in Nigeria. People are beginning to understand that when they get stuck in most areas, it does help to get the services of an experienced coach to unravel the knots. Being diligent and passionate about one’s profession enables the success required for repeat and new clients. Experience and expertise break down apprehensive barriers from clients.
What are the challenges you face in your life coaching practice?
Personally, I do not have much of a challenge because I have processes in place to take care of challenges that may rear their head as in any kind of business one is engaged in. I also constantly upskill myself and my team to keep abreast of best practices in the coaching and training industry.
What are the highs of your coaching practice?
Being able to give people clarity in whatever challenges they may be going through or experiencing, gives me and my team great satisfaction. Also helping organizations to deal with cultural issues that cause a snag in departmental cohesion which leads to overall performance that enhances the company’s ROI
How have your life experiences influenced what you do for a living?
Life is definitely filled with experiences and it is how one views these experiences that can either make or break the person. Like most people, I have been through the good and the not-so-good and this is what has led to my ability to understand issues about the human being much better – aside from the educational knowledge gained. Experiential knowledge is powerful. Aside from my base foundation of business management – I went on to be certified in Life Coaching, NLP, CBT, Emotional Intelligence, and Emotional Freedom Techniques – all these assists in identifying and proffering solutions to issues that prevent peak performance, either in an individual’s life or the organizational goals. As research has shown…technical knowledge is 15% but the ability to lead, manage and be successful is made up of 85% of what is referred to as ‘soft skills’ which is what we focus upon in my organization. This is the key to success