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MEET BOLA AJOSE

Megan Raybould

21 October 2020

We're excited to introduce Bola! Bola is currently the Events Management Trustee for Bi Pride UK, she became acquainted with the world of trusteeship through the Beyond Suffrage programme.

As part of our ongoing work in support of Black Lives Matter, we will be sharing spotlight stories throughout October to celebrate Black History Month. We are working with Beyond Suffrage to share stories from some of the inspiring young people they work with.

Bola is currently the Events Management Trustee for Bi Pride UK, she became acquainted with the world of trusteeship through the Beyond Suffrage programme where she learnt key skills that prepared her for her current trustee position. As a Pharmacy graduate she is passionate about STEM communication and amplifying Black Women’s voices in these spaces.

What are you passionate about?

I would say that I have a lot of different things that I'm passionate about. One of the things that I'm quite passionate about is empowering young people to really understand and fulfil their potential.

I think for me growing up, especially as a young black woman, we tend to see different careers and think that they're not the path for us. So for example, I recently started my first Technical role and I don't think I really thought coding or any Technical job could ever be for me and that's because there were not many people that look like me that were in Tech, and even now. So, that's something that I'm really passionate about and overall just amplifying black women's voices in all possible sectors, and I think, in doing that education becomes so important.

So that would be another thing I’m passionate about, education. I would say that it all links, in order to empower young people, particularly young black women, you have to be able to provide good quality education.

Another thing I am passionate about good leadership, and I always say good leadership isn’t about being the next CEO or Prime Minister but it’s about taking ownership of whatever job/situation/your overall life and navigating situations with awareness. It’s about helping bring out the best in people in any situation and playing to individuals strengths. This for me is such a crucial skill that everyone should have and makes a massive difference in confidence and the ability to develop yourself.

What do you think the biggest misconception there is about trusteeship?

So the biggest misconception I had about being a trustee was that I needed to have loads and loads of experience before I could actually contribute to the charity, and that's simply not the case.

I think with being a young trustee you may feel like there's not much you can contribute, but you have a lot to offer, you've gone through life and you've had a lot of life experiences which are so valuable and can be used to better a charity. When you're passionate about something, and when you clearly want to help bring impact to a charity, you can always learn on the job. There are people there to help and support you, so you shouldn’t feel that way. Often many boards just have the same people, who live the same lives, saying the same things and that isn’t always good as you need different perspectives and so it's very important to have young people who can come with a different angle and offer something else. Again, it shouldn't be just one type of young person, it should be a range of different people who have different life experiences that can contribute to a charity and who are passionate to make that change - and that's the most important thing about being a trustee.

Some people may be hesitant to apply for trustee roles and think they don’t have much to offer a trustee board. What is your advice to them?

I think I covered this a bit in the last question and wanted to delve into it more, I have even felt this way and thought I didn’t have much to offer a board especially as a young person. However, simply put, you have so much to offer any board and what you really need as a trustee is that passion, initiative, and the willingness to learn; that alone will benefit any board.

What a trustee is there to do is have that strategic oversight, and if you believe that you can do that, then go for it!  Even if you don't have any experience, if you can think about things logically, and strategically and are willing to learn, then that's all you need. You tend to find there is at least one person on the board that will take you under their wing, and that will support you, that you get to the point where you are very comfortable being a trustee.

Lots of young people experience impostor syndrome when they first start out as trustees. What is your advice to them?

Impostor syndrome is so real and it's really difficult to even sometimes realise that is what's happening because it just creeps on you. As I've said before you have every right to be on the trustee board as much as anybody else in that room. And don't forget you went through some sort of a recruitment process to get there - so people want you there, and they are eager to have your input and listen to you.

I think my biggest advice to overcome impostor syndrome is to find communities that will support you. Trust me, I’ve definitely experienced impostor syndrome, not just in trusteeship but in so many areas of my life and, being a black woman, it's definitely something that comes to you a lot because it's just hard to see people that look like you in these positions. But the beautiful thing is that there are so many different communities that are looking to support people and find like minded individuals.

The Beyond Suffrage community, for example, have been so supportive throughout my trustee journey, not only giving training but having a group to lean on when things got difficult. So I definitely think, everyone should have some sort of community that it they can rely on, and even with the young trustee movement, we have forums, and different events that we can go to to help us get to know other people and get to share stories because we're not the only people going through this impostor syndrome.

I would also say, you are still learning on the job. So, if there's a certain area that you feel kind of unsure about, you can just ask someone on the board if they can help you understand it a bit more. If you are ever offered the opportunity of having a mentor, definitely take that up because that's something you can talk to your mentor about and they can help you with.

But overall I think it is just having that inner confidence and understanding what your role is and how you contribute and being secure in yourself, that even if you don't know everything now you definitely are learning; and you definitely have the right to be on that board so you should never doubt yourself in that way.

This blog was created in collaboration with Beyond Suffrage. You can find out more about their trustee training programme, here.

Don't forget to listen to this month's episode of Boardroom Bookclub too! Listen here.

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