On her quest to help public and private sector organisations create inclusive work environments, Adaku Okafor founded her very own consultancy company, PhoenixRize Consulting. Adaku’s aim was to create environments where everyone can thrive and succeed regardless of the race, ethnicity, age, gender - or whatever diversity dimension they may have.
“In my former life, I worked as an accountant,” Adaku explains “but I hated it. Working in the financial services sector wasn’t my forte, so I moved from working with figures to working with people.”
After feeling that she was subjected to stricter scrutiny compared to her white colleagues,
Adaku decided to use her personal and professional experiences of racism and bias to help individuals who were in similar positions. “I set up PhoenixRize as these experiences were motivation for me. Like a phoenix I rose from the ashes of discrimination and racisim. So, we now help companies, organisations and leaders by training them on topics such as anti-racism, unconscious bias and inclusive leadership, just to name a few.”
Launching a company on your own is no mean feat at the best of times, but Adaku shares that she had an extra layer of challenges, being a woman of African descent living in Ireland. “One of the biggest challenges for me was gaining people’s trust, so they believed that I am good at what I do.
“But I also had my own personal challenges, for example I have a stutter and I had to deal with issues of lack of confidence, but for me it was my passion that conquered all fears. I was driven to make a difference. I thought if not me, then who? And if not now, then when?”
When launching PhoenixRize, Adaku had a mentor who saw more in her than she did herself. “Having a mentor is a gift - and I say that from my own personal experience.
“Being part of the March8 Mentorship Programme is my opportunity to give back. I know the benefits, I know the value and I know that for me to be where I am today, somebody held my hand. Somebody gave me advice, somebody opened the door to their network to allow me in. They recommended me where the decision making happens - that’s the power of mentorship.” But Adaku is also excited about meeting her mentor, as she believes that this will help her see situations with a different perspective, too.
Before launching PhoenixRize Consultancy, Adaku spent years in the voluntary sector, where many people would mistake her as an important member of staff as she would push herself, and the women she was helping to reach their potential.
She explains: “I’m driven to make a difference. Everyone deserves a chance, regardless of where you come from or what your challenges are. That is my mindset, and I believe that I’m doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do.”