How I evolved in media executive capacities – Ugbodaga

Paulyn Owhievbie Ugbodaga is the Executive Director of DAAR Property at DAAR Communications PLC, owners of Raypower FM, Faaji FM, and Africa Independent Television (AIT). She is also a passionate gender equality advocate.
In this chat with ENE OSHABA, she shares her 35-year journey in broadcast journalism holding pivotal roles within DAAR Communications, among others.

Can you give insight into your 35-year journey in broadcast journalism and managerial roles?

I serve as Executive Director of DAAR Property at DAAR Communications PLC, owners of Raypower FM, Faaji FM, and Africa Independent Television (AIT). I have held various positions within the organisation. These include Executive Director, News and Current Affairs, DAAR News Services for four years, Executive Director, Administration/Human Resources and Development for seven years, Managing Director, Raypower FM (Radio Services Network), for four years and Zonal Director, South West, for one year among other management positions over the years.

What inspired your media career, and how has your background in Dramatic Arts and Public and International Affairs influence your journey?

As a young girl in the 1970’s, I always thought I would like to work on radio. However, I did not consciously choose that path. It was a fortuitous posting during my national youth service year to the news and current affairs department of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Abeokuta that decided my career path for life.

My first degree, which was in Dramatic Arts, helped me to apply some of the acquired training in acting, scripting and directing to excel as a radio, and later, a television presenter, newscaster, programme anchor and news and current affairs productions over time. My second degree in Public and International Affairs helped me hone my innate organisational and administrative skills amongst others.

As Executive Director of DAAR Property, what are your key achievements and challenges?

I have only just assumed this role. It is early days yet. However, with support from some of my colleagues, I have been able to fashion out a workplan for the next twelve months.
However, my roles in various executive capacities at DAAR Communications have provided me with diverse experiences that have shaped my approach to leadership and management in the media industry. Leading radio operations, administration, human resources development, and news and current affairs departments has honed my strategic thinking, communication skills, and ability to navigate complex challenges. This multidimensional experience has equipped me with a holistic understanding of media operations and organisational dynamics, allowing me to lead with vision, empathy, and effectiveness in driving growth and fostering a positive work culture. But I must add that there have been highs and lows. Nonetheless, these have been gratifying experiences.

As a gender advocate, what key issues need more attention for gender equality in Nigeria?

These include, but are not limited to the following: gender-based violence, here we need to be able to address and prevent domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other forms of violence against women; ensure equal access to education for girls and address cultural and economic barriers that hinder their schooling; promoting women’s access to economic resources, job opportunities, and entrepreneurship. In other words, economic empowerment. Legal reforms which should aid strengthening and enforcing laws that protect women’s rights and address discrimination; improving access to comprehensive healthcare services, including reproductive health; increasing women’s participation in politics and leadership roles and challenging societal norms and stereotypes that perpetuate gender inequality. We need cultural change.

I have tried to apply myself conscientiously to publishing relevant articles on the subject. I have participated in a few programmes and events focused on the elimination of gender-based violence. I’m currently working on a television magazine on the subject which should start running soon.

How can the media more effectively raise awareness and drive change on gender issues?

The media can play a more effective role in raising awareness and driving change on gender issues by featuring stories of gender-based violence, discrimination, and the achievements of women to educate and inspire; running targeted campaigns to promote gender equality and challenge stereotypes; ensuring diverse representation and voices of women in newsrooms and media content; producing documentaries, talk shows, and articles that focus on gender issues and solutions; partnering with NGOs and advocacy groups to amplify their messages and reach wider audiences; and investigating and exposing injustices and holding perpetrators and institutions accountable. By leveraging its reach and influence, the media can drive societal change towards greater gender equality.

What challenges do media organisations face in addressing gender-based violence, and how can these be overcome?

Media organisations in the country face several challenges when addressing sensitive topics like gender-based violence. These include deep-seated cultural norms and stigmas that can discourage open discussions about gender-based violence; journalists may face threats and harassment when covering sensitive issues, leading to self-censorship; lack of funding and resources can hinder in-depth investigative reporting; fear of defamation lawsuits or government censorship which can deter media from covering controversial topics; and the fact that some media personnel may hold biases that affect the objectivity and sensitivity of reporting.
To overcome these challenges, media organisations can equip journalists with skills to handle sensitive topics responsibly; partner with NGOs and advocacy groups for support and resources; implement measures to protect journalists; and encourage unbiased and inclusive reporting through editorial guidelines.

How has continuous learning from workshops and conferences contributed to your growth and effectiveness as a leader?

Participating in these workshops, conferences, and training programmes has significantly contributed to my professional growth and effectiveness as a leader. These continuous learning opportunities have kept me abreast of the latest developments in journalism, media management, and human rights. They have helped sharpen my skills in strategic thinking, ethical reporting, and effective communication, enabling me to lead with vision and integrity. Engaging with experts and peers has broadened my perspective, fostering innovative approaches to tackling gender-based violence and advocating for social justice. This commitment to learning ensures that I remain a dynamic and informed leader in the media and advocacy sectors.

Most importantly, compassion drives my commitment to justice, enabling me to connect deeply with those I advocate for, particularly survivors of gender-based violence. Resilience helps me navigate setbacks and challenges, ensuring I remain steadfast in my mission despite obstacles. Adaptability allows me to respond effectively to the ever-changing media landscape and societal needs, innovating and finding new solutions to persistent issues. Together, they empower me to lead with empathy, sustain my advocacy efforts, and inspire others in my professional career and human rights work.
My vision for both the media industry and gender advocacy is
to help improve the standard of journalism in Nigeria by helping to foster a culture of ethical reporting and inclusivity in the media industry. This, I hope to achieve by lending a hand in training young journalists. I aim to leverage my platform to amplify marginalised voices, especially those of women and children, and to drive legislative changes that enhance protections against gender-based violence. In gender advocacy, I envision creating comprehensive support networks for survivors, promoting education and economic empowerment for women, and championing policies that ensure equality and justice. Ultimately, I aspire to contribute to a society where gender equality is the norm, and every individual is respected and valued.

How will you continue promoting social justice and fighting oppression and violence?

By leveraging my media influence to highlight critical issues and advocate for change. I hope to be able to engage in grassroots campaigns and collaborate with NGOs to provide support and resources to marginalized communities. Through educational initiatives and public awareness campaigns, I aim to challenge societal norms and promote gender equality. I will work towards strengthening legal frameworks and policies to protect vulnerable populations, ensuring that justice and human rights are upheld for all. And that’s a promise!

How has the media industry’s approach to gender issues and support for women in leadership evolved over the years?

I have witnessed significant progress in the Nigerian media industry concerning gender issues and support for women in leadership roles. Initially, gender issues were often swept aside or hardly mentioned, but there has been a notable shift towards more inclusive and sensitive reporting. Media outlets increasingly highlight stories of gender-based violence, women’s rights, and female achievements, raising public awareness and sparking important conversations. However, they could do more. There is a growing recognition of the importance of diversity in leadership. More women are now occupying senior positions in media organisations, bringing fresh perspectives and driving change. Training programmes and mentorship initiatives have emerged, empowering women to overcome barriers and excel in their careers. Despite these advancements, continued efforts are essential to ensure sustained progress and equality within the industry.

What further changes are needed in the media industry to better support gender equality and women’s empowerment?

The media industry needs to implement several key changes. First, increasing representation of women in all roles, especially leadership positions, is crucial. This can be achieved through targeted recruitment, mentorship programmes, and career development initiatives. Second, media content should consistently highlight and address gender issues, challenging stereotypes and promoting positive role models. Third, implementing and enforcing strict policies against workplace harassment and discrimination is essential to create a safe and inclusive environment. Lastly, continuous training on gender sensitivity and ethical reporting for journalists will ensure responsible and impactful coverage. These steps should collectively foster a more equitable and empowering media landscape for women.

How do you balance being a media executive and an advocate for gender issues in a male-dominated industry?

I prioritise tasks effectively, allocating time for both professional responsibilities and advocacy work. Additionally, I leverage my position within the media industry to champion gender equality initiatives and amplify the voices of marginalised communities. Ultimately, my passion for social justice fuels my efforts to balance these roles and make a meaningful difference in both spheres.

Have you faced gender bias in your career? How did you overcome it?

Yes, I encountered gender bias and stereotypes in the very early days of my career. At the time, it was both about my gender and my age. Initially, some doubted my ability to lead due to gender norms and expectations, and due to what was perceived as my rather young age. To navigate these obstacles, I focused on showcasing my skills and expertise, demonstrating that gender was, and is still not a determinant of capability. I sought out mentors, some of whom were unaware of their selection, and allies who supported my aspirations and provided guidance. By consistently delivering results and challenging stereotypes through my actions, I earned respect and recognition. I must say, though, that DAAR Communications PLC has consistently had women in well earned leadership positions over the years.
However, mentorship and support systems have been instrumental in my career, providing guidance, encouragement, and invaluable insights. Mentors have offered invaluable advice and helped navigate challenges, while support systems have provided a sense of community and empowerment. Through these relationships, I’ve gained confidence, expanded my network, and overcome obstacles. They’ve played a pivotal role in my professional development, enabling me to grow, learn, and achieve success in the media industry and advocacy work.
The media industry can also create better support systems for women to thrive in their careers by implementing mentorship programmes, providing leadership training tailored to women’s needs, promoting diversity and inclusion in hiring and promotions, establishing policies to address gender discrimination and harassment, offering flexible work arrangements, and fostering a culture that values and respects the contributions of women. These initiatives will help women navigate challenges, advance in their careers, and thrive in the media industry.

What strategies do you recommend for women to assert themselves and gain respect in a male-dominated environment?

Women can assert themselves and gain respect by speaking confidently and assertively, ensuring their voices are heard; demonstrating expertise and competence through their work; building strong professional relationships with colleagues and mentors; setting clear boundaries and advocating for fair treatment; asserting their worth and value, refusing to downplay their contributions; supporting other women and fostering a culture of inclusivity; and continuously seeking opportunities for growth and advancement.
By confidently asserting themselves and demonstrating their capabilities, women can earn respect and thrive in any professional setting.

Are there barriers to women reaching executive positions in media, and how can they be addressed?

The biggest barriers are gender bias, lack of mentorship opportunities, limited access to leadership roles, and cultural expectations of women’s roles. These barriers can be dealt with by implementing policies that promote gender diversity in leadership, providing mentorship and professional development programmes for women, challenging stereotypes and biases, and fostering a supportive work environment that values and promotes women’s advancement based on merit and capability.
To better support gender equality in the media industry in Nigeria, workplace policies and culture must undergo significant changes. This includes implementing gender-sensitive recruitment and promotion practices, providing parental leave and flexible work arrangements, establishing zero-tolerance policies for harassment and discrimination, fostering a culture of respect and inclusivity, promoting mentorship and leadership development opportunities for women, and actively addressing unconscious bias through training and awareness programmes. Also, offering support and resources for underrepresented groups, creating opportunities for employee feedback and engagement, and holding leadership accountable for fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect for all employees, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or background.
What valuable lessons have you learned as a female leader in the media industry?

The importance of resilience in the face of adversity, the power of collaboration and mentorship, the necessity of advocating for oneself and others, and the significance of using my platform to amplify marginalised voices and drive meaningful change in the industry.
My personal experience with gender-based challenges has fueled my advocacy work, driving me to combat inequality and injustice. It has shaped my approach to leadership by instilling empathy, resilience, and a commitment to fostering an inclusive and equitable environment. I strive to challenge stereotypes, and empower others, drawing on my experiences to advocate for meaningful change.
I hope to foster a more inclusive and equitable media industry and society. By challenging stereotypes, and advocating for gender equality, I aim to inspire meaningful change and create opportunities for all individuals to thrive and contribute to positive societal transformation.

What advice do you have for women in the media balancing professional and personal responsibilities?

My advice is to prioritise self-care and set boundaries. Delegate tasks when possible and don’t hesitate to ask for support from colleagues or family members. Practice effective time management techniques and learn to say no to non-essential commitments. Cultivate a strong support network of friends, family, and mentors who understand the challenges you face. Remember to celebrate your achievements, both big and small, and prioritise activities that bring you joy and fulfilment outside of work. Finding balance is a journey, so be patient and be kind to yourself along the way.

Also, on aspiring to leadership in the media industry my advise for women is to pursue continuous learning and embrace every opportunity for growth. Work on building strong networks and seek mentors who can provide meaningful guidance. Be resilient in the face of challenges and assertive in your ambitions. Uphold integrity and ethics in your work, and always advocate for inclusivity and representation. Develop a diverse skill set, from technical expertise to leadership capabilities, and stay adaptable in the fast-evolving media landscape. Believe in your potential and strive to make a meaningful impact through your work.