It’s spring of the year 2020 and Yetunde A. Odugbesan-Omede is beaming as she walks off the set of her new talk show. The click of her heels echos down the hallway leading to her corner office. As she opens the door, the first thing she sees are photos of her husband and two kids in beautiful frames on her desk. To the right is a bookcase, decorated with dozens of awards she has received for her work empowering women. And if you look closely, you will see six books the bestselling author has written. She stops in the middle of the room and slowly looks around, full of joy and thankfulness.
I’m not a psychic. But I can predict this will happen, because the talk show, the books, the second child, these are all things Yetunde told THE VOIX she is working to accomplish in the next five years. And since past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, we know her goals will come to fruition.
Yetunde A. Odugbesan-Omede is a woman of many talents. She is the CEO of Yetunde Global Consulting, LLC., a management consulting firm specializing in leadership development and training, organizational management and business branding. She is also the founder of Young Woman’s Guide, an organization that provides holistic leadership development for young women. She’s the creator of Putting Your Best Self Forward, an online forum that provides personal and professional advice, and is the author of the book, Young Women’s Guide. All of that and she’s not even 30 years old!
Everything Yetunde does has one very important purpose – to improve the lives of women and girls around the globe.
“When women are empowered, the whole society is empowered,” she said. “I was so tired of seeing young women downplaying their natural abilities or the gifts and talents they had in order to make other people feel comfortable and secure around them. And I just felt that if more young women were able to really live out their truth and find their passion, it would produce change that transcends not only at an individual level, but also the world.”
Yetunde attributes her passion for women’s empowerment to the strong women in her life, women who encouraged her to believe in herself, speak up and speak out. “I have had the opportunity to not only have role models like my mom, but other women who sort of bridged the gap as well. They gave me advice and helped pave the way.” Yetunde encourages women to live out their purpose, but she also challenges men to do their part.
“Really encourage women whether it is your wives, mothers or sisters. Really encourage them to go out and lead,” she demands. “If they have a dream or if they have something that they really want to do, empower them and encourage them to fulfill it. Push them to pursue those dreams.”
She doesn’t want men to stop there. She added, “when we mention topics like equal pay, sexual violence against women or even broader global issues that may impact women negatively, it is important for men to get up and speak out against these things, not only to have women speak up. It is important for men to lend their voices to the discourse, like look, ‘These things are injustices to women, and there is a reason why we care about these things.’ When we hear these conversations, we only hear about how women feel about it. It’s very important for men to speak up as well.” The men in Yetunde’s life have propelled her into her destiny – from her father taking her to ballet class as a young girl to her brother helping her meet her husband.
“I met my husband when I graduated from high school in 2005 at a Nigerian reunion that my brother forced me attend. I was moving into college that summer and I was like, ‘You live in New York, I live in New Jersey.’ Since 2005 we have never separated or broken up; I continued being ambitious, setting goals for myself and accomplishing them. He cheered from the sidelines, and where he could help, he would always do so. And he still does to this day,” she bragged.
“It is really important to date someone, who not only respects you, who respects your family, who respects your friends, but everything that matters to you. You need to take that into account when you are dating. And you don’t waste time. Even though you are young, time is entirely fleeting. You have to make sure that you are investing your time into people and relationships that actually matter.”
The accomplished advocate, businesswoman, wife and mother of a two-year-old son has been blessed to travel the world and spend time with global leaders, including former President Bill Clinton and Winnie Mandela.
“To see, I think, the woman who I would say has played one of the most pivotal roles second to Nelson Mandela in the apartheid movement – I met her right after the passing of Nelson Mandela, so she was still dressed in her traditional garb of mourning. I spent my time just listening and talking to her privately about all that she has really been through, and she has been through a lot. That was one of the experiences for me that just made me say, ‘ wow’.
So how did a girl from New Jersey become so successful so soon? She answers that question without hesitation.“The fruit of everything that you see today comes from having a stable, balanced and nurturing, loving experience as a child.” She grew up with an older brother and immigrant Nigerian parents.
“I faced the dynamic of balancing two cultures – what was expected of me as a Nigerian child, and the American culture. It’s not about picking and choosing which culture is the best. It’s really about balancing the two and accepting that it is your complete and true identity. I look at it this way – I am a Nigerian-American, and I don’t believe that in order to attain the American dream that I have to forget where I come from. I feel like the world is big enough to accommodate the dualism that I come with. It’s really about embracing the Nigerian culture and also the opportunity that the American culture has been able to afford me.”
Growing up in a Nigerian household helped Yetunde begin to think globally at a young age.
“Some of the issues that happened in Nigeria were always at the discussion table,” she said. “I think this is what interested me most, like how do the global issues affect us locally, like how an aunt or someone would call from Nigeria and ask us to please send them money to help pay school fees. Then you start connecting the dots and realize that some of the cultural and social issues that are not dealt with at the more macro level trickle down and affect individuals; that sort of led me into really honing in on that and studying global affairs.” Yetunde is currently a Ph.D (ABD) candidate at Division of Global Affairs at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she is also an adjunct faculty member teaching Comparative Politics and Global Issues.
YETUNDE’S WORDS OF WISDOM
For women and men who don’t know how to discover and/or pursue their purpose, Yetunde offers these words of wisdom.
“Purpose is about serving. Purpose is not necessarily about being successful or winning accolades and achievements. Your purpose is there to make a difference in other peoples lives. Ask yourself what you are really interested in. Find something that you love doing, that even if somebody didn’t really pay you for it, or the economic opportunity wasn’t much, that you would still do it. Because out of that is where you find your purpose.”
Images: ADM Worldwide/Yetunde Odugbesan