When I was a first-year undergrad in Ghana, I had come to the UK to work to support myself through school and was living with my brother in a town called Didcot about 30 minutes from Oxford. One day, my brother drove me to Oxford University and I remember he parked under what to my memory seemed to be a canopy of trees. He said in our native language ‘Nana Akua (my local name), this is the Oxford University we have read and heard so much about.’ I remember saying as I looked around in awe, ’I wonder what it would be like to be a student here.’ You see, if you had told me then that I would eventually walk the same streets as a student, I would have laughed ‘til the cows come home. Why do I say so?
I am a child to parents who only had minimal education themselves, combined with the societal expectation of women. The best I should have aimed for was a first degree and yet as a result of the generosity of foundations like Laidlaw, I am now pursuing my second master’s programme.
When I started thinking of pursuing an MBA in 2017, I really wanted to do it in a reputable institution because I had experienced first-hand the opportunities and access that brings. However, it quickly became apparent that the only viable option would be to combine school with work. This situation was not ideal, considering the intensity of MBA programmes and so, year after year passed as I looked into suitable financial solutions. An Oxford Saïd alumni told me about the Laidlaw Foundation in 2021 and the more I researched it, the clearer it became to me that they were looking for me! They were looking to hold my hand, to unload some of the burdens and barriers that have plagued my journey and to open doors to lifelong networks that would help me attain my full potential as a female leader.
Because of this scholarship, I am able to immerse myself completely in my coursework and enjoy the full Saïd Business School and wider Oxford experience without the burden of constantly worrying about my financial constraints. When I found out that I had made the Dean’s list for the Michaelmas term, it was not lost on me that this scholarship made that possible. Thank you.
Being a Laidlaw Scholar has put me in positions like this; to interact with influential people I otherwise would probably have never met and to eat at places I may not have thought to go to. My highlight so far has been the high tea event at the Ashmolean Museum - fascinating.
As we approach the last phase of this journey, I have begun to think a lot about the future. While it is not all clear to me at the moment, I am certain of one thing. Women in leadership are the future and for my part, I must continue to be a female champion and intensify past efforts towards the creation of a network of female leaders in the energy sector to serve as an oasis for nurturing and developing a constant stream of female leaders in the sector.
I would like to conclude by extending an appreciation to the foundation for choosing us eight scholars. By that decision, you acknowledged and validated our past achievements as worthy of note. You have also empowered us to fearlessly chase our dreams without inhibition. Just know that wherever our journey takes us, the Laidlaw Foundation will always be an integral part of our story.