Very few women break through the glass ceiling in their careers. This is not necessarily because women are not hard working; it’s just that no matter how much they try, the barriers and limitations to their advancements seem to be stronger than their efforts.
Most often, these barriers are rarely acknowledged by the society. Little wonder, the few women that break through the obstacles are celebrated across the globe. It is an obvious truism that for a woman to succeed, she must have worked twice as much as her male counterpart, otherwise, her efforts are unlikely to be recognized.
Considering therefore how tough it is for a woman to get to the top in her career, one is bound to acknowledge the efforts of the successful ones among us. That is why it is of great importance to salute the tenacity and resilience of Dr. Stella Smith, and celebrate her achievements, which is the purpose of this book.
Stella is no doubt, one of the best scientists that Nigeria has produced. Her research efforts, which have led to various discoveries in her field of study and top position as the Director of Research, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, is an obvious testimony to Stella’s hard work especially in a male-dominated society like ours.
Having worked as editor of a national publication in Nigeria, I know that the road to the top for career women in Nigeria can be full of thorns. There are different levels of discouragements, frustrations and temptations to quit. But smart women know that the solution is not in quitting but remaining tenacious. This is one of the reasons why Stella has been able to forge ahead in spite of targeted frustrations to discourage and bring her down. The good news is that today, Stella is recognized as one of the few Nigerian women pulling their weight in science, excelling in science and research. Stella is not only the pride of womanhood, she is also the pride of NIMR, the organization she has helped to reposition to the world, making it a foremost research institute in Nigeria. She has 154 scientific publications and 11 scientific research grants to her credit and her lab is currently the only lab in the country where culturing of helicobacter pylori (a type of germ that lives in digestive tract or system) is done.
Through Stella’s efforts, the research institute convened the first ever Alexandrabon Humboldt kolleg (an international conference) this year. Stella brought the conference to NIMR contrary to the usual practice of hosting such conferences in universities. A researcher of over 30 years standing, Stella would be the first researcher in the country to bring this first of its kind conference outside the walls of a university.
Interestingly, growing up as a child, all that Stella wanted to become was a medical doctor. Somehow, in spite of her brilliance and intelligence, she didn’t get the cut-off point to study medicine, so she ended up reading microbiology. It, however, didn’t take her time to discover that this was the course she was born to study. She soon discovered that the more she read microbiology the more she was interested in doing research.
Stella has gone through the good, the bad and the worse in her 30-year career at NIMR. But, no doubt, everything has worked together to produce the indefatigable Stella that is being celebrated in this book.
Stella now lives for legacy. To her, the most important thing in life is to be oneself as it doesn’t really matter how much anyone could go out of their way to make others happy, especially in a workplace environment, or how much one creates an enabling environment and make people happy, when it is time, they can still stab you in the back and move on.
Rather than dwelling on things that do not add value to life, Stella is contented to be buried in her research works, mentoring young researchers and encouraging them to be focused, to set targets and have a definite plan for themselves.
It is amazing that Stella and her husband, Sam, the author of this book, have been married for over 27 years. Sam has over the years, proved to be a great pillar of support for Stella. His love for her is indeed exemplary and worthy of emulation.
I therefore encourage everyone to read this book for it is bound to enrich the readers’ knowledge and motivate them towards greater heights as they peruse the driving forces behind the success story of Dr. Stella Smith.
Reviewed by Olabisi Deji-Folutile, Former Editor, Saturday Punch, Executive Director, Winning Edge Limited.