Abenaa, a lot of people call me by a pet name: Abbie
Accra, Ghana. (Working in London at the moment).
What do you do?
I’m an oil and gas lawyer. I used to work, in private practice, for the energy and natural resources team of Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa & Ankomah. Before then I worked for the government, mostly on energy and power matters. I have now moved in-house to an oil company where I work as legal advisor mostly assisting with issues that come up while the company is putting out tenders and placing contracts. This means I own a lot of black (and white) and I am enjoying incorporating colour into my wardrobe.
Why did you decide to embark on your chosen career?:
(laughs) I hear my dad taught me to say I would be a lawyer when I was about 2 and it stuck. He’s a lawyer and definitely had a lot of influence on my career choice. I like to read and enjoy writing, even arguments, and so a job in the legal profession felt very natural to me. I also like to think that law can improve people’s lives positively and that was a process I wanted to be a part of.
Please describe your average day (i.e a day in the life):
I’ve been picking up good habits for the past year, so now my day sounds very ‘respectable’. I am trying to transform myself into a “morning person”, so I wake up early – even when I don’t have to. When I wake up, I try (operative word, try) to do 10 minutes of cardio – this is essentially jumping and dancing around to a fun playlist to prevent myself from diving back into bed, and then shower. I then have breakfast; that’s another new habit I’ve picked up over the last couple of months. I have realised it’s actually important to eat
well in the morning. It really has a great effect on my day.
Because I wake up early I usually still have enough time to take a photo in the morning for IG. This serves 2 purposes for me, I have a record of what I wore and when so I can rotate my clothes. When I don’t do this I forget and will wear out a particular set. 2.I bought a DSLR and so I make up every excuse to use it. After that I drive to work and listen to Yfm’s morning show on the way. I listen for DJ Vision’s Loud and Live slot – he plays a fantastic music mix that makes me all sorts of happy.
It can be a bit tricky to pick an average day, because anything can come up from HR, employment, commercial issues, regulation etc. But a common feature of my day is meetings [ugh].There’s also quite a bit of document review, but I don’t want to alarm you with the enthralling details of that. The thing about in-house is that it’s more about managing risk and understanding the business’ operations than just knowing what the law is and clocking billable hours. Throw in the usual politics in human organisations and it’s an interesting maze to navigate through.
How would you describe your workwear style?
It was once described as “Jessica Pearson from suits with some sprinkling of Olivia Pope and Rachel Zane” I love suits, blazers and tailored clothes, generally. I love shoes and accessories. I think they are the magic ingredient to transform an outfit. On Fridays, I wear something African print or a piece (like a necklace/bag /earrings/shoes) by a Ghanaian or African brand.
Where do you shop for your workwear clothes?
Frankly I don’t enjoy shopping in Ghana. I’m tiny and the shops and boutiques just can’t be bothered with that. Numero Uno, Mango and Ruby’s boutique in Accra often have things that can fit me. T.M Lewin and Hawes and Curtis have small sizes as well. When I do find things that fit me they are either outrageously expensive or I struggle with the quality of the fabric or cut. So I have 95% of my clothes made for me. I go shopping for my fabric, dream up the styles or mimic something that I like, find the accessories (buttons, trims, zips) and find the right tailor/seamstress to bring it to life for me. I have been doing this for years so I have a couple of go-tos now. I have been playing with the idea of doing it for other people too as I really enjoy it and already do this for some friends.
What do you love the most about your city?
I love that it’s hot, with an ever – expanding social scene. I can’t dress up to my heart’s content in London because even though the clothes are here the weather doesn’t always cooperate. I am ‘cold-blooded’ so I get cold too easily and end up cocooning myself in layers. Not fashionably, lol.
Seriously though, I love how friendly and fun loving Ghanaians are. People watch you and step in to assist as soon as you falter or seem unsure or yourself. (Downside, it’s almost intrusive at times!) You can ask anyone for help and you’ll probably get it. Accra is a capital city but that community feeling is still exists on some level and that’s quite sweet in this cynical world.
What is your favourite place to go in your city?
The beach! ….and places that have good food. (laughs) if I had to pick one place with both elements in one place in Accra, it would be Labadi beach hotel.
What do you wish was better about your city?
Transport and accommodation.
I’m lucky enough to drive, but I wouldn’t dare stunt in Accra in sky high stilettos on a trotro (public transport) – that might end in injury – for you and/or the shoes, lol. Jokes aside, a more organised, less stressful system of public transport is essential for a city like Accra. Uber is in Accra now, so things are looking up. If a widespread train or tram network could be dropped in the transport mix that would be great. Nice apartments in good areas are eye wateringly expensive and usually priced in foreign currency. This keeps people in less than ideal situations. Those are the two things that I wish were better about Accra.
Is there anything about the culture/city that makes things hard for working women?
The traditional roles of women as homemaker/wife/mother definitely provide a challenge for working women. You have women climbing the corporate ladder who have to contend with family or people around them being critical of them not working hard enough on their ‘family’ life. So if you’re single you should be married, if you’re married you should have kids, if you have kids you should be focused solely on them and not so much on work. There is also the problem of some companies not having room at the top for high achieving women. I’m lucky enough to have worked in organisations where there is an emphasis on empowering women. But even in private practice, litigation is a male dominated field. So aluta continua, vitória é certa.
What are your hopes for the future?
Millionaire by 30! it’s almost too late for that maybe 35, lol!
To smash all my goals and be in a position to inspire and empower people by showing them that what they dream of is possible too.