This BIPOC Women’s Foundation Advocates For Equal Representation In The Workplace

September 8, 2023

A recent study from Business Insider shows that out of all the CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, 37 are female, but only two are Black females. This startling statistic is Odihi’s drive as they work to address the lack of colour in top-level business positions to change the narrative for BIPOC women worldwide. Odihi offers a community to connect with industry experts, organizations and companies that offer leadership training and mentorship. We chatted with founder Efe Fruci to learn more. —Vita Daily

When and why did you launch Odihi? What niche were/are you aiming to fill?

The purpose of launching Odihi was to be able to support black women as a girl who was raised in Nigeria and a very young, and bright woman. I remember being nine years old in a classroom of 14, I was quite scared, and nervous because I was bullied and also pressured to do other people’s homework. But that aside, the whole dream really came on when I became ill at that same age. I remember just falling behind in the classroom, not really sort of following along with what was going on with my mathematics. I really, really struggled. I was so blessed that I had a mother who was a professor and she was a, you know, a well-known teacher at the time and she really supported me, mentored me, and helped me to get back on track to the point where I was able to graduate high school at 13. But it did reflect back in my mind, What about older people who do not have mothers like mine? What do they do? How do they get support? How do they move forward in the world to be able to achieve their own dreams and reach their fullest potential? So our work really began years before we registered in 2020 in Canada and opened our door on January 15th, 2021 when we started welcoming girls and women into our program and giving them access to our online learning classroom where they can actually access programs from over a thousand courses and so much more access to our mentorship, access to events and workshops that we had and community gatherings to town halls. It just sort of took off from there. A few years later we started our festival, which was a dream just to have a potluck in my streets after the pandemic when we’re all allowed to see people. I wanted to just know my neighbours as we had just moved into that neighbourhood before the entire lockdown. Then it turned into a beautiful festival called On Your Block Multicultural Festival where everyone belongs because it doesn’t matter who you are, we welcome you there. We also prioritize, especially with our artists and our vendors, those from the BIPOC community to be able to have a voice and also get connected to other people in the industry who could also support their dreams, their goals, their businesses, and shop local if you must.

What services does Odihi provide, to whom, and what makes these services unique?

Our services include our mentorship program with two of our partners, our boardroom and leadership program, Kwomais Changing the Colour of the Boardroom, and events and workshops that we often do around career and life preparedness that always starts at the beginning of the year. This is an eight-week program that runs every year. Of course, we also provide services such as our community events, like the On Your Block, Multicultural Festival, and Bigger Ideas Conference that welcome women from diverse backgrounds wherever you are, As long as you identify as a female, 19 plus, we welcome you to take space in there and connect with leaders and women who have already gone through similar journeys. We also offer services through our Gap, a program, an initiative that supports women who’ve gone through infertility or who are going through infertility treatments to become mothers and who have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth. We provide them with free access to resources as well as counselling and wellness support. 

Through Odihi, you are getting ready to launch the Bigger Ideas Conference on September 16; who should attend, and why?

The Bigger Ideas Conference is a beautiful thing. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a dream that has been circulating in my mind for over seven years and two years in the planning, to be honest, because I wanted to find the right people for this space, especially for the first year, it was really important for me to actually hand select them and talk to them and really see their heart, their intention of why they would say yes to my invitation. How does it serve them and how are they going to be of service to the women that I was hoping and now seeing that we’re going to invite for this day is because I knew that from the stories that I’ve heard, the challenges that I have faced and even the things that we get to see today in the members that were welcoming, the people that we support through different events, I could see that there was a great need for people to see them, to nurture them, to empower them, but also to be able to be a nest to them and give them those tools and walk them through difficult challenges and show them the other side of what that could look like. So the Bigger Ideas Conference is for women, anyone who identifies as women, 19 plus. We welcome you. We ask you to come and tap into this session to come and learn, to come and connect, to come and network to and listen, come and share. Come and take what you need from all these amazing speakers, the different breakout sessions. Is it about your business? Are you a newcomer and you need support around resources such as a student permit, as a PR person, or someone who is on a work visa, whatever that looks like to you? Come there is this place for you here.

Can you share one or two of your favourite Odihi success stories with us?

In our first year of the Boardroom Program, we achieved a significant milestone by securing two board positions for women who were not only newcomers to Canada but also relatively new to the country, with just one or two years of experience. This success was especially meaningful because it allowed these women to enter leadership roles in fields they were passionate about. One of them, a woman over 35, obtained a board position in Victoria and expressed how transformative it was for her career. Our Boardroom Program is designed to prepare women aspiring for leadership and board positions. We aim to equip them with the courage, confidence, and knowledge necessary to succeed in such roles when the opportunity arises. Our commitment is to set them up for success. Additionally, our success stories include hiring individuals who have participated in our workshops and mentorship programs. Many of them have transitioned into internship and employment roles within our organization, Odihi. We prioritize creating career opportunities within our organization before recommending them externally to other organizations seeking talent. We also regularly bring on interns who contribute to our program and help us improve as a charity organization. Their fresh perspectives are invaluable in our ongoing development. As the founder and executive director, I am always thinking about succession planning. I’m actively identifying and training individuals who may one day assume leadership roles within the Boardroom Program or our organization. Success, to me, is defined by the women we empower and the people we connect with daily through our work, conversations, meetings, vendor market participation, and invitations to various events. These individuals are the true success stories, whether we help one person in a month or thousands at a festival where we welcome over 4,000 attendees.


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