[Mrs. Oppong started in banking as a clerk 13 years ago. She worked her way up to become first a supervisor and, two and one-half years ago, a branch manager. A woman in her early forties, she and her husband live in Accra with one child of their own and three of her sister's children. Philip Awekeya interviewed Mrs. Oppong in her office at the branch bank she manages in an Accra suburb.]
People call me manageress instead of manager because I am a lady head of the bank. My position as manageress entails several tasks. I am responsible for the bank's smooth functioning. I carry out supervisory and administrative roles by directing, overseeing and motivating the personnel working under me. I also communicate with the head office, other branches, institutions, and organizations that transact business with this branch. In addition I attend to customers and to members of the public seeking special assistance or information.
Although my job is demanding and takes much of my energy, I enjoy what I do. Each day presents new challenges in terms of how to motivate my staff to work to the satisfaction of our customers in order to earn a profit for the bank. As head of this branch, I am expected to promote high productivity to draw in new customers as well as retain old ones.
Through my job, I am able to widen my social circles. Most people who come to this bank for services are men and women of good social standing who serve in other key positions in the public and private sectors, and who are capable of rendering various forms of assistance to me either in town or even outside the country. Some even offer me handsome presents. This beautiful scarf I am wearing was given to me by one of our customers. I feel happy with what I am doing because the response of the community indicates that I am liked by them. I encourage my staff to constantly render quality services to all who come here.
It is therefore not surprising that I take delight in almost all the people who call on me to seek assistance. I never turn away anyone wishing to consult me in my office. I handle all people with tact, bearing in mind that my position as manageress is to attract people to the bank and not scare off active and potential customers.
I should not, however, pretend that I do not face problems in my job. I know far too well that most African men find it hard to tolerate women as bosses. It sounds odd that even in these modern times a good number of our men still naively maintain that women's place is in the kitchen. I therefore find myself in a tight corner, and have to do my best on the job to command respect from my male staff. I must constantly prove to them that although I am a lady, I am still quite capable of performing tasks that most men would appropriate for themselves. In spite of strong challenges from my male staff, I enjoy the work and if given the chance to start life all over as a young lady, would again go into banking.
Many things make me enjoy working with this bank. One is the fact that our branch has been equipped with computers and currency counting machines which go a long way to facilitate our work. In addition the building has been recently renovated. We now work in air conditioned offices. The whole work place has a beautiful atmosphere, with modern attractive curtains and beautiful flowers in the front. Everything in this bank is of high standard, from the services we offer to the atmosphere in which we operate.
I am proud to say that my performance is quite good. It meets the high expectations of my superiors at the head office. I earned my present position through hard work. For the two and a half years that I have served as head of this bank, I have come to realize that my success comes through my subordinates. I endeavor to promote cordial relationships among my staff. I entreat them to show respect for one another so that together we will succeed in our assignment. I do not limit my interest only to their work output but attend to their general welfare as well. For example, whenever I notice that any of the staff appears dejected or cheerless, I invite the person to my office to find out what is troubling him or her and then give the necessary advice or counsel. I encourage them to open up and approach me whenever they face problems either on their respective schedules or at home.
Besides giving advice and counsel to my staff, I also open my doors to outsiders who either wish to share their social problems with me or seek advice. I take great interest in people who call on me with their problems because it makes me feel that people have confidence in me and are prepared to confide in me.
In contrast to banks that have many branches, this organization has relatively few, thus the opportunities to advance to the top are more limited. Nevertheless, one does have some chance of getting to the top positions, depending on one's ambition and capability. What one must do in this organization is seize the smallest opportunity and push oneself up the ladder through devotion to work and honesty. Promotions in banks such as this one are hard to come by--especially for women. However, strong determination coupled with hard work can open the doors to the few senior positions to all, regardless of sex. I still dream of gaining further promotion to head one of the bigger branches in Accra.
My salary is quite attractive compared to what senior officers in the civil service take home at the end of each month. In addition I enjoy a handsome accommodation and car maintenance allowance, domestic servant allowance and a few others. I also enjoy an end-of-year bonus which I normally add to part of my savings for travel outside the country to take a good rest during my annual leave. Most Ghanaian civil servants do not enjoy the type of salary and other fringe benefits which I enjoy, and thus can't enjoy such luxury as foreign travel.
I am a London-trained secretary, and I belong to the Chartered Institute of Secretaries. I am also a member of the Ladies Association of the bank. However because of my heavy schedule I scarcely find time to attend meetings of the two associations. I am often occupied from seven thirty in the morning to about six in the evening, and too tired at the close of work to attend association meetings. Even when meetings are on Saturdays, I still find it difficult to attend because I often return to my work place to finish jobs that were not completed at the close of work on Fridays.
To be frank, there are times when I feel that my work is taking too much of my time and comfort. Seldom do I get sufficient time to be with my husband and children. Fortunately, my husband appears to understand and does not complain because I am away at work most of the time. Unlike other men who usually get angry with their wives because they stay away from home for long hours, he happens to be the opposite. He has the feeling that either of us must be prepared to lose a little somewhere in order to gain something useful for the family welfare. I try to make my family happy whenever I get the least chance to be with them--by sharing jokes or going on outings for relaxation.
I never suffer from boredom or complain of tiredness as most civil and public servants often do. I enjoy what I do daily to earn a living, and am committed to my routine duties. At the end of the day, I am satisfied that I have not wasted my time idling, and that I have achieved what I set out to perform. The secret of my job is that I love what I do and am totally married to it. I never do things in halves but fully and with devotion. Anyone who wishes to enjoy happiness from his or her work must learn to cultivate total interest in whatever job he or she is engaged in.