Erica Moughalu is a banksman at APM Terminals Apapa. APM Terminals Apapa is located within the Apapa Port and is the largest container terminal in Nigeria. In this interview, Moughalu speaks on her role as a banksman and what it means to work at the seaport, which is a male dominated environment.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Erica Muoghalu. I am a banksman at APM Terminals Apapa. I work in the operations room, which is one of the biggest rooms in the admin building. I utilise the CCTV cameras to work hand-in-hand with the mobile crane operators, truck drivers, clerks in the yard, planning teams and equipment control teams. When there are issues that require my physical presence – probably damaged containers, I go to the field to have a physical look and generate a report.
What is your view on inclusion, equity and diversity in the workplace?
Diversity entails people from diverse backgrounds – family, work, gender. Inclusion talks about these people with different backgrounds coming together to achieve a common goal. They are in one environment despite having different backgrounds. Equity means giving everyone a fair ground to grow or play despite gender or age disparities. To me, inclusion, equity and diversity are the totality of what APM Terminals stands for since I have been here.
As a female banksman, do you think your opinions or ideas matter?
Of course, they do. I had past work experiences before I joined APM Terminals Apapa. I must say that in APM Terminals there is a culture of equality, inclusion and diversity. It is not something you have prior knowledge of if you have not worked in other places. You could tell that as a lady, your opinions matter. Whenever we are in a meeting or training, there is nothing like because you are a woman, you can do this but not this. It is a fair and equal ground for everyone to play. And whatever I merit is given to me. Though it is silent, but you see and experience it.
How does it feel working in a traditionally male-dominated shipping industry?
I actually had experience working in male-dominated departments in my previous workplaces and so it doesn’t come across as something strange. I don’t see it as something that should be stereotyped, but in the shipping industry it is a new thing for me but that I have male colleagues teaching and guiding me from my first day here. They taught me about containers, vessels, badges. I met this warm and welcoming atmosphere when I came in and that makes the environment more welcoming and inclusive for me.
Here you are given the opportunity to have a sense of ownership. You own your work; you are accountable for integrity on the job, and for me that is what I also stand for, and that alone. So I am psychologically safe and included to succeed.
Do you enjoy the same resources and opportunities as your male counterparts?
Absolutely! There has not been partiality in terms of gender. The atmosphere gives you an opportunity to shine and possibly outshine your male counterparts. There are no psychological or emotional biases, seen or unseen, conditional or unconditional that could come in a workplace. Of course, at some age, certain factors can come to play in women but I have also seen some of my counterparts here who are nursing mothers. They have flexible work hours, enough maternity leave and a psychological backing that they are safe on their job.
The theme of the 2022 International Women’s Day is break the bias. How is this important in the workplace?
It is very important to break the bias in the workplace. It is about a fair review of salaries, payment schemes, making organisational policies and programs in the workplace, which do not in any way adversely affect women. It talks about when the women are getting to a certain age, they take positions where they would still be relevant and may not excessively use their physical power, yet their technical know-how and skills are needed. It is also about ensuring that both genders are in the same place regardless of the noises out there. They may not be verbal comments; they could be behaviorally spoken even by fellow gender. But here it is not like that. APM Terminals has a positive work culture and this has given women the ability or a stepping-stone to shut out these noises and focus. When you are focused, you will definitely see the results on your productivity.
Do you think women are assuming more challenging roles at APM Terminals Apapa?
Before I joined APM Terminals, I read a lot about them in the media. When in 2018/2019 the process of bringing in women onboard began and I heard about it, I was glad because I always desired to work here. When I came in, women were assuming strategic positions like managerial roles, and of course I was happy. There is more accountability, questions are being asked which most times the other gender may not get to ask and they do come into play. The land is green for everyone to grow.
What progress have you witnessed in APM Terminals in terms of the continuous strive for a diverse and more inclusive environment?
What I have witnessed is also all over the news. APM Terminals is one of the best companies operating in Nigeria and Africa, we operate with the industry best practices and standards with regards to occupational health and safety and the kind of equipment we use. We have smart buildings; smart technologies and our IT personnel are top-notch. APM Terminals has made very huge progress. The world has changed tremendously from manual to digital. There were times things were done manually – the banksmen had to go outside to the quayside under the sun and inside the rain to do some jobs. But currently, it is not so. We now have shelters at the quayside, we use smart cameras to capture what is going on in the yard. The present upgrades in the terminal have made it easy for women to still be relevant without excessively working out themselves. They get to work smart. This is how APM terminals have continued to strive and improve on their diverse and all-inclusive environment.
What about equity in the workplace?
I have enjoyed equity. When I came in, the male folks immediately helped me to settle down. I experienced a warm welcome from both the male and female genders. Whenever we have our meetings, there is a fair ground for everyone to talk and when I have difficulties executing my tasks, my supervisor and superintendent are very helpful. The question of my gender does not come to play and it gives me the backbone to perform well on the job.
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