Sandie Okoro Interview – Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day

Friday, March 8, 2019

Phenomenal Woman – Sandie Okoro.

When Maya Angelou Wrote “Phenomenal Woman,” She Had Sandie in Mind

“What is the point of an important job if you don’t do important work….” – Sandie Okoro

On April 18, Sandie Okoro, the General Counsel and Senior Vice President of the World Bank will engage in a fireside chat at Harvard Law School with Professor David Wilkins, Lester Kissel Professor of Law, Vice Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession, and Faculty Director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School.

To mark Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, March 8, Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Associate Dean of International Affairs at Penn Law and Nonresident Fellow at the Center on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School talks to Sandie Okoro about leadership values, inclusion, and mentorship.

Studies on women, peace and security show that when women are at the negotiation table, there is a greater chance that peace endures. What happens when women lead the global economy and international finance? That is the question that fascinates Sandie Okoro, the Senior Vice President of the World Bank and the first woman of color of African origin General Counsel of the World Bank. Her role is historic and Sandie knows that she carries the weight of history of the venerable development bank on her powerful shoulders. She knows that she is a symbol of change—a woman who can shape a new narrative for the world’s largest development bank and the 193 countries impacted by the development policies of the Bank. Dr. Kim Yong, the Head of the World Bank, has said publicly that, Sandie brings “new legal approaches to international finance.” Sandie is doing that, but she is also doing much more on different fronts to transform the role of General Counsel at the World Bank.

Q: When did it all start? When did you know that you were destined to do great things with your life: 

A: I grew up in Balham, South London. On day, my mother had placed an old washing machine up for sale when the doorbell rang.  When she opened the door, a violent intruder barged into our home.  I was only three years old at that time and I called the police.  When the police came to the house he told me  “you are a brave little girl”. From that point, I knew I had to be brave.

In grade school, my teacher asked the little girls and boys what they wanted to be when they grew up. When it was my turn, I said, “I want to be a judge.” My teacher said: “Sandie, little black girls from Balham do not end up as judges.”  I decided then and there that I would prove her wrong.

Download the complete interview here.