Lucy Quist is the Bold New Normal

Lucy Quist is the Bold New Normal
8 min read

Lucy Quist is an international business leader and technology professional committed to advocating for greater participation of young people in STEM for development.

She currently serves as the President of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Ghana, and is the co-founder of the Executive Women Network in Ghana. Lucy also became the first Ghanaian woman to lead a multinational telecommunications company as CEO at Airtel Ghana (now merged with Tigo as AirtelTigo).

Lucy Quist

“I grew up in both the UK and Ghana which helped me develop an early appreciation for diversity. I was quite a playful child – smart but I really enjoyed active play. My active play was fuelled by my curiosity. I love to explore and understand the world around me. At home, I was exposed to basic engineering tasks through helping my dad. When I moved to Ghana I found primary school challenging for the first few months. I guess I was not used to the teaching methods. But I soon settled in and by the start of the next academic year, I was second best in my class. I have never looked back.”


Lucy Quist

“I went on to Wesley Girls’ High School because a senior I looked up to went there and so I was convinced that it must be a good school. I knew very little about the school otherwise. I am really glad that I made it there. It was an immensely empowering experience for me as a young woman. I was presented with examples of great women who had walked the corridors I was walking and had blazed so many trails for me to follow. The empowerment also meant that the most challenging academic endeavours were encouraged and aligned with my vision of my future. After Wesley Girls’ I attended the Presbyterian Boys’ Secondary School (Presec) for sixth form – the sixth form was mixed. Presec at the time had a science college with the best science equipment in the country. I also knew it would attract the best minds in science from both genders and was a great training ground for the future.”

Lucy Quist

Lucy was initially trained as an Electrical and Electronic Engineer.

  • You graduated from the University of East London with a first-class honours degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. What/who inspired you to pursue this?

“I have always wanted to be an engineer. My first choice was Electrical and Electronic Engineering as I had been exposed to this by my father. However, along the way I had explored the possibility of studying Chemical Engineering. What swayed me back to Electrical and Electronic Engineering was the fact that the automotive industry – within which I was working at the time – did not really need chemical engineers. I was determined to graduate first in class and, so I worked extremely long hours to make sure I achieved my goal.”

  • What was your first impression about Electrical and Electronic Engineering as a young woman?

“When I started practicing engineering I was not confident about my designs. I think that being young made the self-consciousness of being a woman even more acute. But I enjoyed the mental challenge and the collaboration with other engineers.”

  • You began your career as an Electrical and Electronic Engineer at Ford Motor Company in the UK. What was this experience like for you?

“I started my career in a factory where less than 10% of the workers were women. Later when I moved to work fully as an engineer, the percentage was even lower. Directly there were about 3 other women at my level and a woman in senior management. It was a very positive experience because all the way back then the company had a stated goal of attracting and keeping more women in engineering. It was a very deliberate effort that took into account any particular needs women have. A great example was their extended maternity leave policy where women were paid fully for a year of leave.”

  • You became the first Ghanaian woman to lead a multinational telecom company, Airtel Ghana, as CEO. What do you wish people knew about this feat?

“I would not so much call it a feat, but more a natural progression. The values and skills required were developed overtime. Regardless of gender, we have to be ready for the role we want to assume in future. My goal was to become the CEO of a larger corporation – the fact that I am a woman was not the primary focus. And that is an important point I would like to people to take away. We are each individuals and our gender happens to be a characteristic of us. We have no control over our gender, but we have the opportunity to fashion our skills, values and leadership style to achieve our goals.”

  • You started two initiatives; “Evolve with STEM” and “The Bold New Normal”. What inspired these?

“Evolve with STEM was born out of the realisation that as a country, Ghana was not having conversations about STEM. As a matter of fact, the percentage of undergraduates studying STEM fields is declining each year. I wanted to ignite the conversation and use my achievements to inspire a generation into STEM. When I started my advocacy I would even have journalists ask me ‘what is STEM’? That is how far back the conversation was. Inspiring generations meant personally going to schools, speaking and engaging on all available platforms to promote STEM. I believe representation matters. That young girl has a much easier task if she visibly has an image of a woman who has gone all the way in STEM.

The Bold New Normal has been with me most of my life but my TEDxEuston talk gave life to it outside my mind. I have seen the suffering of disadvantaged people around the world. They are part of our normal. But what if we questioned that normal? What if we asked ourselves what a great future would look like for them? And what if that vision meant that we change the way we talk about ourselves? If we talk positively of our future our mindsets will change. Changing mindsets will change what we do. We will start to act in line with the vision we want to create – a bold new normal. The two go hand in hand. We need new outcomes, but the continent is so far behind that we need STEM to accelerate the journey. For that to happen we must channel the potential of young people to ensure that they realise their potential.”

  • If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be, and why?

“Honestly, I will change nothing. Earlier in my career I learnt to be decisive about what roles I took. It always had to be progressive on my terms. It does not mean every move was an upward progression. But every move was focused on achieving my long-term goals. I am fortunate that I am able to do this with the support, love and care of a wonderful family.”