Inny Ekeolu: ‘Class became visible to me when I went to study law’

The Women’s Podcast hears from two women excelling in their chosen fields of medicine and law

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Aghogho Okpara and Inny Ekeolu on The Irish Times Women's Podcast

“Class became visible to me when I went to study law,” explains Inny Ekeolu, a paralegal working with Deloitte in Dublin.

“I enjoyed my childhood… but I didn’t realise I was coming from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background,” she says, speaking to Róisín Ingle on the latest episode of The Women’s Podcast.

Ekeolu, who will start her solicitor training with Arthur Cox later this year, says it was a friend of a friend, also a black law student, who told her that to succeed in the industry, ‘you need to go above and beyond’.

“He said, ‘If you’re not from UCD, Trinity, if you don’t have rich parents, if your family is not in law, if you don’t have connections, you will not make it,’ and I remember being at the table crying, because I just wanted it so bad,” she recalls.


It was then, the young student from Dundalk says she realised “the importance of connections”. “I said, ‘OK if it’s a connections game, I’ll make my own connections.”

“I started doing everything, a lot of extracurriculars, a lot of public speaking, I met so many amazing people who taught me so much, who led the way… it really was years of getting involved, putting myself forward,” she continues. “It’s kind of like a full time job on top of studying full time, on top of commuting, or whatever caring responsibilities you have at home… it is a bit taxing, but I do think the rewards are worth it”.

Also speaking on this episode of the podcast, is second year medical student Aghogho Okpara. “In medicine a lot of people are coming from extremely privileged backgrounds,” she says. “A few weeks into medicine, I’d speak to people and they’d be like, my dad is a cardiologist, my mum is a paediatrician.”

When Okpara eventually qualifies she will become the first doctor in her family. It has been a long journey into medical school for the young woman who also creates content for a large audience on social media. She faced numerous rejections before finally getting accepted into UCD.

“I think people forget the amount of influence your background and your parents, your connections, all that has on who you become…I didn’t have anybody to ask questions to,” she says.

“I didn’t go to a fancy school so they didn’t have many students that applied to medicine and therefore they didn’t really know how to help me…so my school couldn’t help me and at home I couldn’t be helped…I had to really push myself to work hard”.

Hoping to encourage other young women from minority backgrounds to follow their career ambitions, Okpara says, “If you don’t see that person, become them”.

“When it comes to representation, sometimes you only get hope when you see somebody else has overcome a certain battle and sometimes you need to become that person for somebody else, " she adds.

“What I want to let people know, anyone who is in primary school, secondary school, college, whatever it is, if you’re from an ethnic minority and you think it’s not attainable to you, me and Aghogho are literal representations that it is… and we’re not the only ones,” says Ekeolu.

You can listen back to the episode in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan is an audio producer at The Irish Times