• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Women-simply indispensable in management and on Boards!

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There is always a suspicion when women advocate the greater inclusion of their gender at higher decision making levels, thatthey are merely trying to promote women’s agendas just for the sake of it. Whilst the visibility that comes with self-promotion may have its own attractions and benefits, there are truths about the need for the greater involvement of the female gender that transcend sentiment. Visibility is simply the starting point for achieving change because it calls attention to what the issues are.

The poor representation of women on Boards and at the highest decision making levels worldwide, costs organisations much more than they canever quantify in terms of the value of human capital (efficiency, ability, knowledge, talent and perspectives) andthe goodwill contributed by women, and thus has consequences for the intrinsic value of the organisation itself. Men and women think differently and the combination of the best of each has incalculable synergistic effects.Studies have shown that companies with women on their Boards outperform those which do not. Increasingly too, the soft issues that were considered feminine have become issues on which superlative performance is hinged – the psychological, emotional and welfare considerations ofpeoplethatcan greatly impact individual and therefore organisational performance. Such considerations often form part of the unspoken psychological contracts between organisations and their employees. Women

instinctively understand this and are able to translate itinto enhanced employee performance through initiatives that recognise these considerations. Ergo, the organisation makes higher returns on its human capital.

Many countries have introduced and are introducing policies to increase the participation of women and achieve some semblance of gender parity, particularly in Europe. In Africa, reports suggest that Kenya has made significant progress. In Nigeria, the President’s 35% Gender policy for female appointments into Federal and State Government positions has not been fully implemented. At the last count, the national average for the representation of women in all appointed offices in Nigeria was 12.96%,accounting for less than 50% of the 35% policy requirement!  The figure ranges from 0% in some States to 30% in only Ogun State! A 2011 report showed that women accounted for only 10.5% of Directors on the Boards of publicly quoted companies. Of these only 6.3% were Managing Directors, and 2.6% Chairmen. A more recent 2014 survey on commercial (high street) banks shows that only 19% of women are Board Directors whilst only 26% are in top management.In a

country of over 170 million in which women are said to account for 50 to 52% of the population, the neglect of its female assets has serious consequences for development and governance.

Whilst it is true that women are not being given sufficient opportunity to contribute, and there are often deliberate attempts to keep women from key positions, we have to choose to take advantage of the opportunities that exist. This means acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills, and being mentally, psychologically and emotionally prepared for the challenges inherent in taking charge and being part of key decision making processes. In effect, women have to prepare themselves to take their places at the top of the executive ladder and in Boardrooms. Our attitudes in some respects also have to reflect our desires – we should not always consider ourselves victims, neither should we rely on any special sense of entitlement. We are simply human beings who have a right to dream and achieve our dreams without impediment, whether gender, cultural or educational. That is a decision taken at the individual level- do you want it? Can you work hard for it? Are

you qualified? You should get it!

Indications are that we are reaching critical mass in the 21st Century in terms of successfully broadening awareness on these matters, and bringing to bear the necessary pressure to bring about the societal and organisational changes required to ease the way to the full participation of women as the other half of the gender equation.We understand that these changes will not happen overnight, and whilst Government policies mayinfluence societal attitudes and organisational behaviour, mere policies are not enough. There need to be sanctions for non-compliance and benefits for compliance … the carrot and stick approach is well understood even in family dynamics!

The time is right for these changes and women’s organisations are working in their different countries to push the agenda for the greater inclusion of women. At the Oscars on Sunday February 22, 2015, Patricia Arquette on receiving her Oscar decried the significant pay differences between male and female actresses in the industry and called for equal pay. On the entrepreneurial side, the success of female entrepreneurs lends significant credence to the ability of women not only to manage, but to initiate and to build multibillion dollar businesses.

WIMBIZ, Women in Management, Business and Public Service, a Nigerian NGO has picked up the gauntlet through its Women on Boards or WimBoard initiative to change the gender equation. WimBiz was appointed a delegate by the Federal Government (as an organisation representing women) to the 2014 Nigerian National Conference in Abuja where WimBiz made a case for policy broadening with regards to the 35% Gender policy, to include companies quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Its’ WimBoard Institute in collaboration with two top international Business Schools – IEBusiness School, Madrid, Spain and Lagos Business School in Lagos, Nigeria – was established in 2014 to offer programmes which prepare women for Board positions. WimBoard is also actively engaged in promoting the increased representation of women on Boards and in top management by collaborating with organisations on a one-on-one basis. WimBiz has an executive database of top level women who are

Board ready, and arranges executive mentoring (by both male and female Board – member mentors) for participants at our Institute programmes. These efforts address only the tip of the iceberg. Efforts must be made by others, by engaging with men, through education, and through mentoring and coaching, if real and lasting success is to be achieved.

The global theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Make It Happen’. Look around the world at all the challenges humanity is facing. All gender hands must be on deck to manage the situation! The time is indeed now for women to begin to contribute fully to the development of the world at all decision making levels and in all spheres of life. Let’s make it happen!

Ifeoma I. Idigbe