• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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IWD 2024: Investment in women under spotlight for economic growth

IWD2024

At a time the Nigerian economy is stuttering, female leaders have said the need to invest in women to unlock growth potential and spur development has become more urgent.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’, drives home the crucial role women play in leading social, economic, and cultural progressions and accentuates the call to invest in their empowerment.

Recent data from the World Economic Forum show that women remain challenged in different aspects of their lives, from their earnings, to access to quality education, and leadership positions. For instance, the global gender pay gap is 16 percent, and only 26 percent of managerial positions are filled by women. In addition, 130 million girls are out of school, and globally, women hold only 25 percent of parliamentary seats.

Gender balance is a strategic imperative because it reduces blind spots, eliminates groupthink and enhances decision making, according to Ivana Osagie, CEO of PWR Advisory.

“In today’s complex business landscape, gender balance becomes even more critical at the decision table. Our collective insight, perspectives, and experiences are our compass through these challenging times, ensuring superior outcomes for all stakeholders,” she said.

A research by McKinsey & Company said that advancing gender equality could add $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025.

“I firmly believe that investing in women is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity for accelerating progress and fostering sustainable development,” said Chinwe Egwim, chief economist and head of economic research at Coronation Merchant Bank.

She pointed out that investing in women means recognising and addressing the multifaceted needs and aspirations of women across all sectors of the economy.

This translates to providing equal access to education, healthcare, financial services, and economic opportunities; and empowering women to unleash their full potential and thrive in their respective fields, according to her.

“I have conducted a series of primary research and analysed anecdotal evidence that show the potential transformative impact that investing in women can have on economic growth, poverty reduction, and social well-being,” Egwim added.

For Ini Abimbola, vice president at Sustainability Professionals Institute of Nigeria, the first thing to note is that inclusion is not a favour done for women.

“Investing in women goes beyond empowerment, as we tend to think of empowerment. Investing in women to accelerate progress would include, amongst other things, redefining work cultures, implementing mandatory unconscious bias training in the workplace, as well as clear safety initiatives that protect women on all fronts,” she said.

In an exclusive interview with BusinessDay, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, deputy chairperson for the African Union Commission, said the IWD 2024 coincides with the launch of the second decade of implementation of Agenda 2063.

She said: “Africa aspires for each of its countries to achieve or exceed a middle income status by 2033, IWD 2024 theme reminds us that the more we unlock women’s potential the faster we will achieve the target.

“Women in Africa, like everywhere else, are the backbone of society. Therefore, let us all commit to reversing the trends: curb avoidable maternal mortality, grant access to education and skills, ensure parity in the workplace and equal pay, secure land and property rights, let affordable finance flow, open borders for her to trade and thrive, break the glass ceiling for her to lead, and let her show the way to peace building and sustainable security.”

Kemi Dasilva-Ibru, founder of Women At Risk International Foundation, said the theme holds particular significance when viewed through the lens of health, especially as it concerns female patients.

Statistically, women are more likely to seek health care, and this underscores the urgent need to prioritise investments in women’s health to propel societal advancement, she said.

According to her, women in Nigeria face multifaceted health challenges ranging from illness, maternal mortality to access barriers in healthcare services.

“Therefore, investing in women’s health is not only a moral imperative but also an economic necessity for Nigeria’s progress,” she said. “By ensuring women have access to quality healthcare services, including reproductive health services and preventative care, the nation can unlock the full potential of its female population.”

A lot has been said over the years on the need for inclusion in all ramifications, so much that

Thelma Ekiyor-Solanke, chairperson at The Nigeria Philanthropy Office, said ‘inclusion’ has become somewhat of a buzz word in the corporate world, adding that its true importance was overlooked at times.

This year’s IWD theme is crucial for ensuring that inclusion is a deliberate and continuous process that recognises that the status quo in many organisations and society at large systematically exclude, according to her.

She said: “We must all inspire inclusion by looking out for those groups of people who are voiceless or overlooked.

“In this case, we are focusing on women but it can also be the persons with disabilities, people suffering from mental illnesses or people discriminated against as a result of their tribe or religion.”

Osayi Alile, CEO of Aspire Coronation Trust Foundation, described investment in women as a strategic imperative for driving social, economic, and environmental progress.

“Women are a powerful economic force,” she said, adding that empowering them through education, skills development, and access to resources translates to increased economic productivity, higher national incomes and a broader tax base.

She said investing in women leads to better health outcomes for all, and that when women have control over their health and reproductive choices, they are more likely to invest in their children’s education and well-being.

“Therefore, this creates a ripple effect of positive health outcomes for future generations, reducing infant mortality and improving overall health standards in communities,” Alile said.

According to her, studies have shown that countries with greater gender equality experience lower levels of conflict and violence as a woman’s leadership fosters a culture of peace and stability.

“Investing in women is not simply a matter of financial resources, it’s about dismantling systemic barriers that hinder their full potential. This includes dismantling discriminatory laws and policies, promoting equal access to education, healthcare, and opportunities, and tackling harmful cultural norms that perpetuate gender inequality,” she added.

Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes, founder and managing partner of Aruwa Capital Management, told BusinessDay that she made it her mission to challenge the status quo and redefine the narrative of investment in women in Africa by changing the outcomes of the fundraising ecosystem and closing the gender funding gap.

She said: “At Aruwa Capital Management, we’re not just another investment firm, we are agents of change, driven by a passion for empowering women and fostering inclusive growth. Despite the biases (conscious and unconscious), women-owned funds and businesses face across Africa and globally, I am proud to run one of the few female-founded funds pursuing a gender lens strategy investing in female-owned and female focused businesses to empower women in Africa.

“I am proud to be pioneering a new era of investment — one that prioritises gender diversity and social impact. We are not only driving financial returns but also fostering economic growth and social development. My vision extends beyond the boardroom and C-suite; it’s about creating a more equitable world where every woman has the opportunity to thrive.”