• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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IWD: Fresh insights emerge as ACCA elevates discourse on gender bias

IWD: Fresh insights emerge as ACCA elevates discourse on gender bias

When the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) gathered experts and sundry stakeholders in Lagos to mark this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), it elevated conversation on gender inequality as captured in the slogan for this year’s celebration, #breakthebias.

The ACCA event which had as theme, ‘The Nexus Between Women Inclusion and Economic Performance,’ highlighted some of the areas humanity, especially men, show biases against women.

These biases which translate into exclusion of women from getting access to equal opportunities with their men counterparts come at great cost which Ibijoke Faborode, Founder, #ElectHER, estimated at $95 billion.

In her keynote speech at the event, Toyin Sanni, Executive Vice-Chair, Emerging Africa Group, listed corporate leadership, politics, entrepreneurship, access to finance as some of the areas where women suffer bias.

Citing a recent MCKinsey Study, Sanni noted that, in the private sector, women globally occupy less than a third of senior and middle management positions, adding that women in the financial services industry make up about 30 percent of the workforce at the senior management level in Africa.

“This is bested only by the healthcare and TMT (Telecoms, Media and Technology) industries which have higher representations of 39 percent and 33 percent respectively,” she said, pointing out that women do 2.6 times more unpaid care and domestic work than men.

Sanni noted further that, globally, only one in three businesses are owned by women. On the surface, she said, sub-Saharan Africa boasts of a decent rate of women entrepreneurs, at 29 percent (World Bank), but when one digs deeper, one finds that in many countries in Africa, most female-led enterprises are small businesses with little opportunity for growth.

In access to finance, she said that an issue to consider is that of financial inclusion which, according to her, means the availability and equality of opportunities to access financial services. “Women face unique obstacles in accessing financial services, especially in the African markets,” she noted.

Read also: IWD: Nestoil Group celebrates women, drive parity

Describing politics as the big one, Sanni noted that women serve as Heads of State or Government in only 22 countries, and 119 countries have never had a woman leader while only 21 percent of government ministers are women, with only 14 countries having achieved 50 percent or more women in cabinets.

She recalled how, on March 1, 2022, all gender bills proposed on the floors of the Nigerian House of Representatives and Senate were rejected by a National Assembly that comprises 95.9 percent male representation.

For Taiwo Oyedele, Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader at PwC, the bias against women goes beyond all that. “Women are 47 percent more likely to suffer severe injuries in car crashes because safety features are designed for men, just as women are likely to experience more medical side effects because drugs are designed for male bodies,” he said, citing the UN and the World Economic Forum.

According to him, women globally own less than 20 percent of land while 33,000 girls become child brides every day, thereby making it harder for them to achieve their full God-given potentials, adding that, statistically, a woman is less likely to default on a loan facility, yet female entrepreneurs get less funding for business than their male contemporaries.

Oyedele agreed with Faborode that humanity loses a lot by being biased against women. He explained that “when we exclude women in economic activities, policy formulation, governance, leadership, access to education, job and career opportunities, we limit our possibilities.

He noted that embracing gender equity is not a favour to women as it benefits everyone socially and economically. “From an economic perspective, when women earn income, it means better child nutrition, health and education. I do not think that women are really asking for any special treatment, they are rather asking for equal opportunity to be considered based on their competence and capacity,” he said.

He noted further that despite having a few women in top positions, especially in the private sector, the reality is that many of them had to work harder than their male contemporaries to earn those accolades.

Oyedele suggested practical steps that could be taken to reimagine gender equity and break the bias. These, according to him, included the need to change mindset, challenge status quo, stereotypes, and questionable cultural practices and seek education to address unconscious biases.

He recalled a time when twins were killed after birth on the belief that they were evil. “That was not our culture, it was a barbaric act built on pure ignorance; thank God we stopped. We need to see gender discrimination in the same light; it belongs to the stone age; we cannot afford to be stuck in the past, “ he advised.

Sanni, on her part, recommended tackling discriminatory social institutions which, to her, are the root causes of gender inequality and they include formal and informal laws, social norms and practices restricting women’s rights and access to opportunities.