Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor, Lagos State, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have all renewed calls for more gender-focused initiatives that will create increased opportunities for women in leadership, employment, and entrepreneurship in the Nigerian private sector.
They made these calls during the inaugural edition of the Gender Leader Awards (GLA) which was held in Lagos on Thursday. Being implemented under the Nigeria2Equal (N2E) program, the GLA is designed to recognize and celebrate private sector companies leading the way in gender equality performance. The hybrid event brought together captains of industry, capital market regulators, policymakers, and investors among others.
Delivering his keynote address, Sanwo-Olu, while commending the IFC and NGX, said the programme is transforming the landscape for gender equality across the nation. He noted that no nation can achieve its full potential without harnessing the full opportunity women present.
According to him, “Gender equality is not only a normal imperative, but also an economic necessity, as it is essential for sustainable development and the overall prosperity of our nation. Therefore, I am proud to say that Lagos State is at the forefront of these efforts, and we are dedicated to promoting initiatives that empower women and girls and provide equal opportunities for all. We know that women face challenges but when they do, they face them squarely. We have also seen that when women are in the picture, things move faster, we get value and we see quicker and better results”.
He thereafter commended the companies who participated in the Nigeria2Equal programme while reassuring that his administration is willing to partner with more organisations that focus on promoting interest in women and the girl child in the society and the country at large.
“Your unwavering dedication to reducing gender gaps and fostering a more equitable workplace serves as an inspiration for us all. As you celebrate your accomplishment, let us keep instilling beliefs around gender diversity and continue to challenge the status quo, break down barriers and ensure that men and women alike have equal opportunity to contribute to the growth and prosperity of our nation,” Sanwo-Olu said.
Earlier in her opening remark, Dahlia Khalifa, IFC’s regional director, Central Africa, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, citing a World Bank report, said the global economy suffers a staggering loss of $172 trillion and that is due to the disparities in lifetime earnings between women and men, a loss that all economies are suffering.
“When there is an ecosystem that provides equal opportunities for women and men, more women thrive and that can contribute more meaningfully to Nigeria’s economic growth. Increasing women’s participation in leadership positions can foster diversity”, Khalifa said.
Corroborating Khalifa, Temi Popoola, Chief Executive Officer, NGX said that as a leading multi-asset exchange catalysing Africa’s sustainable development, NGX’s commitment to business practices that support diversity and inclusion is resolute.
Popoola stated that all stakeholders in the market and society at large have a responsibility to drive change not only within organisations but in society at large. “We must employ our influence to advocate for policies and practices that promote gender equality. We must challenge the status quo and actively work towards dismantling the systemic barriers that hold women back”, he said.
Umaru Kwarainga, group chairman, NGX Group in his remarks said, “The population of our country Nigeria is almost equally divided between the male and the female gender and we cannot afford to leave either gender behind if our country Nigeria is to move forward. It is therefore very important that every organization puts in place policies or practices that encourages diversity and gender inclusiveness. We at the NGX, as a platform where many corporates are listed, are committed to gender inclusiveness and have issued valued guidelines on disclosure of issues around diversity and gender inclusiveness”.
In a goodwill message, Lamido Yuguda, Director General, SEC who was represented by Deputy Director, Exchanges at SEC, Mahmud Mukthar, lauded NGX and IFC’s efforts and called on companies to engage in activities that promote gender equality and the creation of more opportunities for women to ensure a more inclusive capital market and the economy as a whole.
“As a regulator, with the mandate of protecting investors, the SEC welcomes all initiatives that promote investor confidence and enhance the efficiency of the capital market. I assure you, the SEC has continued support, engagement and collaboration in providing a level playing field for all listed companies to thrive,” he said.