United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA), Transcorp Hotels Plc, Lafarge Africa Plc, Guinness Nigeria Plc and Nigerian Breweries Plc emerged as the top five companies with the most women on their boards as of July 2023, a new report has shown.
The report, titled ‘2023 PWR NGX Top 30 Gender Diversity Scorecard’, by PWR Advisory, an inclusion and sustainability advisory firm in Africa, said that of all the companies featured in the report over the last four years, nine, in particular, had recorded significant improvements in the numbers of women on their boards.
It drew its findings from a combination of company annual reports, company websites and the Nigerian Exchange Group website as of July 31, 2023.
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“One of them – UBA Plc – deserves special commendation because they have gone from 18.8 per cent in 2020 to topping the chart this year at 53.3 per cent,” it said.
It said the percentage of board seats held by women was 50 per cent for Transcorp Hotels and 45.5 per cent each for Lafarge Africa, Guinness Nigeria and Nigerian Breweries.
United Capital and BUA Foods had zero per cent women representation; First Bank of Nigeria Holdings, 9.1 per cent; International Breweries, 9.1 per cent; and Geregu Power, 11.1 per cent, according to the report.
The report’s authors revealed a marginal decline in the general number of female board directors to 27.4 per cent in July 2023 compared to 27.9 per cent last year. Men accounted for a large share of 72.6 per cent of the directors at the companies.
“Although this year’s scorecard has been expanded to cover the NGX top 30 and not just the 20 largest companies per previous years, the data tells the same story. The pace of change is slow and unsatisfactory,” they said.
According to the report, in the UK, the representation of women on the boards of FTSE 350 companies now stands at an impressive 40.2 per cent, as revealed in the 2023 FTSE Women Leaders Report.
“This comes three years ahead of schedule. It was achieved by senior business leaders from different organisations, with support from the government, all working together towards voluntary targets,” it added.
A report breakdown shows that 46.7 per cent of the companies have at least 30 per cent female board representation.
“Last year, 50% of the top 20 companies met this criterion. According to critical mass theory, 30 per cent representation is the threshold for minorities to be able to effect change,” it said.
It highlighted that only one company on the list has a female board chair, three of the 30 largest listed companies are led by female CEOs, two have no female board representation at all, and at the sector level, oil and gas and conglomerates both at 33.3 per cent, show the other sectors.
Ivana Osagiem, founder/CEO at PWR Advisory, said boards need a diversity of perspectives around the table to unlock new, innovative thinking, drive sustainable growth and grow a bigger pie for all.
“Businesses need to be more inclusive – with employees, customers, suppliers and all other stakeholders. The push for diversity and inclusiveness must start in the boardroom, and it will take collective action to make it happen,” she said.
Last year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said the country improved in its global gender gap index, ranking 123rd out of 146 countries, up from 139th in the previous index. Its economic participation and opportunity sub-index grew from the 78th to the 50th.
“In covering 63.9 per cent of its gender gap, Nigeria (123rd) returns to higher and earlier levels of parity (2013, 2016) registered in the 16 years covered by the report,” WEF said.
It said the country also ascends 16 ranks on the overall index, with positive changes in the economic and educational sub-indexes. “After dipping in 2021, overall workforce parity recovered in Nigeria, although the participation rates decreased for both men and women.”
BusinessDay reported in May that more women secured seats at the boardroom tables of Nigeria’s most valuable companies last year.
According to a report by Agusto Consulting, a subsidiary of Agusto & Co, a pan-African credit rating agency, the share of women on boards surged to an all-time high of 25 per cent last year from 18 per cent in 2018.
This compares with 36 per cent in South Africa, 41 per cent in the United Kingdom and 35 per cent in the United States.
“Despite the relative progress in Nigeria, the review, especially with South Africa, a country on the African continent, reveals that there is still material room for improvement in Nigeria,” Agusto Consulting said.
The 2018 Nigerian Code of Corporate Governance (NCCG), emphasising gender diversity in corporate leadership, took effect in January 2020.
It states that a company’s board of directors should take actions to promote gender, age and cultural diversity in its board membership and have policies to govern these processes.
According to Agusto Consulting, the NCCG makes no explicit provision for the exact portion of female representation on the board.
“We note that the Code adopts a principle-based approach of voluntary compliance,” the firm said. “The realities indicate that the intentions of the NCCG have been undermined with the level of under-representation of women on the board. In some instances, albeit amongst the negative outliers, there have been companies in Nigeria with only one and, no women represented on their board.”