• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
businessday logo


Empowering sheroes for inclusive leadership

Empowering sheroes for inclusive leadership

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, ‘Inspiring Inclusion’, underscores the need to foster an inclusive society where women are valued, respected, treated equitably, and empowered to make significant strides in all fabrics of society. If Nigeria were to make a significant stride in closing the gender gaps in economic participation and opportunity, then a more nuanced use of gender-responsive financing presents a unique opportunity for government and policymakers to drive necessary change. In an age where the world is facing immense pressures and crises, achieving gender equality is a task that must be coordinated at all levels. Ensuring women’s and girl’s rights across all segments is just the only way to achieve an equitable present, a secure future, and a prosperous economy for all.

Read also:Happy Intl Women’s Day: This year’s theme, “invest in women, accelerate progress” means many things for women across the world

In recent years, there has been a growing global discussion surrounding the presence of women on corporate boards. It’s not just about gender; it’s about ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in these important decision-making bodies. Despite recognising the importance of gender balance and diversity, C-suite executives, investors, regulators, and policymakers have struggled to effectively increase the representation of women on boards. This remains a complex issue that requires continued attention and action.

According to KPMG BCG Advisory, of the 511 board seats available in the top 50 companies listed on the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX), only 135 (representing approximately 26 percent) are occupied by women. More so, of the top listed companies, only seven (estimated at 14 percent) have women chairing the board, while five (estimated at 10 percent) have women as CEOs.

As of 2023, the Gender Diversity Scorecard of the top listed 30 companies on the NGX published by the PWR Advisory showed that the proportion of women on the advisory board dropped marginally to 27.4 percent from the peak of 27.9 percent a year prior.

The 2023 PWR report broadened its scope to include the top 30 companies listed on NGX, expanding from the previous top 20. However, despite this expansion, the report highlights a persistently sluggish rate of change. Only nine companies have shown noteworthy progress in appointing more women to C-suite positions over the past four years. In contrast, the representation of women on the boards of the top FTSE 350 companies in the same year stood impressively at 40.2 percent.

Accelerating progress

Daily, women continue to face barriers to education caused by poverty, cultural norms, violence, and fragility. UNICEF estimated that while the primary and secondary school enrolment ratio between boys and girls is closing – 90 percent male and 89 percent female — the completion rate for girls is lower, especially in low-income countries, where only 63 percent of girls compared to 67 percent of boys complete primary school. The same story abounds for secondary schools where the completion rate for girls continues to lag behind that of boys (36 percent as against 44 percent for boys). Similarly, the tertiary enrolment ratio slightly favours women, but better learning outcomes are not translate to substantially better work and economic outcomes for them.

Nigeria has the highest proportion of female entrepreneurs in the world. However, a sizable chunk of them are in the informal sector, while more than half of those employed in the formal sector are in teaching, sales, and secretarial/clerical services. According to a 2020 report by the National Bureau of Statistics on women and men in STEM in Nigeria, 22 percent of annual graduates in the field are females while about 5 percent of the figure are found in the ICT sector. Thus, stakeholders across the educational sectors should introduce gender-sensitive pedagogical content across STEM endeavours to attract more female participants. Also, providing a gender-friendly working environment can be an attraction for female STEM tutors to enter into the field.

The imperative for empowering sheroes for inclusive leadership in Nigeria cannot be overstated. As we celebrate the strides made by women in various fields, it is evident that there is still much ground to cover in ensuring their full participation in leadership roles. By providing more opportunities and education tailored to women, we not only uplift individual sheroes but also enrich our communities and nation as a whole. Embracing inclusive leadership fosters diverse perspectives, enhances decision-making processes, and drives innovation. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to continue advocating for and investing in programmes that empower women to lead effectively, thereby contributing to a more equitable and prosperous future for Nigeria.