Roles of corporate governance in promoting gender equity in the workplace

Essentially, corporate governance is a method through which companies are managed to attain a set purpose. It determines who has the power and responsibility, and who makes the decisions to regulate business operations and values. Corporate governance, an important part of corporations’ environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) policy, is a set of tools that guide management and boards in addressing the challenges of running a business more effectively.

The importance of gender equity and inclusive corporate governance in today’s organizations cannot be overstated. On a global scale, substantial reforms are taking place to empower women while advocating equity in the upper echelons of organizations’ leadership.

Recently, the conversation around women’s empowerment, fairness, and equity moved beyond gender inequality – a societal issue that often presents itself in subtle yet damaging forms ranging from unequal pay, the disparity in promotions, to sexual harassment and more. In line with this year’s IWD themed #EmbraceEquity, the paradigm has shifted. The IWD 2023 took the awareness a notch higher, focusing on equity and its impact, whilst promoting the cause for why equal opportunities no longer depict fairness.

For context, equality means everyone, or a group of people should be given the same resources or opportunities but, equity implies that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. In practice, women should not only be given an equal chance but to be truly fair, considering their capacity and reality.

In fact, breaking the glass ceiling in the workplace is more difficult for women in the corporate world largely dominated by the male gender but, thanks to the annual campaign of the IWD and other women rights organizations creating the room to breaking biases against women. Regardless, many women have been quite inspiring, breaking barriers despite the disparity and ‘it is a man’s world’ factors; record numbers of women are climbing the ladder to career success, setting good precedence and reference points for the younger generations to follow.

Women are increasingly taking on leadership jobs that were formerly reserved for men. It is becoming evident that gender barriers are harmful to the progress of any civilization and offer men an unfair edge. Corporate governance, on the other hand, is a crucial issue that can influence women’s professional advancement.

At ND Western Limited, the company’s corporate governance is deliberate in ensuring it creates an enabling environment for all, including women to excel in their roles. For instance, in 2020, the Chief Executive Officer of ND Western, Eberechukwu Oji, with a view to empowering women staff of the company, founded the ND Western Women’s Network.

Mr. Oji was inspired by the need to drive inclusion and diversity within our workforce and bring visibility to our focus group whilst developing women for leadership to become a Think Pad for NDW Management. The ND Western Women Network is empowered to create opportunities that support, enrich, and inspire ND Western women to a competitively advanced professional and personal level.

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Since its inception, the Network has continued to raise the bar through its four Impact Areas which include;

· The Individual: Developing each member’s leadership potential.

· The Network: Sharing life experiences & lending support as a group.

· The Organization: Be a soundboard & drive innovation inward.

· The Society: Impacting lives of communities within our operational

Without the support of the management of ND Western, such a laudable initiative would not have seen the light of day. According to the saying, “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together,” it is past time for women to be given equal opportunities in the workplace, and more organizations should consider establishing platforms like the ND Western Women Network to empower more women.

Gender inequality is a year-round topic at NDW, beyond just Women’s Month. The organization ensures that women are given equal opportunities for growth throughout the year, from recruitment and selection to training and development, and strives to create an inclusive workplace. ND Western also emphasizes the importance of providing women with equal opportunities for career growth.

NDW recognizes that as women, we have different circumstances as opposed to men, and provides us with the same amount, even more resources and opportunities needed to reach the desired goals of the organization.

Truly, women across the world face stereotypes and discrimination but I think it’s important for us all as women not to see ourselves as the weaker sex first or automatically accept the bias against us. Our work, skills, and attributes should speak for itself, and we should also aim at reaching the top and filling positions all round and not just what we’ve been taught to believe is ‘suitable for a woman’.

As women, we should see ourselves as important as men. We play a key role in nation building and a fully functional and progressive nation should be all-inclusive, including equal contribution and support from both genders.

To consolidate on the gains so far, more corporations should be intentional in reviewing their corporate governance to specifically include policies that can aid empowerment for women. Women are known to multiply resources, our society will be better for it if more women have access to more resources to spread.

Mentorship is another good way women can impart knowledge. For example, a young oil and gas professional being mentored by a female thought leader in the sector can only create another thought leader/expert which continues as a domino effect thereby making impacts in the energy space which is currently dominated by men.

As we join hands to help give voice to the cause of elevating women, my advice for young women is to stay true to their dreams and vision. Never for once feel you cannot do it, because as a man thinketh so is he. Instead, keep pushing and if need be, break out of the box that is limiting you and be the prototype/change you wish to see in the world. And in concert, corporations should support women empowerment initiatives through company policies that speak to enhancing women’s career advancement.

Idam is Head of Corporate Comms and Senior HR Executive at ND Western Limited