Ceo forum 2023

VFD Group #ChooseToChallenge (1) – The Workplace Lens

(In conversation with Tosin Dabiri and Abiola Adeeko)

Earlier on in my career, I had a couple of interesting experiences bordering on gender related stigmas, most likely relatable for many other women too. One of the experiences involved a senior female colleague disparaging my request to my male supervisor to work half-day on my antenatal appointment days; because, according to her she didn’t need to seek such special privileges when she was pregnant. This act essentially highlighted the common women-not-supporting-women narrative that typically pervades the workplace. On that note, and in line with the theme for this women’s month campaign, we must remember do better as women and #ChooseToChallenge these narratives.

To celebrate Women’s Month, SCwN partnered with the VFD Group to explore their workplace and marketplace lens of how they #ChooseToChallenge gender inequality. This edition, however, will be highlighting the Group’s workplace lens on the IWD campaign theme. To elicit a balanced view, I had a conversation with two women at the organisation from different cadres of management. Tosin Dabiri – Head, Institutional Funding and Investors Relations at the VFD Group and Abiola Adeeko from the Sales & Marketing Team at VFD Microfinance Bank (A member of the VFD Group). Both ladies, interestingly joined the Group in 2019.

Speaking about ‘glass ceilings’ and ‘broken rungs’ – the usual suspects heralded in the West as key factors that preclude women career advancement in comparison to their male contemporaries -Tosin, interestingly shared that her journey had been quite different, stating:

“I never felt like I was disadvantaged. I had so many women to look up to in key positions”.

She noted however that this; did not dispel the continued existence of glass ceilings or broken rungs, but presently within the VFD Group, this is not the case, as women are represented in various executive capacities and are enabled by the organisation to advance their careers. According to a McKinsey report the, “glass ceiling” still remains, but there are marginal improvements, where female representation in c-suite has increased from 17% to 21%.

Abiola Adeeko – Sales & Marketing, VFD Microfinance

Tosin went on to share her perspective about most organisations being increasingly conscious of providing what women need to be comfortable to do their work. According to her:

“At VFD Group, we have a more flexible maternity leave time and more women represented in senior roles on our management committees. We have a good balance.”

To corroborate Tosin’s claims, Abiola was also happy to share her experience at the organisation; stating that:

“VFD is a group that is very supportive. Once you go through the proper channels, you are good. VFD places a balance and there is no segregation.”

Furthermore, Abiola expressed her view that the issue of gender inequality in the workplace is largely a mindset thing. She cited the example of her previous experiences, where there was a prevalent norm of women not supporting women. However, since she joined VFD, she has had a refreshingly different experience, forcing her to renew her mindset and enjoy the possibility of women (senior to junior) genuinely supporting women.

For me, it was interesting and refreshing to hear the ladies share, through their respective lens; how their organisation supports women by creating an enabling work environment. More impressive was the iteration that decisions by management are performance based and gender agnostic. That being said, and as we continue to advocate for gender parity in the workplace, it is important to note that the ask is not for unfair advantage because of gender, rather it’s a clamour for merit-based considerations and provision of level playing fields, by way of gender specific facilities that can hamper productivity if not available.

It was a pleasure having another great conversation with my guests, Tosin and Abiola.


To listen to the podcast, please visit www.socialconscience.africa or www.africabusinessradio.com.

Yours conscientiously,


Chinasa Ken-Uwguh

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