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Emefiele urges more gender diversity in central banks

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, has called on central banks to drive more gender diversity initiatives and close huge gaps even though there has been an improvement over the years in this regard.

Speaking at the 2019 CBN commemoration of the International Women’s Day in Abuja, Emefiele said despite overwhelming evidence that gender equality drives economic growth and remains a prerequisite for achieving the 2030 global development agenda, progress in gender parity has been slow.

Quoting research findings from McKinsey, he said that if women’s economic participation were at the same level with men, $28 trillion could be added to the world’s economic growth by 2025.

Also, the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report (2018) found an average 32 percent gender gap that needs to be closed and going by the trend, the overall global gender gap will close in 108 years.

Moreso, the IMF in a study found that greater inclusion of women as users, providers, and regulators of financial services have benefits beyond addressing gender inequality.

“Narrowing the gender gap would foster greater stability in the

banking system and enhance economic growth. It could also contribute to more effective monetary and fiscal policy,” the IMF said.

It further noted that banks that had higher proportion of women on their boards had higher capital buffers, a lower ratio of nonperforming loans, as well as greater resistance to stress.

Similarly, quoting IMF’s managing director, Madeleine Lagarde, he stressed that “If banks and financial supervisors increased the share of women in senior positions, the banking sector would be more stable too.”

The global theme for the 2019 International Women’s Day is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change,” but the CBN adopted “Investing for Equality” as its local theme to celebrate a milestone on addressing gender disparities.

The governor said the CBN has taken actions to advance equality in the workplace, include training and skills development, increased employment and leadership positions for women, diversity and inclusion initiatives, among others.

According to him, these efforts have led to the remarkable progress made in closing the gender gap in the Bank.

“It is heartening that today women represent 29.0 percent of CBN staff and 29.0 percent of Directors are women, (8 Departmental Directors and 1 Director General of WAMZ) as against 26.0 percent of staff and 25.0 percent of Directors in 2014. Similarly 3 out of 11 board members are women (27 percent).”

He raised the concerns that women entrepreneurs face numerous challenges to financing, owning, and growing a business

“It is in recognition of these overwhelming challenges that the Bank has developed various gender-responsive interventions that prioritize investments for women thereby improving access to diverse sources of finances, such as the MSME Fund which earmarks 60 percent for women owned businesses, the Anchor Borrowers Programme, NIRSAL, National Collateral Registry, among others.”

Corroborating Emefiele’s views, Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed who was the keynote speaker at the event called on governments at the various levels to put measures in place for strategic approach towards establishing gender parity in the society.

According to her, “Given the challenges we are facing, it is critical that we take a long-term and strategic approach to establishing gender parity, and ensuring that women are economically empowered, resulting in stronger economies overall.

While appreciating the efforts of the Emefiele-led CBN in improving the place of women in the bank, she noted that more work needed to be done.

She said factors inhibiting gender equality in Nigeria mirror situation on the global scene where women face challenges in accessing resources, including financial services, property, and other assets.

Women are also less likely to receive critical education, skills and training opportunities, particularly in traditionally male-dominated fields, she added.

She urged government to continue to develop and implement policies, regulatory frameworks, and programmes that are gender-sensitive, to remove the socio-economic and cultural barriers that prevent women from participating fully in society and reaping the economic benefits of their participation.

“Women must have a ‘seat at the table,’ and be co-creators of any strategic interventions aimed at ensuring gender parity in the long run,” she stressed.

 

Onyinye Nwachukwu, Abuja

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