On the 8th of March, 2018, which was the International Women’s Day, The Nigerian Stock Exchange held a conference at the Stock Exchange House in Marina, Lagos. The theme of the event, which aligned with the worldwide theme of the International Women’s Day, was Press for Progress. The NSE managed to gather well over two hundred women from different walks of life.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, Mr. Oscar Onyema, in his opening remarks stated the importance of Gender Equality. He went on to make inferences with the aid of statistics depicting how Gender discrimination is getting much worse. According to the World Economic Forum, Nigeria ranks 122 out of 144 on the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, which was much lower than the position the country held last year and the year before. The Chairman insisted that the Nigerian Stock Exchange is prepared add their two cents in ensuring a change especially within its in house operations. For instance the NSE just promoted Mrs. Tinuade Awe to the position of the Executive Director Regulation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, a post that makes her the number two person in the Stock Exchange. A lot more promotions had been done in recent times. He also went on to note that the NSE just donated a school to the Borno State Government as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, to help Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The school’s population is sixty percent female and forty percent male. He welcomed everyone to the event and promised to stay all through the event.
After the opening remarks, the key note speaker, Laure Beaufils took to podium to give her address. Laure Beaufils, Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria, in her brief address she stated the importance of having women at top levels of management and how the lack thereof is a societal issue and not just an organizational issue. She presented some very important statistics some of which include
- Women earn three quarters of what their male counterparts earn.
- Women account for only 24% of top management.
- Women account for only 23% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
- Only 50% of women in Nigeria own land as compared to 85% of Men.
She went ahead to list a few critical ways to alleviate gender disparity and sexual harassment in Nigeria
- More Women need to hold political positions.
- There needs to be a change in attitudes and culture.
- Policies; There need to be more pro-female policies.
- Laws & Regulations; Men and Women need to be treated as equal under the law.
- Top Management needs to create a sane work environment
She ended her address by stating how much sexism has been inbuilt into our DNAs. She urged women to use their voices as it is just as important as that of their male counterparts. She encouraged women to use their voices to sound off discrimination and sexual harassment of any kind.
Following the Key note speaker was the Special Guest of Honor, Dame Abimbola Fashola, the Chairman Learn NGO/Ella Care and the former first lady of Lagos State. Mrs Fashola started off her address by highlighting Nigerian Women that are outstanding in their field, some of which includes Mo Abudu, Ibukun Awosika. She encouraged women to go into careers that are male dominated and to build their skills. She also encouraged women to set up their own political party as that is the only way to guarantee women in political positions. She ended her remarks by urging women to support one another.
After the Guest speaker’s remarks it was time for the first panel session. The Topic of the first panel discussion was Gender Equality, Business Growth and Economic Development: Finding the Connection. The Panel consisted of the following women: Patience Kunene; Executive Director World Bank (representing Nigeria, Angola and Ghana), Tinuade Awe; Executive Director Regulation NSE, Olajobi Makinwa; Chief, Africa United Nations Global Compact, Lilian Olubi; CEO Primera Africa Securities Limited, Bekeme Olowola; CEO CSR in Action. The discussion began with the moderator asking all panelist if they had ever experienced sexism in their careers. They all attributed to the fact that they had experienced sexism to some degree. They all expressed the difficulty they had encountered getting to the position they hold now. Patience Kunene, speaking of the World Bank, stated that out of 25 Executive Directors only 5 were women.
The panelist went ahead to give some practical steps to overcoming Gender inequality in Nigeria. Some of which are
- Investors should make it a point of duty to as part of their due diligence to request for the ratio of men to women in top management positions.
- Encourage Female children to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
- Parents are to treat both male and female children equally. Parents are to stop over domesticating their female children and encourage their male children to treated women with respect.
- Women should build competence and increase their skills so they can be competitive in their fields.
- Women in top positions are to look out for other females in their organizations and give them helping hands when it is required.
The following points are the Learning objectives
- Gender Discrimination, Inequality and Sexual Harassment is a big issue that needs to be addressed. An issue is only addressed if it is known. Some women are not aware that they might have been discriminated against because of their gender. Awareness is key. Women need to know that they can and should speak up.
- Putting Women in top management position is a benefit to both an organization and the society at large.
- The biggest factor aiding Gender Discrimination are our attitudes and our culture. Our culture, also referred to as unspoken laws, plays a major role in gender discrimination. Sexism has been built in our DNAs unconsciously. Women, the primary care giver, are to train up both male and female children equally. The worth of the female child should not be tied to marriage and how well they can care for their husbands. Female children should be taught to go after any dream they want. Cooking should not be just the job of the female children.