Recent board decisions in various leading banks show that Nigerian women have arrived at the highest echelon of the Banking and Finance Industry. This calls for celebration and popping of champagne. Right from the dawn of modern banking, the male folk have headed the organisations that make up the industry. But a new dawn has broken and women who have been steadily sharpening their managerial and entrepreneurial skills in the course of their assent on the executive suite are now positioned fully deploy their abilities in running the banks they have been appointed to lead, to the next level.
The new female bank managing directors are: Mrs. Miriam Olusanya (Guaranteed Trust Bank), Mrs. Nneka Onyali-Ikpe (Fidelity Bank), Mrs. Yemisi Edun (First City Monument Bank), Mrs. Ireti Samuel-Ogbu (Citibank, Nigeria), Mrs. Halima Buba, Sun Trust Bank Limited and Mrs. Tomi Somefun of Unity Bank Plc. Without a doubt, these are women of substance.
Notwithstanding the appointment of these six women out of the 23 commercial banks in Nigeria, this still falls short of the 40 percent board positions set for lenders by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). There is also an amendment in the electoral Act that is in line with Affirmative Action and the national gender policy that talks about having 30-35 per cent of women in top decision making positions. Yet, it is a new dawn for women in the financial sector. Definitely, the paradigm shift is worth celebrating by women all over, including my humble self. For decades, a good number of the men who held sway in the banks engaged in insider abuse of credit facilities and other fraudulent
practises. One cannot gloss over the fact that not all women in banks have been saints. However, there is a natural thing – call it conscience – in the majority of women that acts as a gatekeeper and holds them back from wholesale, bald face fraud.
Today, in pursuit of gender diversity in the workplace, there is a sustained push for better representation of women, after scores of years of playing the second fiddle in the running of top businesses in key sectors of the economy as well as in politics. It is heart warming that six smart ladies have broken the glass ceiling and now leading the way. They have recorded a very great feat.
Apart from the frontline professional ladies that have been chosen, there are others who are close to their positions too. Let us not forget the power horses that showed or still showing their mettle on boards of banks, namely, Mrs Osaretin Demuren (chairman of GTB), Ibukun Awosika, one the most recognised entrepreneurs and former chairperson, Board of Directors, First Bank of Nigeria; Other ladies in top financial circles include – Abiola Adekoya, Adaeze Udensi, Adaora Umeoji, Adebimpe Olambiwonnu, Adeola Azeez and Adaobi Nwapa are on the line close to financial power. Others include Aishah Ahmad, Atinuke Leye-Isola, Bashirat Odunew and Bola Adesola, former managing director of Standard Chartered Bank, and now the Senior Vice President, Africa, Standard Chartered Bank. Alongside these women, you have Bola Attah, Bimbola Wright, Hadiza Abrusa, Bukola Awosanya, Chizoma Okoli, Chinwe Egwim, Cornelia George Utuk, Dupe Olusola, Emen Usoro, Emily Atebe, Lola Cardoso, Folake Ani-Mumuney and Funke Ladimeji, among others, who are top professionals female bankers.
Over the years, the Association of Professional Women Bankers (APWB) had normally presented these female champions who play key role in Nigeria’s banking sector. The women have not only been pivotal in shaping the sector’s regulatory frame-work, but have also created a strong legacy for other women.
Therefore, the appointment of the six aforementioned women has started a gradual process to close the gap. They are ably proving that intellectual prowess, creativity and abundant professional skills are the ingredients for upward progress rather than the genital asset. It is important to urge other sectors to borrow a leaf from the Banking and Finance Sector which actively drawing from the potentials of women to propel their organisations to resounding success.
The words of Professor Abigail Ogwezzy- Ndisikka, first female Professor of Mass Communication, University of Lagos regarding the vital role of women in the development of the economy still rings true today: “If a holistic development must be achieved, one side therefore should not be sidelined. Rwanda for instance made an attempt and included women in their parliament in different spheres on human endeavour. Today, Rwanda is a destination in Africa.”
The moment Mrs. Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson won the presidential race to serve her country as the 24th, but first female president of Liberia, she put women to man the four key ministerial positions – Finance, Education, Health, Commerce and Industry, and the economy of the country picked up almost immediately. The reason is simple: by nature and nurture, when women undertake any task, they want everything to work well.
It needs to be recognised that feminism is not competing with men on wrong issues; rather, it is proving that women are no less able in their capabilities. I strongly believe in women. I believe in the six super women who would turn things around for future female bankers especially the younger generation. One thing that gladdens my heart in the emergence of Nigeria Banking Industry G-6 of female chief executives is that the irresponsible practice called sexual harassment, manipulation, exploitation and sleaze would become a thing of the past because women are aggressively united when it comes to such. No woman would be employed because of what her anatomical assets, but what she can bring to the table.
Suddenly the indirect encouragement of cheap prostitution to meet up with targets has come to an end. I am an advocate of having responsible women in high places and in charge. Their modus operandi differs a great deal. Women are more open, smarter, sincere, result-oriented and honest in many dealings including the financial sector. In this country, we all have seen the percentage of women achievers in high offices and vice versa. We have also seen the figure that represents the men. Taking a look at the height of the ladder that these women climbed to reach where they are today, you just have to give them high five.
Interestingly, Millenium Development Goal 3 (MDG3) which focused on women empowerment and gender equality transited into Sustainable Development Goal (SDG5), which is also in accord inperfect accord with the theme of the 2019 International Women Day which says, #Balance for Better#. Now that the banks are balancing, other areas that need same balance include the board-room, classroom, political scene and the family. When women put their hands in anything, it works. Women have special touch from God that whatever they touch prospers. When Nigeria realizes this and gets to have a female president, things will work out better.
Finally, let us know that by 2030, countries will no longer be measured by the amount of money they have acquired but the ability to meet gender movements and goals. Those gender movements started from the ‘WID’ concept (Women in Development) to ‘WAD’ (Women and Development), then ‘GAD’ (Gender and Development), before ‘GLAD’ (Gender Legislation and Development), but where they are busy breaking patriarchal structures without enactment of laws, it will not work. Agreed, some women might not have the physical strength to fight, but in terms of knowledge, competence, brain work, nurturing and turning things around women are super.