The Covid-19 disease, a pandemic the world was never prepared for, exposed the vulnerable healthcare systems and economies of many countries, especially Africa.
Given that the impact of the pandemic was not gender-neutral, ways are now being proffered to tackle gender inequality and see that women attain leadership positions globally.
Put together by Arunma Oteh, an academian and former Director-General of the Nigeria Stock Exchange; and Toyin Sanni, a serial entrepreneur and African influencer, the third Women in Leadership Webinar on the platform of the African Investment Round, through spotlight on attaining gender equality.
Anchored by both women, Mrs Oteh and Mrs Sanni, issues pertaining to women in leadership and as well as achieving set goals post Covid-19 were the center of discussion in this conference monitored by The Street Journal.
Letting African women lead
Mrs Oteh noted that for Africa to thrive in the area of Economic development, post Covid-19, a major solution was to bring women on board, however, massive work was yet to be done.
She said, “Women make up 50% of Africa’s population. Imagine not using 50% of your business.
“Everybody has seen the report and research of the spotlight placed on women in response to the pandemic. About 50% of frontline workers were women.
“There should be some inclusive approach where it is understood that men and women bring important attributes to the workplace. For women, some of these attributes are compassion, emotional intelligence, risks management, rigour and capacity to handle complexities. We need more of these attributes at the leadership level.”
How the public sector can promote gender equality
Mrs Oteh who has been privileged to serve in various public institutions said governments in Africa have a role to play for women to achieve an equal future when the pandemic ends.
Noting that African governments must set the agenda, Oteh said the first step should be based on political will, then policies and role modelling.
“Politics is key and we must seek across Africa to have more women participate in politics. Several countries in Africa already have Women Affairs ministries and gender policies. Some of my differences are in the implementation of policies.”
The former SEC DG cite Rwanda as an example, stating that the country has the highest representation of women in government globally.
“Rwanda has written into its constitution that 30% of women is what you should have in the social making position. They have the highest participation of women in parliament. In the lower parliament, they have 63.3% of women. This is the highest participation globally.
“Over 58% of Rwandan Ministers are female, other countries are making progress. In Africa, after Rwanda, it’s South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique, in terms of female participation in parliament.”
Speaking on the issue of role modelling, Mrs Oteh said it is important that countries understand the value that women bring. According to her, this sends a signal about running a meritocratic government and not patriarchy.
She said, “Policies in Central Banks have been critical in this agenda. If you take the CBN from when I was head of FCC till date, they have mandated that at least 30% of the composition of boards of commercial banks be women and we’ve seen what that has done in the banking sector and this is being emulated around the world.”
“So, political will, policies and role modelling are crucial in this agenda,” she stressed.
How the private sector can contribute to gender equality
Toyin Sanni, who has spent over 20 years in the private sector, occupying leadership roles and now as an entrepreneur, said that the private sector can accelerate gender equality in leadership positions by formulating a gender equality target at all levels of staffing, management and boards.
She said this target should be extended contractors, adding that it should be ensured that the targets are implemented, adhered to and rewarded.
Mrs Sanni also said exchanges had a role to play by setting targets on the number of female-owned business to be listed on stock exchanges. She also advocated for internal gender networks within organizations where female employees can get the necessary mentoring.
The serial entrepreneur charged employers of labour to encourage employees to also participate in external gender networks.
Using herself as an example, TSF, as she loves to be called, said, “I am active in the external gender networks we have in Nigeria, like the Women in Business (WIMBIZ). Employers have the responsibility to create an environment where staff are encouraged to participate in these networks.”
Going further, she said Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest population of entrepreneurs, in an excess of 40%, and the women in this sector have difficulty in accessing funding. She noted that the private sector can help in this aspect by coming up with solutions that can provide funding for female entrepreneurs.
She added that the private sector is meant to be a role model in promoting gender equality in leadership so that the public sector can learn. To do this, she said employers should help in deploying technology, train staff occasionally and create a gender-friendly environment where workers will be free of harassment and intimidation.
Attaining leadership positions
According to Mrs Oteh, rising to the top was tied to her strong early foundation. She noted that her parents instilled great values in her and her siblings encouraged her to always take up new opportunities.
Mrs Oteh also atributed her success to mentors who always believed in her before she believed in herself.
As an advise to women who want to make it to the top, she said:
“Define success personally and set goals that allign with the definition of your success and monitor them thoroughly.
“Accountability, superior values, integrity and compassion should be your daily guide because they have never failed me. You should take responsibility for life. Nobody else but you can do your push ups.
“Excellence has always been my mantra and investing in myself through learning. Successful people read wide. Be courageous, step out of your comfort zone. Risk-taking propels you forward and accelerates success.”
She further stressed on having a positive attitude because it breeds positive energy.
On the other hand, TSF said she rose to the top of her career by being purpose driven and having a strong relationship with God; being committed and building her personal brand; learning and networking; and finally, promoting personal values like accountability, intergritty and self-investments.
Where Africa stands with the Sustainable Development Goals
Appearing on the Webinar as a special guest was the Deputy Secretary-General to United Nations, Mrs Amina Mohammed, who is also one of those championing the the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to Mrs Mohammed, Africa was not doing so well with the SDGs agenda, coupled with a greater challenged posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Africa and SDGs is not doing well as it should. We’re lagging behind especially in the areas of economic inclusion, and digital divide.
“We are trying to focus on post Covid-19 because it sets us up to understand what the stimulus package should contain, how we can use this opportunity to transition into green energy because other countries are at this level.
Mrs Mohammed further noted that the greater challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic falls on the shoulders of women, hence the need for gender equality in Africa.
The UN DSG, however, noted that she was enthusiastic that Africa was now better than where it was few years ago, stressing that it is time for women to take charge because everybody has a role to play.
Watch the full video here: https://youtu.be/PE_T5mG_-Qo