Pushing for equality is everyone’s responsibility.
The influential role of gender equality on economic growth is directly linked to the participation of women in the labor force. When women are excluded from the workforce, economic resources are wasted. A recent report, “Women, Work and the Economy,” published by the International Monetary Fund, highlights how this gender inequality in the work force hurts economic growth. The report reveals that closing gender gaps in the labor market would raise GDP in the United States by 5 percent, in the United Arab Emirates by 12 percent, and in Egypt by 34 percent. The economic benefits of gender equality are particularly high in rapidly aging societies, where boosting women’s labor force participation could help offset the impact of a shrinking workforce.
Furthermore, another report, “Investing in Women’s Employment,” published by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), shows that better employment opportunities for women can also contribute to increased profitability and productivity in the private sector. Companies that invest in women’s employment often find that it benefits their bottom line by improving staff retention, innovation, and access to talent and new markets.
Zoning into Nigeria, there are growing concerns around the retention and promotion of women in corporate Nigeria. Generally, workspaces are not accommodating (especially for women with children). For instance, crèches within offices and increased duration of maternity leave with pay are only accessible to female employees working in firms that are keen on adopting global practices.
In the financial services industry, the pipeline is heavy at the bottom but as you tilt your head upward, you would find that the number of women depletes. A few good strides have been made, the CBN had directed that 40 per cent of top management positions in banks be reserved for women.
Generally, increasing the number of women involved in managerial decisions should enhance financial performance as decisions would be made from a deeper pool of perspectives. Industry sources suggest that between 2013 and 2015, women accounted for only 14% of the 915 board directors of the 132 companies quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. There are surveys that have shown that women directors deal more effectively with risk and better address concerns of customers, employees, stakeholders and operating communities. Not to mention their better understanding of women who make at least 70% of purchase decisions for services and products.
The core message is this: women are vital for every nation interested in accelerating its economic and socio-economic growth. However, a level playing field across the social, economic and political spaces will encourage increased participation of women. A ramp up in productivity, shrinkage in the unemployment gap, better policy direction, particularly for issues linked to women and children are a few benefits that could be derived form a female empowered nation.
What actionable steps can be taken to move this ‘each for equal’ phrase from a hashtag to reality, particularly in corporate Nigeria? A few thoughts come to mind. Firstly, understanding the power of mentorship. Mentorship enhances leadership and coaching skills in current and future managers. Employers of mentored employees gain from greater productivity in the workplace. Women should be willing to nurture such relationships in a bid to propel career growth. In the same vein, accomplished female employees should be open to taking on mentees and grooming them, if the current workplace pipeline is expected to experience change. Secondly, the concept of career sponsors should be encouraged in organisations. The right sponsor can: Jump-start your career path, grow your network with connections of their own, give you opportunities to shine on important projects, advocate for promotions or raises on your behalf, help you close the gap between where your career is and where you want it to be and create a safety net to ameliorate inevitable failures.
Workplace policies that promote gender equality also need to be strongly considered by organisations that are serious with promoting gender equity. Many companies are operating on outdated policies and procedures that might not include any support for gender-equality practices. Women in sales, as well as women working in other areas of business (or other sectors of employment altogether), will benefit from companies with clear positions on the fair and equitable treatment of men and women.
In conclusion, it is important to note that the onus is on the female economy to constantly equip itself for relevant and influential roles; the need to bridge the gender equality gap is no excuse for mediocrity. Furthermore, if we are to make this #eachforequal hashtag a reality, as we climb our respective ladders, we need to periodically look down and be intentional about pulling others up. To be pulled up, we need to become more deliberate about equipping ourselves, positioning ourselves and becoming valuable so that it becomes easier for others to pull you up when opportunities present themselves.
Chinwe Egwim is a renowned Economist. She has notable practical experience in producing policy relevant economic research reports which cover fiscal profile, fx dynamics, interest rate, GDP growth trends, reserves management, inflation and sectorial trends (including power, transport, technology, agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing) among others. She has over 500 economic publications under her belt. Chinwe is a member of the Board Committee on Research of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG). She is also the National Focal Point of a UN Economic Commission Development Project on Services Trade across Africa.