It’s international Women’s Day and the theme for this year is “Balance For Better”. What does this mean and how do we achieve a gender-balanced society? That women are not given the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest is no news. In the workplace for example, the gap between men and women as regards pay, leadership roles etc, is huge.
Studies have shown that there is great value in looking at your entire talent pool and taking the best talent, regardless of the gender. This has to happen everywhere from government to corporate organizations.
We are currently doing women a major disservice by only picking men for key roles, and often times women are more qualified for these roles. In Nigeria especially, many people can’t fathom certain positions being held by women.
For example, we have 36 states and the FCT in Nigeria, in how many of these states do we have female governors? Zero!
How many times have we had female governors? Just Once – Dame Virginia Ngozi Etiaba, CON of Anambra State from November 2006 to February 2007.
In this election season, how many women are candidates in the gubernatorial elections? How many women are represented in the big parties? Some would say maybe it’s because the women aren’t stepping up. But that’s not true, the reason is because the political parties are set up as a boy’s club and women only really have a little chance to serve as deputy governors or at the House of Representatives and Senate levels. So, how can women earn the top tickets of a men’s club?
In the US, only approx 19% of their board seats are occupied by women. The number is higher In Europe at approx 30%, because they have legislative and voluntary targets and they take affirmative action towards achieving these targets.
Did you know that in Nigeria we have a national gender policy which recommends a minimum of 35% of female involvement in decision making levels? How many organizations including government intentionally implement this policy?
According to a survey carried out by DCSL a few years ago to ascertain the gender diversity on corporate boards, Nigeria averages 14% for senior positions, board positions, senior management positions, occupied by women, which means that men occupy a whooping 86% – That’s not good enough.
However, it’s not all gloomy across board. The Nigerian banking sector (credit to former CBN Governor, now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi) should be commended as they took on voluntary targets of 30% for women on boards and 40% for women in senior management positions.
Although they haven’t reached their targets yet, they are following through and have gotten up to 22% representation of women in senior positions.
The fact that FirstBank, GTB and Access Bank all have women as bank chairman in these mega finance institutions, is a testament that women can take on top roles and do impactful work when given the opportunity.
Within the last one year at the Olusola Lanre Coaching Academy, we have awarded over 60 scholarships to our Coaching & Psychology Certification courses. 40 of these scholarship awardees have been women. A ratio of approx 1:2 in favour of women.
We have trained, certified and supervised over 500 Life Coaches and Therapists over the years. Approx 60% of them are women. Our latest digital coaching app, CoachME Online currently has about 85 coaches on it, Approx 60% of them are women. So at OLCA, we are doing our part but everyone needs to do the same so we can experience real change.
Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage company has committed to ensuring gender balance across their workforce Globally. This has to be the approach for everyone moving forward.
Women have a lot to contribute to society and to the economy. A Mckinsey report showed that workplace diversity and gender equity leads to better financial performance and increased business profitability by as much as 20%.
Indra Nooyi, the immediate past CEO of Pepsico, during her 12-year tenure, increased the company’s revenue by $30 billion dollars.
Balance for Better: The Man’s Role
I Strongly Believe that us men, need to deliberately get more involved. We need to collectively begin to see women as equals. We need to actively stand with women to ensure that we change the narrative.
According to former NFL Player, Wade Davis who by the way is a man: “It’s not enough for us to acknowledge that men have privilege. We have to do the work to unlearn it”
Wherever we see women being shut down or spoken over by another man, we must speak out and support them. All men must take the pledge to ensure that more women are given the opportunity to serve and add value to society.
As we men stand for women, the women folk also need to:
Stand together in unity, support each other and speak out, rather than back bite and secretly work against one another.
Be more confident in themselves, know who they are, Value themselves and be willing to serve and add value to humanity. I really want to emphasize the importance of women having a Healthy Self Worth, Esteem, Confidence and Belief – This I believe is the secret cocktail to attain greater heights and success.
Several studies, from Harvard to Stanford and more have shown that women are less confident than men and this is a major reason why they are overlooked and more opportunities are given to their male counterparts.
As parents also, we must change our perceptions, beliefs and parenting approach to our boys and girls. The family unit is the incubator of societal and religious culture and tradition. Nurture breeds Nature.
Boys should be taught that girls are their equals.
Boys must help in the kitchen and also do house chores like their sisters. Girls must be taught that they’re equal to boys.
Girls must also be allowed to speak up and challenge their brothers. In our society and across various religions, we must abolish the influence of archaic culture which allows such beliefs like:
A woman may be seen, but not heard.
A woman is supposed to be quiet and meek as a lamb
A woman cannot hold positions of authority
A woman must be subservient to men
A woman is only fit for motherhood, the kitchen and za oza room
Changing Societal Biases and Perceptions
When a woman is confident and bold, she is seen as proud, aggressive and brash. But if men exhibit this same behavior, it’s acknowledged as him being confident and assertive. A classic case happened when tennis superstar Serena Williams – a 23-time grand slam winner and one of the greatest athletes of all time – had an argument with a male umpire at the US Open final.
The press and many other people had a field day with it, calling it a meltdown, an emotional outburst, display of an angry black woman etc. But her male counterparts like Roger Federer, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andy Roddick etc have done and said worse to umpires in the course of their careers and they were brushed off as being firm, resolute and displeased.
To make gender balance a reality we must all commit to:
Begin from the recruitment stage
Close the gender pay gap
Prioritize work-life balance. Eg Providing flexible working hours and working from home
Provide mentors and coaches to every woman for their career growth
Support and help women with their dreams and life pursuit
Have Zero tolerance for harassment. We must Identify and deal with it promptly and decisively. We must encourage women to speak up.
To every woman reading this: You are powerful, you are beautiful, you are seen, you are heard, you are respected and you are loved