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International women’s day renews clamour for gender equalities

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 GUY-RYDER

THE 2015 International women’s day, celebrated at the weekend across the world has once again thrown up the debate associated with gender equality especially in the work place.

   In Nigeria, it was an opportunity for women’s group and other members of the civil societies to bring to the attention of decision makers the plight of women and how to put modalities in place to address the situation.

   The celebration coincides with sustained clamour for women in Nigeria to play active role in the on-going political dispensation in the country.

   Indeed, call for gender equality is gathering momentum in different spheres of the global economy especially in the area of politics, economy, engineering, academic among others.

   According to available statistics, women are making significant contributions to the growth and development of societies despite challenges.

   A new study conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Bureau for Employers’ Activities entitled ‘Women in Business and Management: Gaining’, explained that global momentum means more women move into management positions.

   In a statement issued at the weekend to mark the 2015 International women’s day, ILO  said despite  the achievements made so far, women are still facing challenges.

  Such challenges according to ILO include, socio-cultural barriers, inadequate funding, insecurity and conflicts. ILO explained that Nigeria still needs to do a lot more to further improve the condition of women as many women still continue to experience widespread discrimination and inequality in the workplace, gender violence, among others.

   Lamenting the security challenges in the North East, ILO called on all Nigerians to join hands with the government, development and non-government organizations to work vigorously to address challenges that inhibit women from attaining their full potentials.

   ILO said: “We use the commemoration of International Women’s Day to remember our Chibok girls and appeal for their immediate release”.

   President of the foundation, Mrs. Jumai Ahmadu who made the call during a world press conference as part of activities marking this year International Women’s Day celebration affirmed that various women’s groups should galvanized the women to actively participate in this forthcoming elections as a way to further demonstrate their numerical strength.

   She called on women not to see political appointments as a way of gender parity, even as she described such political appointments as “use and dump” strategy of men to perpetually marginalize the women in politics.

“To me, giving women political appointments as commissioners and ministers is not the solution to gender equality because those appointments are mere use and dump strategy by the male politicians. We should be given elective positions that has tenure definition,” she stressed.

Commenting on this year’s theme; “Make It Happen”,  Ahmadu called on Nigerian women to use the forthcoming elections to make a difference in the society by voting for the right candidate, noting that all around the world, International Women’s Day represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women.

While calling for greater equality in the polity, she equally called for effective action for advancing and recognising women, saying “this is 107th series of women championing their economic, political and social achievements across the globe”.

      She observed that to be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“Each year International Women’s Day (IWD), is celebrated on March 8. The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911. Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day,” she observed.

     Ahmadu commended government of various countries that have outlawed rape against women, but however expressed worry over the high rate of violence or challenges when it came to gender equality, assuring that her foundation will join other groups to pressure all governments around the world to take action against violence.

     According to her, “when governments fail to do this, they contribute to the perception that rape and violence against women is acceptable. It is a disgrace, and that’s why we are demanding an end to impunity.

The global body said: “Two decades since the signing of a historic roadmap on women, commonly called the “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”, many countries and organizations have been working diligently to ensure its implementation. This has resulted in many marginal achievements and successes, but with serious gaps. 

     “Are working women better off today than they were 20 years ago?” asked ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “The answer is a qualified yes. Has this progress met our expectations? The answer is decidedly no. We need to be innovative, to reframe the debate and to intensify the focus on ensuring the rights of women at work, and promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.”

ILO is of the opinion that progress in realising the declaration and platform for action adopted at the fourth world conference on women in Beijing in 1995 has been mixed.

    Meanwhile, ILO has published a new working paper on the “motherhood pay gap” that imposes a wage penalty often over and above the wage gap already experienced by women worldwide.

According to “The motherhood pay gap: A review of the issues, theory and international evidence”, mothers often earn less than women without children, depending on where they live and how many children they have.

     According to National Beijing + 20 Review published by Federal Ministry of Women Affair and Social Development, “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action” has continued to provide a comprehensive policy and programmatic guide for achieving the goals of gender equality and human development.

It identified some achievements as  clearly apparent in the areas of institutional development and entrenchment of gender issues in public administration, increase in involvement and participation of women in socio-economic and political issues, partnership in promoting gender issues and empowerment of women, among others.

     For example, it explained that  more women are enjoying more access to employment opportunities arising from access to qualitative education.

Part of the statement read: “Access to employment opportunities for women has translated to better wages, better purchasing power of women, improved standards of living, employment mobility, and freedom of choice. 

“The progress made so far can be attributed, in part, to ILO’s continuous dialogue with its social partners which has led to the signing of relevant conventions and commitment of the government to domesticate and enforce the implementation of relevant conventions.

“For example, in 1995, most ILO member States, including Nigeria, had ratified the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100) and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111).

“To better improve the condition of Nigerian women, we hereby request the Federal Government of Nigeria to ratify and domesticate Convention 183 – Maternity Protection Convention, 2000.

“In the area of jobs creation, women-led small businesses are also seen as a key driver of job creation and economic growth, even as more women are making giant strides in both formal and informal sectors of the economy.

      “The current democratic process has also given women a voice in the affairs of the nation. Amongst the benefits are the facts that Nigerian women run for political offices, attain positions in the top echelon of social and professional groups, serve in the military, accomplish breakthroughs in science, achieve feats in medicine, and engineering, excel in arts, distinguish themselves in judiciary, and occupy strategic positions in government and business”.

ILO congratulated Nigerian women for seizing the opportunity offered by “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action” to prove their worth, adding that “We also congratulate the government for its support to Nigerian women”.

It was indeed a glorious day recently for senior Lafarge Group’s executives from Nigeria, Spain, Brazil and France when they were honoured in recognition for their work on diversity and inclusion.

      For the senior Lafarge Group’s executives, who gathered in France at the Assemblée National (French National Assembly) for the Gender Equality European/International Standard (GEEIS) Awards, it was a dream come true.

Country Organization and Human Resources Director, Fidelia Osime, who received the award for Nigeria said: “For us in Lafarge Africa Plc, it is indeed a significant achievement as we are the first company in Africa to be so recognized having been audited on a number of criteria”.

Senior Vice-President, Talent Management Lafarge Group, Sonia D Emilio, described the awards as something all the recipients should be proud of.

She said: “We have made significant investments in our diversity and inclusion programmes across all our business units and have recorded positive results.       This award will serve to further encourage us in our plans to execute more initiatives focused on gender equality in our business.”

     Lafarge Group has repeatedly preached the gospel of gender inclusion and has consistently made a business case for increasing the number of women in senior management positions, adding that a  widely held opinion is that companies benefit from access to the different but complementary leadership skills and insights women bring to management, as well as a wider talent pool. “Indeed, a research shows stronger financial performance at companies with a greater proportion of women on executive committees, position supported by the McKinsey’s early women matter research largely focused on Europe and the United States,” Lafarge added.

Available information indicates that there is a proven link between the presence of women in senior management positions and the strength of companies’ financial performance.

“In Nigeria, despite the large proportion of female graduates and the significant numbers who join various companies at entry level, very few reach the top. Across board, women do not feature prominently on the decision making end of life in Nigeria. With only 25 of 360 lawmakers at the Federal House of Representatives and only four per cent of local councillors being women, the ratios are no higher in corporate Nigeria.

“The question, of course, is how individual companies make a conscious effort to raise gender diversity in senior management. To this end, Lafarge Africa Plc has in line with its sustainability ambitions 2020, responded to these challenges in a way that looks optimistically to the future.

     “The tenets of these ambitions include the belief that diversity in employees, teams and management is an essential factor in achieving a high level of performance and innovation. This specific focus on employee diversity and skills development, regardless of gender, nationality, colour or religion, ensures that Lafarge as a group uses every asset at its disposal to achieve set targets”.

Increasing the number of women in senior management positions up to 35% by 2020 is a corporate target, which as at 2013 had reached 18.6 per cent  of top management, through the acceleration of the identification of women capable of engaging in career development and occupying leadership positions.

      At Group level, according to Lafarge, support is given to programmes and initiatives that seek the development of employee skills and key positions and are covered by certification programmes and individual development programmes and training, pointing out that Employees are encouraged to be involved in development, implementation and compliance with leading standards in developing a creative mindset, “so, their diversity may become a force for innovation and performance”.

     The Company said its inclusive culture is defined as supporting a work environment that values diversity, where all employees are encouraged to share new ideas and innovations, and where equal opportunities exist for professional growth and development.

     According to the report in 80 of the 108 countries for which ILO data is available, the proportion of women managers has increased.

The Director of the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities, Deborah France-Massin, said: “Our research is showing that women’s ever increasing participation in the labour market has been the biggest engine of global growth and competitiveness.  

“An increasing number of studies are also demonstrating positive links between women’s participation in top decision making teams and structures and business performance. But there is a long way to go before we achieve true gender equality in the workplace, especially when it comes to top management positions.”

The report further noted that only five per cent or less of the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the world’s largest corporations are women and also that the larger the company, the less likely the head will be a woman.

The report found that all-male company boards are still common but are decreasing in number, with women attaining 20 per cent or more of all board seats in a handful of countries.

     A global survey quoted in the study shows that Norway has the highest global proportion of companies (13.3 per cent) with a woman as company board chairperson, followed by Turkey (11.1 per cent).

France-Massin explained: “It is critical for more women to reach senior management positions in strategic areas to build a pool of potential candidates for top jobs such as CEO or company presidents. However, ‘glass walls’ still exist with the concentration of women in certain types of management functions like HR, communications and administration.”

     Today, women own and manage over 30 per cent of all businesses, but they are more likely to be found in micro and small enterprises. Getting more women to grow their businesses is not only critical for equality but also for national development, underlines the report.

   The report provides statistics on women in management and in business for most countries from all regions and at all levels of development. It also contains data on the gender pay gap at management and lower levels, as well as statistics on women’s achievements in education.

It identifies the growing momentum building around the world to advance women to higher levels of management and lists a selection of the numerous initiatives from various sectors.

    The report highlighted the need to find flexible solutions for work and family.

The report also provides the following recommendations to close the remaining gender gap: seeking “flexible solutions” to manage work and family time commitments as an alternative to being subject to special treatment or quotas; providing maternity protection coverage and childcare support can bring added value to the company through the recruitment and retention of talented women; “changing mind-sets” to break cultural barriers and fight sexual harassment; addressing the so-called “leaky pipeline” whereby women fall behind despite their high level of education; implementing gender-sensitive human resources policies and measures; making sure women are given as challenging tasks as men from the very beginning of their career.

    The authors underline that women and girls receive almost half of all educational resources, thus representing a significant proportion of the available talent pool. Therefore, companies’ investment in attracting, retaining and promoting skilled women is likely to be good for business.

The report said national employers’ organizations could play a major role in increasing awareness of the business case for appointing women in leadership roles.

“Unless action is taken, it could take 100 to 200 years to achieve parity at the top. It is time to smash the glass ceiling for good to avoid controversial mandatory quotas that are not always necessary or effective. Having women in top positions is simply good for business,” France-Massin submitted.

According to the report, Jamaica has the highest proportion of women managers at 59.3 per cent, while Yemen has the least with 2.1 per cent. The US is 15th in the list of 108 countries with 42.7 per cent women managers, the UK 41st (34.2 per cent) and the Russian Federation holds the 25th place (39.1 per cent).

In Africa, Ghana occupies 26th place with 39 per cent, followed by Botswana ranking 28th (38.6 per cent). In Asia, the highest-ranking country is the Philippines in 4th place (47.6 per cent), followed by Mongolia with 41.9 per cent in 17th place. With 53.1 per cent, Colombia holds the second place at the global level and ranks first in Latin America, followed by Panama in fifth place (47.4 per cent).

   The report presents the findings of a 2013 ILO survey of over 1,200 companies in Africa, Asia and Pacific, Eastern and Central Europe and Latin American and the Caribbean, focusing on measures and initiatives to advance women in management. The survey was carried out with the assistance of national employers’ organizations in 39 countries.

Reacting to the report, Women leader, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Oyimkan Olasanoye, described the development as timely, adding that women are better managers because of what she identified as ‘gentle nature’ of women.

    Speaking with The Guardian, she explained that women can be trusted and can easily rally support and mobilize people for development projects.

According to her, women bring to bear their gifts of managing home to leadership position.

Speaking in a similar vein, women activist, Mrs. Olubunmi F. Oladoyinbo, said women are better managers of scarce resources.

    Oladoyinbo said: “The only way to attain sustainable progress is for men and women to operate on an equal basis especially in politics and in the work place”.

She added: “We must do everything possible to create a level playing field. All obstacles to the emancipation of women either in politics or in the work place must be removed. That is the only way to make progress”.

Oladoyinbo also used the opportunity to appeal to corporate organizations and relevant government agencies to stop the habits of reserving some positions for men, adding that it is counter-productive.



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