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Breakthrough in leadership as women disrupt stereotypes



Breaking gender barriers in organisations is emerging as one of the first steps towards establishing path to stability and growth.

With global campaign for girl-child education, and equal pay for equal work, space for male chauvinists in the organisational boardrooms is shrinking.

Currently, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has authenticated women efficiency by declaring that women in leadership positions engender better business performance.

A new report by the global labour watch body shows gender diversity improves business outcomes, and makes it easier to attract talent.


The report also looks at the reasons behind the continuing gender diversity deficits, and makes recommendations for breaking the cycle.

The report from the Bureau for Employers’ Activities of the ILO notes that businesses with genuine gender diversity, particularly at senior level, perform better, including seeing significant profit increases.

The report tagged, ‘Women in Business and Management: The business case of change’, surveyed almost 13,000 enterprises in 70 countries.

More than 57 per cent of respondents agreed that gender diversity initiatives improved business outcomes. Almost three-quarters of those companies that tracked gender diversity in their management reported profit increases of between five and 20 per cent, with the majority seeing increases of between 10 and 15 per cent.

Almost 57 per cent said it was easier to attract and retain talent. More than 54 per cent said they saw improvements in creativity, innovation and openness and a similar proportion said effective gender inclusivity enhanced their company’s reputation, while almost 37 per cent felt it enabled them to more effectively gauge customer sentiment.
The report also found that at national level, an increase in female employment is positively associated with gross domestic product (GDP) growth. The finding is based on an analysis of data from 186 countries for the period 1991-2017.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Director of the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities, Deborah France-Massin, said: “We expected to see a positive correlation between gender diversity and business success, but these results are eye-opening. When you consider the efforts companies make in other areas to get just an extra two or three per cent in profits, the significance is clear. Companies should look at gender balance as a bottom line issue, not just a human resource issue.”

Gender balance in senior management is defined as 40-60 per cent of either gender, the same as in the general workforce.

The report says the beneficial effects of gender diversity begin to accrue when women hold 30 per cent of senior management and leadership positions.

However, almost 60 per cent of enterprises do not meet this target, meaning they struggle to reap the rewards. In addition, in almost half of companies surveyed, women account for less than one in three of their entry-level management recruits – meaning that the pipeline to senior management may not deliver the talent needed.

Almost three-quarters of the enterprises surveyed had equal opportunity or diversity and inclusion policies, however, the report says more specific actions are needed to ensure that women are visible, and promoted to strategic areas of business.

Some key factors preventing women reaching decision-making positions were identified. Enterprise cultures that require “anytime, anywhere” availability disproportionately affect women, relative to their household and family responsibilities, while policies that support inclusivity and work-life balance (for both men and women), such as flexible working hours and paternity leave, need to be improved.

Another factor is the “leaky pipeline”, the tendency for the proportion of women to decline as the management grade rises.

The “glass wall” describes the incidence of women managers in roles such as human resource (HR), finance and administration that are considered less strategic and less likely to lead to chief executive and boardroom positions.

Less than a third of enterprises surveyed had achieved the critical mass of one third of women board members. Around one in eight reported they still had all-male boardrooms. More than 78 per cent of enterprises that responded had male chief executive officers (CEO’s), and those with female CEO’s were more likely to be small enterprises.
“The business case for getting more women into management is compelling. In an era of skill shortages, women represent a formidable talent pool that companies aren’t making enough of. Smart companies that want to be successful in the global economy should make genuine gender diversity a key ingredient of their business strategy. Representative business organisations and employer and business membership organisations must take a lead, promoting both effective policies and genuine implementation,” France-Massin added.

A former Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Dr Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, opined that women are often driven by passion to contribute their quota to the development of the organisation they work for.

On what kept her going despite formidable challenges, she said: “What kept me going was a sense of duty; a sense of service; a sense of purpose to achieve my set goals of ascendency to the top and to leave a legacy in service.”
Expectedly, Dr Koripamo-Agary, who was also a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communication before her retirement, allied herself with the findings of the ILO that organisations perform better when women are in leadership positions.

Her words: “I think women do as well as the men, if not better, when given the chance. Indeed, with their family responsibilities, they, in fact, work much harder than the men to get to the top. However, performance at the top is based on many characteristics that can be found in both men and women. The so-called traditional roles of women better prepare them for managing persons and resources. In my rise through service, I have been fortunate to have worked under very competent male and female bosses. And I must say that the women I worked under challenged me to work harder, maintain my integrity, and be tenaciously focused on my goal of rising to the top. I believe that a lot of my female contemporaries would agree with me.”

She said women occupying prominent positions in government would paint Nigeria better in the comity of nations, and boost ease of doing business in the global arena, adding that with the population of women in the country, they should be given opportunities in leadership positions in government.

“Not only in the political space, women should be given the opportunity to serve in all spheres of human endeavour. You cannot exclude half the population of people who make up the total. Women must have representation in proportion to their numbers. So, at least in Nigeria, with our gender policy of 35% representation for women, I expect nothing less for Nigerian women, especially in the political space,” she said.

While urging President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint competent Nigerians into government, Dr Koripamo-Agary added: “My advice is that he appoints experienced and competent people with integrity. There are numerous women cutting across all ethnic, religious, social and professional groups with integrity, experience, competence and a commitment to Nigeria.”

She maintained that generally, women are very good managers of their time and tasks, looking at the bigger picture.
“They also have empathy in dealing with their staff, which in my experience increases productivity. A woman manager is usually better able to appreciate and manage the external factors that affect the productivity of her employees (male and female). It is for this reason that I pushed not only for increase in the duration of the maternity leave, but also for paternity leave, which I hope will be approved in Nigeria someday,” she submitted.

On her part, the immediate past President of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions (NASU), Ladi Iliya, said men that give opportunities to women should be applauded and displayed as ‘ambassadors’ for others to follow.

She said while her qualities might have played a key role in her emerging the President of NASU, she also lauded the General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi, for his firm believe in the ability of women, and charting the path for the emergence of women as labour union leaders in Nigeria.

Indeed, Iliya was the first woman to head a trade union in Nigeria, with NASU blazing the trail, while she was President between 2007 and 2015.


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