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Gender equality and leadership performance

By Yetunde Ebosele (Lagos) and Collins Olayinka (Abuja)
19 January 2015   |   11:00 pm
GRADUALLY, women are making in ways into leadership positions across the world despite perceived challenges.     From Nigeria to other parts of Africa and indeed the entire world, the modern women have risen above the archetypal belief that the role of a woman is in the kitchen.     They have emerged to become…

DIEZIANI-OPEC-CHIEFGRADUALLY, women are making in ways into leadership positions across the world despite perceived challenges.

    From Nigeria to other parts of Africa and indeed the entire world, the modern women have risen above the archetypal belief that the role of a woman is in the kitchen.

    They have emerged to become ‘amazons’ in their chosen professions from the shadow on ‘weaker’ sex acronym. The days when the acronym ‘mama na boy’ syndrome evokes joy, which signals hope and longevity of family lineage has since given way to a belief that baby girl has equal chances of success.

    The rise of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of Britain, exploits of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Finance Minister of Nigeria, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke who, not only emerge as the first female Minister of Petroleum resources in Nigeria, but also the first female President of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have clearly shown that women have indeed come of age and are indeed contributing their quotas to the political and economic development of the world.

    There is a silent global momentum gathering about the positive impacts women leave behind in various organizations and governments around the world where they are at the helm of affairs.

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

   The study shows positive link between female leadership and business performance and urges boost from current five per cent of women in top positions.

    The report noted that while women are still under-represented in top management, the number of women in senior and middle management positions has increased over the last 20 years.

    According to ‘Women in Business and Management: Gaining’, in 80 of the 108 countries for which ILO data is available, the proportion of women managers has increased during this period.

    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. 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.

    Providing the Nigeria experience, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Dr Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, said Nigeria has indeed made giant stride in appointing women into key positions.

      Her words: “I can say that Nigeria has done very well in appointing women into key positions. When I came into the ministry between 2003 and 2004, women headed all the seven departments in the ministry. This may be partly influenced by the fact that men never liked the ministry because they claimed there was no money there. Of course there may not be money in that ministry, but some of us who passed through there are using the experiences we got there even after leaving service.”`   Dr. Koripamo-Agary opined that the reason women tend to perform better in position of authority may not be unconnected to their shrewdness in resource management and empathy they show their co-workers.

     “I think we perform better when in position of authority because of the way we manage resources and empathy shown to colleagues. We show we can understand with our colleagues when they are passing through some difficult patches in their lives. 

    “These empathies, most times, proved to be magic wand that propels workers to give more than their best. It gives them confidence that they are not alone in their family and personal struggles which then translates to an improved productivity. 

    “Women are also more restrained and there is less greed among womenfolk when managing resources. Even though it could be cumbersome working with men at times because they like to show their strength, with determination and confidence, women have been able to show that they are no push overs in management matters and this also enhances their efficiency,” she said. 

    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 at the weekend, 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.