Saraki, others decry dearth of women in leadership positions
President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Toyin Saraki has decried the severe lack of women in top leadership positions across most major sectors of the economy despite making up an equal number or sometimes even outnumbering men in some other sectors.
Speaking at JCI Lagos City International Women’s day symposium, which was held in Lagos, she cited the nation’s healthcare sector, pointing out that just 21 percent of women are in leadership positions there, despite making up almost 80 per cent of its workforce. “In most countries when one wants to take a loan or credit, owning a property is very important as it helps with collateral and creditworthiness; but here, a woman owning property is seriously frowned upon, how then are women going to progress financially,” Saraki said.
“Gone are the days when the wrong people are making decisions for the vast majority. Women work as hard as men and must be remunerated for the work they do and the fact that women take time off to have children shouldn’t be held against them in the workplace. I want to begin to see intentionality behind these things beyond talks and events,” she said.
Chief Executive Officer, Z-Edge Consulting and Founder, Real Talk With Kike, Kike Atanda-Owo, advocated for more men to speak up for women in the workplace and other places as well. “Women are seen as easily disposable and that is why women are easily used during elections but are discarded right after and treated as second-class citizens. Women’s marginalisation didn’t start in a day so we don’t expect it to end in a day. These issues can’t be addressed at once but we must be deliberate about our strategy. Women are mostly ready to support other women that are doing well but we mustn’t forget the poor women in the background and be their voice,” Saraki said.
Managing Director, Danik Bureau de Change Limited, Zena Enaholo said breaking the bias simply means creating a level playing field for women and giving them same opportunities at the table. “It means leaving women to flourish and thrive where their male counterparts do without knocking them down, fairly and equally.
Empowering women not just with words but with action and giving them room to flourish and excel,” Enaholo said.
On including women in leadership, she said there has to be a shift in mindset, especially as a nation. Citing cultural and social biases as major factors that hinder women from assuming leadership positions, she urged that certain societal expectations imposed on women must stop. “Women should be given a fair chance at the table and be given to excel or fail just as we give men and be allowed to do what simply works for us,” Enaholo said.
Pointing out that leadership isn’t gender-specific, Atanda-Owo said women are also good leaders but must also hone their skills, and talents, acquire knowledge and never underestimate the power of little as there’s reward for consistency. “It’s easy to complain that only men are Chief Executive Officers but we must be ready to put in the same level of work they have put in to get to where they are,” she said.
2022 President, JCI Lagos City, Akinlabi Hassan noted that the symposium was a learning opportunity for all, as participants were richly enlightened by the values, knowledge and experiences the panelists shared regarding diversity, equity, equality and inclusion during the discourse, which he said are sacrosanct for sustainable national development.