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The case for having more women in leadership roles



On Monday, I attended a panel event at The Conduit, London, about Youth Unemployment in Africa with Fred Swaniker, Founder of the African Leadership University (ALU) speaking. For ALU, the priority for those driving change for Africa must be to contribute to the development of at least three million ethical, entrepreneurial, problem-solving and innovative African leaders who will be equipped with 21st century skills – both hard and soft skills – by 2035. The panel also included Nicola Galombik, Executive Director of Yellowwoods (a Conduit Impact Partner) and Founder of Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, and James Mwangi from the Dalberg Group.

One of the themes I’d like to touch upon, which is a crucial way to invest in women more, is Leadership, meaning the education of a new generation of female leaders who can be more involved in the leadership process. This can be non-political or political leadership.

Leadership is about making decisions which can lead to new solutions that improve situations. Money is not required to make these simple decisions; the decisions come from the quality of the leaders themselves who were empowered to be in those positions of leadership in the first place.

A country with good leaders attracts more investors and visitors, and this enables foreigners to invest easily in the country, as they see a legitimate and secure framework in place. Mauritius was cited as a case study, where only 3-5 per cent of its population are unemployed and there’s very low corruption and good security in the country. Good leadership is what’s needed to create these positive conditions for a developing country with huge potential. Just as with the other pressing social challenges we face in Africa, and in our case, Nigeria, an angle for women’s empowerment will often arise, be it when pushing for better leadership, investment in human capital or anything else that women are capable of (and women are capable of many things).

The panelists also spoke of Human Energy and the need to invest in it to harness the best in people. This relates to the notion of Human Capital Investment, being where companies invest in means to develop their employees to improve their business operations and therefore their returns.

Similarly, we argue that we need to invest in women more, but perhaps in ways that may not appear obvious because the average company tends to have a patriarchal culture and systems in place, and may not have thought of issues best raised by the voices of women. Which is why women must be involved in the leadership and decision-making process. How would the male MD of a company know that some of its female staff require extra training after maternity leave or that a creche should be introduced on site if this question is not asked in the first place? Women are one demographic of beneficiaries of this notion of investing in human capital and it will pay off for companies in terms of higher productivity and social and economic development.

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