The number of women on the boards of public quoted and private firms is still low and below expectation, according to speakers and participants at the Women in Board seminar held in Lagos on Thursday.
They said the conversation around ‘Women on Board’ was part of the global drive for gender equality to empower girls and women.
With the theme: ‘Promoting Gender Inclusive Boards, Organisations and Societies’, the seminar was organised by the International Finance Corporation, Institute of Directors’ Centre for Corporate Governance, Women in Business Management and Public Sector, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In a presentation, the Chairperson, Board of Trustees, WINBIZ, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Roberts, said it was evident that the country did not have a set of agenda for the representation of women on the boards of companies.
She stated that the underrepresentation of women had remained obvious for a long time at all levels of decision making, especially in business and politics, citing a case in the banks where auditors’ reports no longer reflected gender representation.
Roberts said, “We are not seeking to be on the boards because the men are there. It is just that we want to contribute our competences and strategies. It is rather unfortunate that in most cases where women have better credentials, the men are the ones who get the job or get on the boards.
“It is high time women became investors and create wealth. This will go a long way in reducing the discrimination.”
A guest speaker and a former Head of the Finnish Institute of Director, Mr. Olli Virtanen, said the fact that women deserved more positions in the business world was a convincing case, but needed to be put in perspective with respect to men so that the needed change could happen.
He described the challenge as not just a Nigerian or African thing, but a global phenomenon.
Virtanen, therefore, prescribed education, general awareness, value creation, networking and mentoring, among others, as some of the veritable tools the women fold needed to excel in the world of business and beyond.
Virtanen described women as better educated at all levels, more analytical, avoiders of excessive risk-taking, efficient task executors, more compassionate and highly competent in the area of business.
The Senior Corporate Governance Officer, IFC, Mrs. Chinyere Almona, said a growing body of research had shown that a broad set of business benefits was associated with gender diversity on corporate boards.
To be truly effective, she noted that a board required a diversity of skills, culture and views to make smart decisions with lasting impact.
The Chairman, IoD’s Centre for Corporate Governance, Mrs. Eniola Fadayomi, said Nigeria had 11.5 per cent of women on boards, quoting the African Development Bank.
In the African context, she said Nigeria was still below the poor regional average.