2 années ago

A case for quota’s for women in leadership in Nigeria

Ola Brown1
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Quotas will help more Nigerian women win

Scenario 1: Shortly after I got married, one of my wealthy male friends; who is happily married with 5 children told me that I would have never gotten married if I had agreed to date him because he would have given me a nice house & car. We had done business together in the past so he knew full well that I could afford these things myself.

Scenario 2: A banker friend of mine hosted an investment event in 2015 that brought together small/medium sized Nigerian businesses and investors from all over Asia. The event was covered in all the major newspapers, I wondered why all the businesses owners that he chose to participate in the event were all men.

A few months later my banker friend called me and told me that he was sponsoring a beauty contest and he would like me to come a ‘inspire’ the contestants before their show. I asked him why he didn’t invite me for the investment conference, but decided that this beauty pageant (I have no experience or inclination towards the entertainment industry btw!) was he ‘perfect’ opportunity for me.

Both of these guys are my friends, I know that they like me as a person, but despite the fact I run a very successful business, somewhere in their subconscious minds, I am still just a ‘girl’. And their minds ‘girls’ motivate beauty contest participants, they don’t do multi-million dollar deals with Chinese investors.

With friends like this, who needs enemies? 😉

Let us digress briefly to take a little to look at the Nigerian economy today.

The size of the economy is roughly $400bn in terms on GDP, which gives Nigeria a GDP per capita of about $1500. Compare to Luxembourg with it’s GDP per capita of $103,000, the USA with per capita GDP of $60,000, UK at about $40,000, South Korea at $27,000; you can see that even if Nigeria distributed its entire GDP equally to each citizen, they would still be poor.

To lift Nigeria’s citizens out of poverty there is an urgent imperative to grow our economy, quickly.

To even approach the type of GDP per capita level that has the potential to give each Nigerian the chance of a decent standard to living, we must increase the amount of trade (goods and services exchanged between companies/households) in Nigeria over several fold.

Why women’s leadership matters

Changing the way we trade by making our companies more effective and competitive should be one of the cornerstones of Nigeria’s push towards rapid economic growth

According to Mckinsey and Company, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have greater than average financial returns. Furthermore, organisations with three or more women in senior management positions score higher in all dimensions of organizational effectiveness.

Research shows that women complement and enhance the range of leadership behaviors critical to performance. Companies with more women on their boards are more profitable. The UN succinctly states that when women work/lead, economies grow.

In political leadership, the benefit is also clear. Research published in the New York Times shows that women are better at making deals in the senate than men.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has noted“Women typically invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men”

However, when it comes to career progression women are continually shortchanged by bias.

Take this study from the Harvard Business Review below which highlights the barriers women face when seeking funding for their entrepreneurial ventures.

The Lean In organisation points out that at the first critical step up to manager, women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male peers. In many Nigerian banks, female marketers are highly visible as marketers doing the hard work of bringing in deposits, selling financial services and supporting growth, however become less visible in senior management positions, especially on boards.

The more competent a woman is, the less likable she is judged to be. The opposite also holds true: the more likable a woman is, the less competent

This article again from Harvard Business Review highlights the likeability challenge stating that For Women Leaders, Likability and Success Hardly Go Hand-in-Hand. Many other studies call it the ‘Likability penalty’

Why Quota’s?

I think the evidence above can help us conclude four things:

  1. There a societal bias that works against women in leadership both in the public and the private sector
  2. Nigeria needs urgent and rapid economic growth
  3. Female leaders are essential for delivering this economic growth
  4. The absence of women isn’t completely merit-based, it is influenced by a mix of cultural & sociological factors that are effectively limiting our economic growth; condemning millions of Nigerians to poverty

I believe that quota’s can solve all of the above problems, helping to eliminate bias, enhancing true meritocracy while helping to deliver the rapid, economic growth that Nigeria so desperately needs.

A quota is a positive measurement instrument aimed at accelerating the achievement of gender-balanced participation and representation. It establishes a defined proportion (percentage) or number of places or seats to be filled by, or allocated to, women and/or men, generally under certain rules or criteria.

We already have a lot of quota’s in Nigeria. Every single ministerial cabinet, must have someone from my state; Ekiti.

Ekiti with a population of 2m, is 1% of Nigeria’s population

Women are 50% of Nigeria’s population. Why are there no quota’s for us??

One of the strongest arguments for quota’s is the need to represent the entire population,which is 50% female. It is unacceptable that political leadership in Nigeria is still very much a predominantly male privilege.

The Atlantic argues that quotas bring women’s voices into political systems where they are otherwise excluded ,effectively short-cutting a process that can naturally take generations. They have been used successfully by countries ranging from Norway to Rwanda to India.

At the beginning of this article, I gave a few personal anecdotes that highlighted the some of the shocking biases held by my own friends/professional colleagues in Nigeria. I believe this is a reflection of wider society the way even the most competent and accomplished women are excluded from opportunities by their gender. As a female business leader in Nigeria, I sometimes feel like DJ Khaled. Like they don’t want me to be the biggest boss in the game. They don’t want me to win.

Quotas will help more Nigerian women win

They will deliver efficiency and profitability that will grow the economy lifting millions of people across Nigeria out of poverty. A stronger Nigeria, is a stronger Africa. An economically strong Africa will make the world a much happier, more equal and peaceful place. This is why I support quota’s.


Founder of West Africa’s leading air ambulance service, Flying Doctors Nigeria. Director, Greentree Investment Fund (Tech-Focus)

Source : Medium

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