By Nkiruka Nnorom
OVER the years, there has been increasing call for Board room diversity, particularly for increasing the proportion of women in top management position.
Recent studies and researches have shown that enterprises with equal employment opportunity policies and gender-inclusive cultures are over 60 percent more likely to have improved profits and productivity, and they are almost 60 percent more likely to experience enhanced reputation, greater ease in attracting and retaining talent, and greater creativity and innovation.
A report by Catalyst, a global non profit organisation working with some of the world’s most powerful CEOs and leading companies to build workplaces that work for women, indicated that three women or more are needed to create a “critical mass” of women, which can lead to better financial performance. The report indicated that boards that are at least 30 percent women offer a positive environment for innovative ideas to spring from gender diversity.
Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) also found that companies with fewer women on boards had more than average governance-related controversies.
Deborah France-Massin, Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Bureau for Employers’ Activities, said in a report that companies should look at gender balance as a bottom line issue, not just a human resource issue.
“In an era of skill shortages, women represent a formidable talent pool that companies aren’t making enough use of,” France-Massin said.
Nigerian shareholders are taking note and have started tasking the companies on the need to include more women on their boards at various annual general meetings, AGMs.
One company that is taking the lead in this regard is FBN Holdings Plc, the parent company of First Bank of Nigeria Limited. The bank is, no doubt, exemplary at representing the change, thus redefining the Women in Business trajectory with women occupying various leadership positions. This has positioned the financial group powerhouse as a leading institution at driving gender balance in the Boardroom in Nigeria.
Leading the pack of women in the board across the group structure, which comprises FirstBank and its subsidiaries, is Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, who has been chairman of FirstBank since 2016. Prior to becoming the chairman, she was a non-executive director. The representation further cuts across the group entity of its parent company, FBNHoldings. Other companies across the group, FBNQuest Merchant Bank and FBN Insurance are also not left out with Otunba Debola Osibogun being a Non-Executive Director at FBN Holdings; Cecilia Akintomide, Independent Non-Executive Director, FBN Holdings; Oluwande Muoyo, Independent Non-Executive Director, FBN Holdings; Dr. Omobola Johnson, Non-Executive Director, FBNQuest; and Oyinkansade Adewale, Non-Executive/Independent Director, FBNQuest.
Others are Kehinde Adenrele, Chairman, FBN Insurance; Folake Ani-Mumuney, Chairman, FBN Insurance Brokers; Ijeoma Agboti, Non-Executive Director, FBNQuest Capital; Funke Feyisitan Ladimeji, Non-Executive Director, FBNQuest Asset Management; Titi Adebiyi, Independent Director, FBN General Insurance and Margaret Dawes, Non-Executive Director, FBN Insurance.
With such a notable representation, it is no surprise that only recently, Women Corporate Directors (WCD), Nigerian Chapter, had FirstBank host its meeting with 60 female directors and leaders of various organisations across various industries in attendance. The women discussed pertinent corporate issues with a view to promote the continued influence of women in business and the economy, also ensuring that the needed balance on the home front is bolstered.
Investment analysts observed that FBN Holdings’ recognition of female impact in its business operations at management level, no doubt, sets the tone for other institutions across other industries to promote women inclusiveness in management, thereby instrumentally shaping gender balance in the business environment.
No doubt, promoting women inclusiveness by more companies in Nigeria would influence ethical practices in a cultured way. This, in no small measure, transcends to the political space, the cornerstone of legislative impact in the economy and business activities as a whole.
According to Dominic Christian, Chairman, Inclusion@Lloyd’s and Global Chair, Aon Benfield International, “Industries must be one step ahead of the complex global challenges that are affecting businesses and the public sector – from globalisation, to climate change and cyber crime- and to do that, we need the brightest minds and the boldest innovation. That doesn’t come from groups of people who all think the same way. We need different perspectives, life experiences and cultures in our teams to see opportunities from different angles.”