Women business leaders discuss intergenerational dialogue in Private Sector

25 years after the historic Beijing Declaration not much progress has been recorded in ensuring gender equality. The COVID-19 pandemic struck to further deepen and widen the yawning gender gap. While a few Nigerian women have made remarkable breakthroughs, especially in the private sector and the international scenes, the political space remains deeply unwelcoming for women.

Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2021

To address the above challenges, and in line with the Generation Equality Campaign, UN Women Nigeria in partnership with Women in Successful Careers (WISCAR) convened an inter-generational dialogue between private sector women leaders in companies and young female professionals across industries in the private sector.

The virtual event discussed the key challenges facing women, and lessons on opportunities for expanding women’s leadership in the sector, as part of the private sectors’ contribution to fostering gender equality outcomes from the Beijing Agenda.

Women from private sector standing in favor of women in Nigeria - Photo credits : UN Women Africa
Women from private sector standing in favor of women in Nigeria - Photo credits : UN Women Africa

The Chairperson of First Bank of Nigeria, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of MainOne, Ms Funke Opeke and the Chief Commercial Officer at Mixta Africa, Ms Rolake Akinkugbe-Filani, were among the panellists.

In her speech, UN Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Comfort Lamptey remarked that the webinar is a continuation of the dialogue on women's leadership. 25 years after the Beijing Declaration, slow progress has been made in gender equality.

"Continuity in addressing inequalities is crucial, which is why last year we began an initiative with WISCAR to bring older and younger women together to sustain the tempo of achieving gender equality. We need the government, CSOs, private sector, everyone.", Ms. Comfort Lamptey, UN Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS.

While presenting the keynote address, Mrs Awosika noted that gender equality is necessary for growth and development, saying it is the surest path to reducing poverty and social ills currently overwhelming society.

"Women are already below par on all indices, and with COVID-19, they have become even more vulnerable. They have borne the brunt of the pandemic. Investing in women represents smart economics. It makes economic sense to get women involved. COVID-19 has proved that we can create a new way to work without making women leave their homes. We need to build a system that keeps/supports women at work.", Mrs Ibukun Awosika, Chairperson of First Bank of Nigeria.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Adejoke Adefulire, shared a similar view stating:

"Gender equality guarantees the socioeconomic development of any society. The involvement of the private sector is very key to this agenda. We must all work together to achieve the SDGs by 2030."

Women are advised to focus attention on achieving set goals. This strategy, according to the panelists, is more effective in earning women more seats at the decision-making table.

“One of the lessons I learned early in life is that men tend not to respect women but they respect results. So, I focused on achieving results because that changes the playing field.”, Ms Funke Opeke, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of MainOne

Ms Opeke acknowledged the distractions caused by micro aggressions and sexual harassment in the workplace and the educational system, saying women must learn to hold their ground in such situations.

One of the ways to stand out, manage relationships, as well as climb the career ladder is acquiring and up skilling your expertise. According to one of the panellists, Rolake Akinkugbe-Filani, “strategic thinking skills are non-negotiable.” 

Another panelist Christiana Onoja, commented that lack of adequate mentorship programmes for young female scientists is a major challenge sustaining gender inequality.

One of the challenges I faced as a female engineering student was that there were little or no female mentors in STEMs. Even today, there is still a shortage of mentors particular in the field of engineering and technology.”, Christiana Onoja, panelist.

The virtual conversation, sporting over 455 attendees, ended with commitments to further advance the rights and causes of women in society and public life.

More information:
  • Faith Bwibo - Communication Specialist, UN Women Nigeria - faith.bwibo@unwomen.org