I #ChoosetoChallenge the unequal representation of women in leadership positions in Nigeria

By Uju Duru

 

 

Women have for a long time been rescinded to the roles of cooking, cleaning and as of recently, noted by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, “the other room”. In most parts of the world, women are paid less than men, even if both occupy the same position.

With the fifth goal of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) set by the United Nations – Gender equality and empowerment of women and girls (ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life) – many nations, especially Nigeria, still struggle to achieve this.

A few days ago, Nigeria’s former minister of finance, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala emerged the Director General of the World Trade Organisation, while Nigerians bask in the glory of their own, the number of women in leadership positions remain low. The country, amongst many other African countries, operate a patriarchal system that makes it difficult for women to obtain or attain leadership positions.

According to the United Nations in 2019 , the representation of women in power in Nigeria is less than 6%. Within the House of Representatives, there are 5.5%; in the Senate: 5.8%; 5 out of 73 candidates who ran for President in 2019 were women; 1668 men and 232 women were vying for 109 senatorial seats, and; 4,139 men and 560 women competed for 360 seats in the House of Representatives.

With an affirmative action to increase women’s participation, in both elective and appointive positions, to 30%-35% Nigeria is lagging. Especially as, according to the London School of Economics, women in Nigeria, approximately, make up forty-nine percent of the population. Yet they are inadequately represented across leadership positions in the country.

The playing field set out for women has been uneven with comments like ‘it’s a man’s world’ or ‘any woman who wants to partake in politics needs to play by the rules’. What rules dare I ask? Rules that are representative of how a man decides to interact with his counterpart, which shifts daily.

Forbes in an article noted this disparity stating that the playing field has been predicated by the norms set by men on the form the playing field should take, which never considered the needs and preferences of both genders. A woman’s appointment into leadership roles is often judged on the actions and success of her predecessor, either directly or indirectly, within the same organisation.

While research, over the past three decades, supports the relationship between women’s representation in leadership positions and positive outcomes in organizations, the stigma, challenges, and stereotypes that women face in climbing up the ladder is much more than their male counterpart in Nigeria. A married man is more likely to get a political appointment, in Nigeria, than a woman because of the belief that a woman’s place is in making a home and the man’s place is in bringing home the bacon.

No matter what position a woman finds herself in or what the playing field may look like, women are able to adapt to any situation and make lemonade out of lemons. Their will and dedication to changing their course and making any bad situation turn around in their favour is what has helped them break glass ceilings.

Even though the continent of Africa is regarded as a society heavily reliant on patriarchy, it can boast of having a few first female president in several countries like Slyvie Kiningi, Acting President of Burundi  (February – October 1993), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia ( January 2006 – January 2018), Joyce Hilda Banda, President of Malawi (April 2012 – May 2014), Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius (June 2015 – March 2018), and Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia ( October 2018 – Present)

Kamala Harris the first female Vice President of the United States of America said “I hope that by being a ‘first,’ I inspire young people to pursue their dreams,”

Encouraging women out there, she also said “The number of times I’ve heard the word ‘no’—or that something can’t be done—in my lifetime is too many to count. I’m honored to be considered a “first,” but I always think about the people who came before and paved the way for me to get where I am today. From Rosa Parks to Shirley Chisholm to Congressman John Lewis, I stand on the shoulders of so many great men and women before me.”

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also had this to say in encouraging women and girls out there “I hope it’s a sign, not only to women and girls worldwide that the world is ready, and women can do it.”

Until the playing field is evened in Nigeria, women will continue to be subdued and subjugated to roles less inspiring.

 

Uju Duru
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