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THE RISE OF WOMEN IN CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

Women make society. This is a time honored truth. But hard-healed male Chauvinists quickly add: “at the home front, not in commerce and industry”.

In truth, these Chauvinists are losing grips with emerging reality. They dream; and live in distance time past. Yes, in classical times, women were relegated to the backwaters. They were treated as second class citizens and leisure objects for the menfolk. They were not generally esteemed. To call a man, a woman, in those days was apparently the worst insult one could offer any man.

However, that thinking has changed tremendously .  The appointment of Mrs Yemisi Edun as the Managing Director by the Board of Directors of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited represents a significant milestone in bringing about a gender diverse workforce at the senior management and board levels in Nigerian banks. The appointment also reinforces a recent trend in the banking sector that has seen women emerging as CEOs of commercial banks.At the last count, six out of the 23 commercial banks in the country, representing 26 per cent, have women in CEO positions. Also, the number of women in other top management positions in Nigerian banks is on the rise.Although there are currently no specific legal requirements for gender diversity in Nigeria’s legal system, the gender gap in the country’s banking sector is indeed closing. Nonetheless, regulations issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Code of Corporate Governance and the 2018 Nigerian Code of Corporate Governance (CCG) provide assurances that the number of women holding key positions in the banking sector will only continue to grow.

In the light of FCMB’s bold move to appoint Mrs Yemisi Edun as its substantive MD/CEO after serving as acting MD of the bank for a few months, there is no gainsaying that the bank is committed to both promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. The composition of its board of directors and its executive management reflects this. The bank’s board currently has two female Independent Non-Executive Directors: Mrs Mfon Usoro and Ms Olayemi Keri, while another female.

  Yet the change is not yet complete.  There are still barriers to the advancement of women as leaders that needs to be dismantled, especially in politics , commerce and industry

Nevertheless, the fire of women in leadership has been lit.  It all began with the Renaissance and Reformation between the 14th and 16th centuries, when Western Europe underwent a socio-cultural shift in thinking. It was a period when men became more cultured and less brutish.

This shift in thinking crystalized in the 19thcentury- a period social historian’s call the age of progress; the modern era. The age of progress came with a worldwide mega shift in the perception of reality and the place of women in it. Knowledge and ideas were the driving forces in this age. Less wonder then that women who were also daughters of the age and had acquired education, professional competence and technical expertise started emerging in large numbers as leaders in fields normally associated with men, especially in commerce and industry. Women thus have become agents of change and progress.

The emergence of women at the centre stage of national development, commerce, and industry is in line with the thinking of Socrates, the great Greek Philosopher of practical reason, who said that: “where women know more than men, for instance, in spinning wool, then they rightly become leaders”. “In such circumstances as spinning wool”. “he says, “ women govern the men because they know how to do it and men do not”. Socrates holds the knowledge is the gateway to leadership positions in all fields of human endeavor.

In other words, the principle that authority flows from the one who knows, apply to men as well as women.

Xenophon, another Greek wise man, said that.” In industry-bailiff or manager –who can make the workers man or women who give a lift to the business and swells the profit”.

John Milton, the great English poet and Philosopher says: “a superior and more natural law comes in, that the wiser governs the less wise, whether male or female”.

A look at the profile of women who achieved the Zenith of the corporate ladder shows their successes were based on solid personal achievements. These women were willing to take or make opportunities and lead the way”. Superior knowledge made possible by solid educational background and strict adherence to generally accepted business and social norms were their leading lights.

 Notwithstanding the emergence of women in leadership positions in corporate business, a look at the Nigerian corporate firmament shows very few women among the galaxy of top corporate notcherss. The figures do not adequately represent women in corporate businessand national affairs. What could be responsible for this?.

Some social commentators point accusing fingers at discriminators point accusing fingers at discriminatory cultural practices against women. In time past, education for

It is only in recent times that women started holding their own in the area of education. Hitherto, women in the north were not encouraged to go to school. This is why northern women in top rung of the corporate ladder are dismally few compared with their counterparts in the south. This was made possible by the early embrace of Western culture and Christianity by the south.

Christianity was more receptive to women education and Socio-economic empowerment, analysts say. It brought seeds of change in the perception of the value of women relative to men. St. Paul’s principle that is Christ all are equal- Jews, and Gentiles, male and female, slave and free, was recorded in the Bible which Christians consider as inspired word of God.

Those seeds germinated slowly in the soils of Western culture. In time, they helped to produce such secular offshoots as modern feminist movements. These feminist movements have championed the course of women and made governments to take decisions that affect women positively.

There is no gainsaying that where women are empowered economically, the society is better for it. Women are in charge as home managers. And where a woman is economically sound, both the men and children benefits. She uses her wealth to take care of the family and create harmony in the home.

Gone are the days when women were just home makers who enjoy the wealth of their husbands. Today, they contribute in making wealth. They work both in the formal and informal sectors. With the downturn of the economy, most men cannot cope with family financial burden without the contribution of their wives.

“Women seems to be disadvantaged in the scheme of things because they have been maintaining a culture of silence”, some social commentators would say Nigerian women, to a large extent, have shied away from holding the reins of political power. The only way women can effect positive change in their favor is when they take active part in partisan politics in large numbers. Politics has been defined as the science of who gets what, when and how. Politics dictates the tones of whatever happens in society. Where women are not there to make policies that favor them, then men naturally dominate in all spheres. For Example, out of 109 Senators , only  few are women  ;   in the house of Representatives are women , the case is the same .

Most very well-placed women interviewed   would not want to be involved in partisan politics. How then would they change the negative societal attitude towards women?

Some analysts believe  women should take their destiny in their own hands. They should play active part in national politics, take the reins of power and make reforms in their favor.

Where women are empowered socially and economically, the entire society benefits.

It was Plato who said. “Where wise men refuse to take the reins of power, they are led by ignorant me. And power in the hands of the ignorant is prison.

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