Top Earning Female CEOs in Nigeria and the Question of Board Diversity

Gender Equity and Corporate Compensation– Sizing-Up Women’s C-Suite Pockets

Globally, Women’s advancement into top management positions accelerated in 2021 as the need for a more diverse and inclusive leadership model supported women’s inclusion. The proportion of women in senior management rose despite the widened gender gap recorded in the previous year as the Covid-19 pandemic tumbled the global economy.  In Nigeria, banks have set the pace for gender equity in the corporate space with women reaching the CEO level in some prominent financial institutions. As of 2021, six out of the 23 commercial banks in the country have women in CEO and MD positions. Specifically, FCMB, GTCO, Fidelity Bank, Citibank Nigeria, SunTrust bank, and unity bank have women in their CEO or MD positions. With the noticeable improvement in the diversity of the board of director, financial institutions’ effort in including women in decision-making shows a leap toward achieving gender equity

Despite climbing the management ladder, no woman made the list of the top 10 CEOs, but analysts spotted Stanbic bank at the 13th position (which has a female chairman) and GTCO at 14th (female MD). However, the gender mix on the board of directors for the top 10 paid CEOs shows a lack of visible possibility for women making the list in the near term with only Lafarge cement having a balanced gender mix while Nigerian Breweries and Guinness Nigeria Plc show a fair mix (see table below)

The significance of women’s inclusion in corporate suite was cited in Proshare’s Bank strength Index (PBSI) introduced in “Nigeria Banking Report: The case for redefining Tier 1 banks report’’. Proshare analysts itemized gender-diversified boards as one of the metrics to measure a bank’s efficiency and sustainability. The report revealed that banks with more gender-diverse boards showed a better performance, measured by the return on equity (ROE). This statement justifies the need for women in leadership roles and affirms the strive toward gender equity is beyond fairness but beneficial to both an organization and the economy at large.

The journey to gender equity still requires intense exertion in all sectors, as a recent report written by Professional Women Roundtable (PWR) in 2021 revealed that Nigerian women only held 23.4% of the board of directors of the top 20 companies (classified by market capitalisation) on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. This depicts that only 56 seats out of the 239 board seats available in the top 20 companies belong to women, pointing to a wider gender gap in the country.  Pertaining to female CEO’s remuneration, fidelity bank and unity bank maintained the same salary as the previous year at N110m and N41.40m respectively.  Aside from the banking sector, analysts spotted that Cutix Plc (a manufacturing firm) currently has a female CEO, but the remuneration was not included in the financial statement of the company making it impossible to know the exact position of the firm in terms of CEO ranking. However, the progress still points back to the banking sector, showing their effort in fostering women’s inclusion. Capturing the gender pay gap is quite difficult with the limited data available on female-led companies. Moreover, there are some thriving women-led firms in other sectors that are not listed on the Nigerian Stock exchange such as Piggyvest (Odunayo Eweniyi, a co-founder), Novo Health Africa Ltd head by Dorothy Jeff-Nnamani, Kedari Capital Limited with Ife Fashola as the Group CEO and many more (see illustration

The progress so far envisages a tighter gender gap in the finance sector that should eventually spread to all sectors of the economy, although the reluctance of the Nigerian lawmakers to pass a bill that would explicitly specify the gender quota for company boards and political positions is strongly contributing to the setback. The right Policies and laws will tackle the imbalance and promote the actualization of women’s inclusion in all sectors including political positions. 

Experts are of the opinion that the fast-growing professions should help bridge the gap in gender inequality as it requires more intellectual and technical skills than physical ability which segregates gender in some jobs. A recent study carried out an analysis of the gender patterns that have evolved in the Artificial Intelligence field from 2000 to 2019, the representation showed a 27% increase in women’s involvement. This milestone showcases that women are consciously redefining the narrative of being negligent about acquiring skills or trailing a technically advanced career path and this transformation will progress further as the new job opportunities tackle systemic barriers.  ADAPTED FROM PROSHARE

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