Globalisation has led to discourse on leadership and management having different perspectives. Today, one of the discourses includes gender diversity in leadership positions across organizations.
While the African continent comes third after the United States and Europe, and first amongst other emerging regions in terms of women’s representation on boardrooms of top listed companies, some sectors are doing better than others. In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, the banking sector is leading the pack. In what many observers have described as a paradigm shift, the Nigerian banking sector is currently seeing a surge in the number of women at its top echelon. Presently, eight women serve as Chief Executive Officers (CEOs)/Managing Directors (MDs) of the country’s leading banks.
Other sectors, especially the energy sector, hitherto a male dominated sector, is towing the line. Shell Nigeria unveiled its first female Managing Director for deep-water Nigeria, last year. Most recently, Oando Plc, Nigeria’s leading indigenous energy solutions provider appointed two seasoned professional women to its board of Directors, Mrs. Ronke Sokefun and Mrs. Nana Fatima Mede.
A review of Oando’s culture shows that it’s been conscious of the imbalance within the sector and as such, has always prioritized two things: strengthening indigenous capacity and ensuring gender parity wherever possible. Today 43 per cent of the company’s workforce is female, compared to 22 per cent across the industry. Of this, 33% of executive-level employees are female with the hope that its female representation on its board continues to grow.
In an interview published in 2020 for Africa Oil Week, an Oando Executive said “As leaders, our focus is on building the most desirable company in which to work and invest. To do that, not only do you require vision, ambition, and passionate people, you need a balance of ideas and characters – which you get by prioritizing gender parity. Our desire to see a more gender-balanced company and in turn sector via proactive action has fuelled our commitment to making gender diversity a priority. This commitment is effected in every part of our business, from the offering of benefits that encourage women to return to work after maternity leave to our charity, Oando Foundation focusing on educating the girl child; reverberations that can be felt not only within our business but also the community at large. We have seen and reaped the benefits of a more inclusive business environment and thus inclusivity will always be a priority, one that we will champion until the industry achieves gender balance.”
Mrs. Sokefun, an Alumni of Oando, has over 35 years of work experience. In 2002, she moved to the Oando Group, where within a few years she rose to the position of Chief Legal Officer. During this period, she also sat on the Board of the telecom’s giant – Celtel/Zain (now Airtel) as an alternate Director. She served in this position until 2011 when she was called to public service in Ogun State and proceeded to serve as a 2-term Commissioner – holding diverse portfolios – under Senator Ibikunle Amosun’s 2-term administration as Ogun State Governor.
As conversations on climate change and harnessing sustainable energy sources continue to intensify, oil and gas companies are looking for ways to improve on their operations in line with global standards and requirements. In line with this, Oando appointed Mrs. Nana Fatima Mede, who has served as a Federal Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment where she coordinated the formulation of the Nigerian Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) document on Greenhouse Gases (GHG) in relation to Climate Change – a document which was presented by the President at the Conference of Party (COP 21) in Paris, 2015. She will showcased her expertise on clean energy to supporting the company’s ambitions.
The growth of female representation across corporate boards shows that unlocking the potential of Africa’s successful transformation requires concurrently removing barriers to women’s leadership and participation.