Mrs. Owanari Duke
By Obinna Chima
Commercial banks are currently strategising on how to raise the very low number of women representation on their board to meet the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) target.
Diamond Bank Plc and the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) recently announced the appointment of a total of three women as members of their board of directors.
However, a survey by THISDAY showed the figure is still dismal as only 15 per cent of board of directors’ positions in commercial banks in Nigeria is held by women, as against the 30 per cent target that the regulator had fixed.
The findings from the 2011 financial statement as well as their websites, revealed that out of 251 board positions in 18 banks, only 38 went to women while a total of 208 positions went to men.
This however represented a slight increase, compared with eleven per cent board representation by women, reported by the Financial Transparency Report (FTI), which had surveyed the banks’ 2010 accounts.
THISDAY checks showed that three banks –Zenith Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank Plc (FCMB) and Wema Bank Plc – have no female representation on their board. While Zenith Bank’s board has a total of 12 men, FCMB and Wema have 18 and eight, respectively.
On the other hand, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, with six women out of 22 board members, has the highest number of female representation. The bank is closely followed by UBA as the appointment of Mrs. Rose Ada Okwechime and Mrs. Owanari Duke as members of its board of directors increased its number of female representation to five.
But in other banks, the number stood between three and one. Diamond Bank had announced the appointment of the immediate-past Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, as a member of its Board of Directors. She is expected to be an independent director on the board. But the appointment is subject to the approval of CBN and shareholders of the commercial bank. This is expected to take the total number of women on its board to three.
The bankers’ committee had rolled out a three-year programme that would seek to empower women bankers in the financial system. Specifically, the policy had set a target between 2012 and 2014 to ensure that 40 per cent of top management positions in banks are held by women. During the same period, 30 per cent of board positions in banks will also be reserved for women.
CBN Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi had said the decision was reached by the bankers’ committee. He had said: “Between now and 2014, we have set a target for at least 40 per cent of the top management positions in banks to be held by women. By December 2014, we have set a target for at least 30 per cent of board seats in every bank to be held by women also.”
Globally, the low number of women on the board of financial institutions has remained a source of concern to regulators. The recent global financial crisis had highlighted the need to bridge this gap as regulators in some European countries are considering increasing women quotas on financial institutions’ board in order to improve corporate governance.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which has since identified this discrepancy, have continued to stress the importance of gender diversity in board positions.
“I observed that there are limitations placed on women, for instance, in banking they are usually not allowed to go beyond a certain level. The issue of lack of women on the board is indeed a global issue and it is also true that some countries have addressed the problem. If 30 percent is given to women, it will not affect anything,” he said.
“In all of these, I believe strongly that women need skills to get to the board and by this I mean a good track record, strength of character and meritocracy. No woman should expect to be promoted simply because she is a woman but because you earned it. If you are not promoted, it should be because you are not qualified, not because you are not a man.”
National President, Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Mr. Sunday Salako, urged banks to support the move to increase women representation in banks’ board as well as top management positions.
He described the policy as an International Labour Organisation (ILO) programme.
The labour leader said: “The primary goal of the ILO is to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Thus, ILO considers gender equality as a key element to bring about growth.”
On his part, Banking Analyst at Sterling Capital, Mr. Sewa Wusu said that the policy should be supported as the few women at the top management level in the industry, have continued to contribute to the growth of their institutions.
“Basically, women have managerial skills and have contributed to the growth of the financial industry. Look at Funke Osibodu, Bola Adesola and others in the system. So, gender does not mean that they should be excluded. Even in the past, we have seen women do exploits in the industry,” Wusu said.
Disturbed by women's lack of access to finance, Sanusi had also said that by October this year, the apex bank would set in motion a policy that would make it possible for female entrepreneurs to borrow at single-digit rates of interest.