At this year’s Nigerian Stock Exchange International Women’s Day symposium, gender awareness and education were generally accepted by all in attendance as key to women’s push for progress in a male dominated world. Sunday Ehigiator who covered the event, reports

International Women’s Day is a day celebrated in several countries around the globe. It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions; be it national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. The day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the 20th century in North America and across Europe. But eventually, after several antecedents, it became a globally celebrated day in the year 1975 after being adopted by the United Nations (UN).

This year’s NSE International Women’s Day symposium, is the fourth in a row as organised by the Nigerian Stock Exchange, in celebration and solidarity to the progress of all women in the world, especially in Nigeria.

This year’s occasion which held on the 20th floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Lagos, had in attendance hundreds of women making waves in various walks of life amongst whom were: Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Laure Beaufils, Chairman, Learn NGO/Ella Care and former First Lady of Lagos State, Dame Abimbola Fashola, Executive Director, Regulation, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Tinuade Awe, Acting Country Representative for UN Women to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Adjaratou Fatou Ndiaye, Executive Director, World Bank, Patience Kunene, Chief, Africa United Nations Global Impact, Olajobi Makinwa, CEO Primera Africa Securities Ltd, Lilian Olubi, and CEO, CSR in Action, Bekeme Olawole.

In his opening remarks, Chief Executive Officer, NSE, Mr. Oscar Onyema, stated that, “this year’s theme is not just another theme for another edition of the International Women’s Day. It is a call to action to spur women and men into taking bold steps towards closing the gender gap.” He continued by saying, “At the Nigerian Stock Exchange, we are playing our part in helping to achieve gender parity. Today, we have a female to male employees’ ratio of 1:2 and we are taking key steps to increase the number of women in our employment, especially those in leadership positions. Early this year, we promoted Miss. Tinuade Awe to Executive Director, Regulations, and consequently she is the number two person at the Exchange. More importantly, the Exchange took steps to address the lack of female representation on its National Council, by electing three eminent female members at the last AGM. Today, we have 23 per cent female representation as against zero per cent representation in 2016.”

“As we Press for Progress in our careers, we must also commit to press for progress in all areas of our lives. We cannot give up, not now, not ever. We must push and push until we progress and break the norms that hold us from reaching our targets in gender equality. We must progress together, no matter the storm, for as long as we are together, be rest assured we will overcome. Let me use this opportunity to thank our product sponsors, Olori Cosmetics; Zaron Cosmetics Limited; Shredder Gang; A Thousand Reasons Confectionaries; Bodyline Fitness and Gym Limited; Kinabuti Fashion Initiative and Shuga Plum Concepts for the great items they have provided to spice up this event,” he noted.

Delivering her keynote address, Laure Beaufils commended the NSE for setting out a day like this to celebrate women. “I want to thank the CEO of the Stock Exchange for making this day happen – not all Stock Exchanges across the world hold a day like today to celebrate women.”

She called for resilience in the pursuit of gender equality. stating that, “We must not grow tired because change is not happening fast enough. We must not be afraid to rock the boat. We need more women on every table where decisions are made. We must push the private sector to do a lot better than it currently is. And we all; each and every one of us, in our families, our communities, and our work place and in our politics, we all have a role to play in pressing for change.”

Furthermore, she said “We know from decades of data that encouraging women’s participation is right and smart. If you include women in the economy, poverty goes down and GDP up. A growing body of research is beginning to demonstrate that companies run by diverse teams perform better. Last year, a big study of more than 21,000 public companies in 91 countries by the Peterson Institute and EY found that bringing more women into high management boosted profitability. It said a company with 30 per cent female leadership could expect to add up to six per cent to its net margin when compared with a similar business with no female leaders.” And concluded that “Economic empowerment goes right to the heart of women’s rights – because it’s about jobs but it’s also about access to bank accounts, it’s about tackling violence against girls and women, it’s about overcoming discriminatory laws and reducing the burden of unpaid domestic work. All of these things need to be done and I believe that we all have a role in our everyday lives in supporting this through our communities, our religious groups, our political engagements and our businesses. For our societies to be increasingly equal, we need champions and partners with whom we can create a critical mass demanding and progressing change. Men and women alike; we need to work with bold men, who care about doing what’s right for them and for their economy, and who dare to disrupt the established order. Men who will set up maternity leave, set up crèches in their offices, offer maternity and paternity leave, recognize and support the talent of women, and take pride in the success of the women they encourage.

“Progress is not inevitable. Sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back. But this is not a battle that we can afford to lose – for ourselves, for our countries, and for the generations to come. We should never rest on our laurels. And we must always believe we all have a role in changing the world even if it’s only a tiny bit because every tiny bit needed someone who changes it.”

Dame Abimbola Fashola, in her goodwill message, called on women to be their sister’s keepers by encouraging, inspiring and uplifting others as they move up the ladder. She applauded NSE for investing and advocating for women’s empowerment in the work place, market place and community, moments before she sounded the NSE Closing Gong.

The symposium which had Titilayo Adelogun-Oyinsola, an on-air personality as its compere, also featured two panel discussions with Tinuade Awe, Executive Director, Regulation, NSE; Patience Kunene, Executive Director, World Bank; Bekeme Olowola, CEO, CRS in Action; Lilian Olubi, CEO, Primera Africa Securities, as first panelist who discussed ‘Gender Equality, Business Growth and Economic Development: Finding the Connection’, with the session moderated by Irene Robinson Ayanwale, Head, Legal-Nigerian Stock Exchange. And Bola Adeeko, Head, Shared Services Division, NSE; Ali Baba, Nigeria’sforemost Stand-up Comedian and Actor; and Dan Agbor, Partner, Udo Udoma and Belo-Osagie, as second panelist who deliberated on the theme; ‘The Future is Female: A Fad or a Fact’ moderated by Mrs. Adjaratou Fatou Ndiaye, Acting Country Representative for UN Women to Nigeria and ECOWAS.

With rooms for questions and answer from members of the audience at the end of each panel discussion, the occasion became more participatory as real life experience questions were asked from the audience and appropriate answers given by the panelists.

The high point of the occasion was the raffle draw session as sponsored by, Olori Cosmetics, Zaron Cosmetics Limited, Shredder Gang, A Thousand Reasons Confectionaries, Bodyline Fitness and Gym Limited, Kinabuti, and Shuga Plum Concepts. As several, laudable gifts were won by several members of the audience.

It was indeed a memorable day for all women as some members of the audience who spoke with THISDAY appreciated Nigerian Stock Exchange for their sustainable initiative of celebrating women all over the globe and promoting gender parity.