Breaking Glass Ceiling in Banking

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Oluchi Chibuzor
Some years ago, it was the norm for women to be relegated into the background. Then, it was believed that they were to be seen and not heard.
Even in corporate organisations women rarely take up leadership role.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Corporate Gender Gap Report 2010, leading companies are failing to capitalise on the talents of women in the workforce. The study covers the world’s largest employers in 20 countries and benchmarks them against the gender equality policies that most companies should have in place but are, in fact, widely missing.
The findings of the report was an alarm bell during the recent International Women’s Day, as it showed that the corporate world was not doing enough to achieve gender equality.

While a certain set of companies in Scandinavia, the US and the UK are indeed leaders in integrating women, the idea that most corporations have become gender-balanced or women-friendly is still a myth.

The report was based on a survey of 600 heads of human resources at the world’s largest employers. The survey contained over 25 questions and assessed companies on representation of women within their establishments and the use of gender-equality practices such as measurement and target setting, work-life balance policies and mentorship and training.

The survey also asked respondents to identify the biggest barriers to women’s leadership and their opinion on the probable effects of the economic downturn on women’s employment in their countries and industries. This is fast becoming a myth as women are now being given prominent positions in corporate organization.

Access Bank is one of the few organisations where women are given prominent roles in leadership. For instance, the bank’s chairman is a female.
It is in line with the bank’s push for more women in leadership and business that it held the largest gathering of women recently in Lagos.
With the theme, ‘Balance for Better,’ more than 6, 000 women in attendance learnt from the experiences of fellow women who have expertise in different field of endeavor.

The Head, Women Banking, Access Bank, Ada Udechukwu, who was one of the initiators of the event, said Access Bank initially planned for 750 women but the bank was amazed by the number of women who registered online to attend the event.
“Women are taking themselves seriously. Women now pay bills, school fees, rent or mortgage. I truly believe Access bank is taking women seriously as they constitute a large percentage of our customers,” she observed.
Speaking at the event, the CEO, Access Bank, Hebert Wigwe, said the world has moved on from not taking women seriously as issues related to women have been on the front burner unlike in time past.

“An institution that doesn’t take women seriously is making a great mistake,” he told the fathering. “When you talk about loyalty, just go to a woman. There is a lot happening in politics, business both locally and internationally as it relates to women; and in terms of giving a voice to the voiceless.”
Wigwe said Access is happy to support women in growing their businesses.

“As a bank, we have supported women like Claire Omatseye in pharmacy, Folake Coker of Tiffany Amber in fashion, Nike Ogunlesi, CEO, Ruff n Tumble among other women. We took women whose turnover was zero to a billion naira.”
In addition, Wigwe said Access bank has developed different products to meet the needs of women in business. According to him, five years after, the bank has been able to develop 40 women.

“We discovered that money isn’t the problem for most women in business, it is building capacity. We provided training and developed them through various programmes. We have trained them in creating succession plans for their business,” he added.
Furthermore, Wigwe said Access Bank launched the W Initiative in 2017, to create a community for women to exchange ideas on how to grow their businesses and network. He said the W Initiative has been playing a pivotal role in the empowerment of women.

Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Laure Beaufils, while starting her keynote address asked all women in the hall some salient questions which are: ‘who in this hall want women to get equal pay as men? Who wants women to get equal respect as men? She based her discussion on gender equality while advocating for women to push back the push back.

“We must not wait to be given seats at the table, we must get a seat at the table and rearrange the table. Women must resist, insist, persist and enlist. Sometimes, it seems the fight is an individual one, the fight for justice is both individual and collective.
“There is such a need for sisterhood and we need a deliberate strategy. We must all remember to bring ourselves to work and build on those things that are us rather than seeking to be someone else. We need to give ourselves a break and believe we are more than enough,” she said.