By Bassey Udo
The apex banking industry regulator is pursuing a policy that requires a minimum of 30 percent of female representation on boards, and 40 percent of women at top management levels in the banking industry to ensure gender diversity and inclusiveness, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, has said.
The governor was speaking in Abuja at a webinar hosted by the Deputy Governor in charge of the Financial System Stability (FSS) Directorate, Aishah Ahmad, on Thursday as part of activities to commemorate the 2022 International Women’s Day (IWD) at the CBN.
Emefiele said the Bank has already issued gender-mandated regulations to realise gender diversity and inclusiveness at the top management levels in the Nigerian banking industry.
To show an example, he said the CBN has set the pace by surpassed the affirmative action by ensuring 32 percent of its total workforce were female.
This, the CBN governor said, was similar to the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, which recommended the incremenf of the number of female staff of microfinance banks to 30 percent.
In an effort to to increase the representation of women in the industry, he said the Bank has been using the gender diversity model as part of the criteria for approving the membership of boards of financial institutions under its regulatory purview.
Such gender mandates, he pointed out, were necessary to breaking the bias in the Nigerian banking industry, adding that eight of the 23 bank Chief Executive Officers, representing 35 percent, were women, which was way above the global average.
The CBN governor spoke on the theme: “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”, in recognition of the significance of empowering women as part of the solution to the climate change crisis.
He said the campaign theme for 2022, (#BreakTheBias) was aimed at raising awareness on the persistent bias and discrimination in communities, workplaces, schools and the society in order, to create a “gender equal world” that is “diverse, equitable and inclusive”.
Emefiele further stated that the CBN, under his leadership, had “demonstrated its commitment to diversity and inclusiveness by designing and implementing a wide variety of initiatives, programmes and interventions to promote entrepreneurship, reduce poverty, generate employment and deepen financial inclusion for women.
The CBN governor disclosed that women benefitted enormously from the Bank’s intervention programmes, such as the Agribusiness Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS) and the COVID-19 Targeted Credit Facility (TCF).
Specifically, he said that out of N134.67 billion disbursed to 37,273 AGSMEIS beneficiaries, as of January 2022, 33 percent (N44.1 billion) went to 12,511 female beneficiaries.
Similarly, out of N349.51 billion disbursed to 712,442 beneficiaries under the TCF, he said 45 percent (N159.21 bn) went to 330,128 female beneficiaries, adding that the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) Development Fund (MSMEDF) was designed to allocate at least 60 percent of the fund to women and women-owned enterprises, of which 60.3 percent of the of 229,579 beneficiaries were women.
Also, he said of the 211,306 financial statements currently registered in the collateral registry, about 92,091, representing 43.6 percent were female borrowers.
Citing reports to support claims about gender parity in the workplace among other issues bordering on discrimination, Emefiele said the CBN recognized the positive impact of gender parity on the economy, achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and climate targets.
Noting that women have been disproportionately affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change, the CBN governor said the Bank was using the 2022 IWD as an opportunity to celebrate women who are in the frontline of these twin crises.
He said the Bank taking strategic actions in areas such as recruitment, retention, succession planning, and return-to-office work arrangements in order to address this gender gaps, declaring that the CBN had since surpassed the affirmative action with 32 percent of the total workforce being female.
“It is only by unleashing the full potential of women to participate fully in the economy that we can strengthen growth, eliminate poverty, create jobs and respond effectively to the mounting global challenges, from the pandemic to climate change,” Emefiele said.
In her remarks, the Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability (FSS), Aishah Ahmad, thanked Emefiele and other Deputy Governors for their constant support towards women and their wellbeing.
Ahmad said the commemoration of the International Women’s Day was an opportunity to celebrate women for their progress, achievements and their contributions to the society.
Speaking on the campaign theme of this year’s celebrations, she noted that age, ethnicity, religion and other biases have to be broken for women to realize and fulfil their full potentials, without which a sustainable future would not be achievable.
The Second Deputy Governor, Bank of Ghana, Elsie Addo Awadzie, in her keynote address, challenged women to change the narratives in their minds and break the biases they had created against themselves.
She urged women to believe, support and mentor one another in order to lift up one another.
Stressing the need to consciously and intentionally seek alliances and support when necessary, she urged the women to cultivate meaningful relationships towards mutual respect and consideration.
She therefore urged every woman to be the light that others seek to follow, adding that “it takes boldness, courage, sheer resilience and excellence to succeed as a woman in the 21st century.”
Also speaking, the Representative of UN Women to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Comfort Lamptey challenged women to strive to achieve a healthy work-life balance, stressing that passion and commitment were key attributes for success in any endeavor.
The Special Adviser to the CBN Governor on Sustainable Banking, A’isha Usman Mahmood thanked the CBN Governor and Deputy Governors for their support towards the success of the programme, noting that the IWD celebrations had, over the years, evolved to become a day for appreciation, respect and recognition for the women folk.
She added that creating a more equal world was a collective responsibility and a foundation on which a sustainable tomorrow could be built.