-By Felix Douglas
Oando, an indigenous independent energy company operating in Nigeria’s oil space recently had a webinar to commemorate the International Women’s Day (IWD), the discussion was on ‘Gender Equality versus Gender Equity’ with focus on unconscious bias.
Jumoke Fagbure, Legal Advisor, Oando Energy Resources, who was the host of the webinar pointed out that the company had previously started the conversation to empower and impact the future. Oando has also been involved in building capacity.
Equality Versus Equity, What Do Women Want?
Fagbure made it known that these two words are familiar when there are conversations about diversity and inclusion around the world. Gender inequality is a persistent challenge. Women around the world continue to experience prejudice at work and remain underrepresented in leadership roles. They are also under paid compared to men.
Only 6.7% board chairs are women and 5% of them play the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
According to Fagbure, there is a global average of 19.7% of board seats which are men and women serve as elected head of states or government in just 21 out of 195 countries. In bringing it to Nigeria, only 3.6% seats in the Senate or House of Representatives are held by women. Considering the fact that women actually make up approximately 49.6% to 50% of the world’s population. This imbalance is crystal clear. “If you heard my number initially we had 6.7%, 5%, 19.7%, the imbalance is very clear for a gender that makes up of about half the world’s population.”
In a well-rounded discussion, the panelists took turns to speak on the role of equality and equity and how to avoid bias, stereotype and discrimination with proactive strategies to achieve gender parity.
As a young black woman, working in the diaspora do you feel you have to work twice as hard as an average white man, what’s equity and equality looks like from that angle and what would you say as a millennium woman? Or what do you think millennium women want?
Mary Mosope Adeyemi, the Executive Director, Credit Risk Management, Goldman Sacs and Founder of Visibility United Kingdom (UK), which is a social organisation working to improve outcome of black women in market place through inspiration, coaching and community advocacy.
She expresses her views on equality and equity, Mosope said the statement is a popularly held belief. “What I think starting my career I don’t believe that a lot of people can out-work me. I have also been surrounded by people who equally work just like I whether they are women or men.”
“From that perspective I haven’t really seen a different performance based on my experience but I do recognise what people say. If am going to ask from different perspective I would say that women don’t have to necessary work as twice as hard I think they need to work twice as smart. We try to replace our lack of affinity and advantage. We want to build a relationship which sometimes becomes more complicated. We also try to replace affinity advantage with what we perceive we can gain by performance.”
Mosope added that performance at work must be strategic. “I have to be more calculative in my approach and the project that I take on. Women have to think of the work they do if it is valuable or just office house work and busy without doing anything. Women should to do valuable work such that they can see the impact.”
According to her millennium women want to be free from the burden of expectation and be represented at the highest level moving towards the apex. They want companies and leaders who really care about both equality and equity to create an eco-system that break bias. Women expect change from government and leaders.
Over view of what equality and equity means and how has that change over time?
In her contributions, Dr. Nkiru Balonwu, Founder & Co-Chair, African Women on Board, a media event focused company, agreed that lack of affinity advantage is why women end up working twice as hard. In affinity advantage, women also suffer in that space in terms of biases because they are not able to engage like the males who have mentors.
Women want both equity and equality. “Equality means we have the same access to everything, which is equal opportunities at work, equal resources but that is not the case. Women are not privileged across the world for instance, in Africa, there is preference for male. Equity means you able to get the tools that you need to get ahead. Another issue is that males have more advantages than females. The issue of biases should be addressed.
You have worked with communities that are marginalized, what does equity and equality looks like?
Hamzat Lawal, CEO, Connected Development & Global Education Champion, Malala Fund, was of the view that equity and equality is a society where women can do their best without being judged and girls will not be forced to get married and become mothers instead of going to school.
He stated further: “Before Covid-19, relating to culture and religion, some communities were forcing girls to marriage. We got report where parents were collecting bride price and young girls were getting married. Some use religion to take away the right of women.”
As an advocate, when I engage them to show me where it is written in any religious book that girls should be forced to marriage. For me equality and equity, women should be given the right of expression. They should be treated with respect and not be seen as a lesser being. Women are naturally good leaders, their voices should be heard and not to be discriminated through any guise.
According to the World Economic Forum, global gender equality gap 2021, the time that will take to close the gender gap will be by 36 years due to Covid-19 pandemic. This means it will take an estimated 135 years to close the world-wide gender gap between men and women.
Currently, it will take 121 years to close the gap in some sub-Sahara African countries.
What are the things that pull women back from inclusiveness and are the root causes of gender equality?
According to Dr. Nkiru, child marriage is gender inequality which is a serious problem and tantamount to terrorism. It exposes young girls who are inexperienced mothers to give birth to children who will metamorphosed into extremists that will resort to future security challenge for the country. Gender equality is not women issue but societal problem.
“It is unfortunate that Nigeria has the most religious and worship centers across the country, yet, it is battling with societal problems. Most people blame issues around the country on culture and tradition but these are not reasons why the country is where it is today.”
Part of the unconscious bias are encouraged whereby girls are subjected to house chores while boys are told to play. Women are believed to be seen and not heard.
Teachers in school should not imbibe in gender inequality culture without discrimination.
In March 2022, the National Assembly basically rejected a number of bills seeking gender equality for women in Nigeria.
How can government adapt on sustainable legal justice system and create policies that ensure institutions promote gender parity?
In responding, Hamzat gave a data from Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that over 60% of registered voters are women in Nigeria, focusing at elections, over 70% of those who vote for politicians to emerge victoriously at the polls are women. National Assembly rejects series of legislative bills seeking the right of women while society has failed the women folk.
Unfortunately, political parties only set aside office of women leader. “If we want to see things done differently, we have to put our money where our mouth is.” Who becomes a legislator will determine how compassionate the issue of women will be taken seriously.
Hamzat advocated that women should be put into elective positions while the men that will be elected into offices should be those who are compassionate on gender equality.
Women have the numbers to change the trend. The change can start from 2023 to 2027, it is a marathon process to get massive women involvement.
Mosope submitted that since women have the numbers, they can change the situation. Although the thought of most women when it comes to leadership is the male and they reserve the right to change that picture in their minds.
Dr. Nkiru on her part believed that women should get ready and be involved as 2023 approaches, the power that the women can exploit is voting for their own. Women politicians should understand the power of female votes. They ought to campaign for future with regards to failure in education and lack of hope for the populace without selling their votes for pecuniary gains mortgage their future.
Fagbure spoke on equality from secular perspective. When it comes to implementing system change in equity diversity and inclusion within an organization, leaders play an important role. If the leaders show gender equality in an organization and it helps.
What strategies can leaders implement to break the bias in work-place?
Breaking the bias in work-place, Mosope said there is skepticism, a lot of men think that the conversion around equity and equality is intended to displace them as oppose to gender freedom. There is negativity bias. “When women are promoted to strategic position, it will help the women folk. The numbers will enforce gap compliance and aspiration for the women.”
For Dr. Nkiru, the conversation has been left to the government space, private sector should be involved in the process. Unconscious bias is a cultural norm and the perception should change especially on the aspect of sharing parents’ estate among children.
She observed that part of unconscious bias is the driving profession which is dominated by men, why there is no woman driver officially in companies because organisations think only men should drive while secretarial job is left for women. People prefer men to drive.
Hamzat noted that biases against women have been in existence but it takes consciousness. He said leading financial institutions leaders in Nigeria are women. Their successes should be documented and platform created for them to express their views on how they are able to stir the ship of financial sector during turbulent times.
Unconscious bias goes into marriage as well. There are people who cannot marry outside their ethnic tribe, this could also be termed as conscious bias.
Fagbure made it known that Oando organised a programme called TAB which is a body to connect with charity organisations to reach people in the grassroots. The women staff of Oando donated money to the initiative and allocated it to different charity organisations to be sent to communities.
TAB initiative has impacted on women and children in various communities.