There is a lot of talk about “inclusive capitalism” and “inclusive growth” these days. That’s all well and good but in addition to these, what we need is an “inclusive government”. A government that includes capable, honest citizens based on merit irrespective of gender. There is a positive correlation between gender equality and economic growth. Countries that do not treat women as second class citizens are more likely to prosper in a sustainable manner, and this is true regardless of the prevailing ideology or religion of that country. Look at Rwanda. Look at Dubai. Both places rank high in comparative regional gender equality surveys and both have experienced an upward trend in economic prowess and social development over the last 10 years and 40 years respectively. In the book Flashes of Thought, the Ruler of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum says of his government “Our job is to provide an environment that unlocks women’s potential – one that protects their dignity and femininity, helps them create the necessary balance in their lives, and values their talents and potential. Given this environment, I am confident that women will perform nothing short of miracles”. To that end, 70% of university graduates in Dubai are women. 85% of his personal team are women. 65% of their government employees are women and 30% of the leadership positions are held by women.
Closer to home, let’s look at Rwanda. Since the genocide ended over 10 years ago, women have generally made up more than 50% of their parliamentarians. Currently approximately 63% of their members of parliament are female. During that time Rwanda has experienced year-on-year GDP growth. Their GDP per capital, their Gross National Income per capital, their Agricultural Production Rate and their Food Production Rate have all increased steadily over those years. Is this a coincidence? I think not. I once heard someone say that women are the greatest causalities of war and he might be right. This being the case, by putting capable women in leadership positions you have a government that is less likely to make decisions that would lead to civil unrest or war. Prosperity fosters in times of peace. The absence of confusion and an orderly society fosters progress. One could therefore argue that the more women you have in leadership positions the more likely you are to have an orderly and prosperous country.
In her essay The Economics of Exclusion, University of Oxford Business Professor Linda Scott illustrates in monetary terms the national benefits of adequately including women in leadership and the hidden, indirect cost of excluding them. “Taking account of the benefits of including women should encompass not just the growth possibilities, but the bigger economic impact lies in avoiding the costs associated with exclusion, such as…hunger, violence and disease.”
In some of her other work Scott compares the Women’s Economic Opportunity data compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the National Competitiveness Index created by the World Economic Forum. Her findings show that “a country making concerted efforts to protect, support, educate, and place its women would be making similar decisions across the board to maximize its other resources“.
There are living examples of gifted leaders all over the world who happen to be female, women such as Valerie Amos, Michaelle Jean, Ursula Burns and Condoleezza Rice. We also have our fair share of such assets here in Nigeria and in deciding who should form part of the leadership team that moves this country forward, let those who are gifted with skill, scruples, stamina and a solid track record prevail.
Who or what is a leader?
It is said that a leader is someone who improves the lives of those around him or her. People like Adepeju Jaiyeoba the lawyer working to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates by providing kits to pregnant women in rural areas, or Mosunmola Umoru the female farmer who empowers other farmers by helping them find a viable market for their produce.
Similarly, it is said that a leader is anyone who can serve people and make them happy. For example, Enitan Kuku who discovers Nigerian fine artists and helps them sell their artwork in the international market, or Fisayo Olowu who runs a designated learning place for children under the age of 10 living in an impoverished shanty town, or Yewande Olofinro who goes to hospital wards to help those who can’t pay their medical bills.
I also read somewhere that a leader is someone capable of creating positive change, whether at a micro level within his or her family or at a macro level serving the entire nation. People such as Ijeoma Idika-Chima a young lady who galvanises other young people to vote, or Amina Ahmed who despite incredible odds is possibly one of Nigeria’s youngest female magistrates, or Temitayo Etomi a manager in the Lagos State civil service doing notable work in her state government.
It should be a priority of the incoming administration to “provide an enabling environment for women to achieve their highest potential.” That environment would be one that protects them from violence, one that does not force them to compromise their principles and one that includes them on the basis of competence.
Overlooking women for positions in leadership would be akin to a self-inflicted brain drain. Speaking of a brain drain, Valerie Amos is originally from Guyana and Michaelle Jean was born in Haiti. Both women are doing wonders on behalf of their adoptive countries, the United Kingdom and Canada respectively. If the right environment had existed in their countries of birth they probably would not have left and perhaps they’d be doing these wonders as emissaries of their birth countries rather than as representatives of their adoptive countries. Let us create the right environment here in Nigeria so that capable women (and men) don’t have to leave the shores of their country to find a place where their intellectual talents can be maximized and appreciated.
The positive change that we would like to see from the new administration is the significant inclusion of clever, capable, conscientious and compassionate women in the leadership. Let us realize the benefits inherent in our greatest natural resource. Let us uphold the spirit and the letter of our National Gender Policy. You can create an environment that enables women to succeed or sets them up to fail. By choosing the former, the whole nation, male and female, young and old, will also move forward.
This article was written by Olubunmi Aboderi, a printer, publisher, writer, avid book reader, photo enthusiast and the Chairperson, Board of Trustees of the Olubunmi Aboderin Foundation. Ms Aboderin is also the Executive Director, Business Development and New Projects for Punch Nigeria Limited and an active member of the NGO WIMBIZwhere she served in the Conference Planning Group as the Chairperson of the Speakers’ Committee for 3 consecutive conferences. Ms Aboderin is a member of the Institute of Directors; The Corporate Governance Society of Nigeria and the Havard Business School Alumni Association of Nigeria. Ms Aboderin whose 1st degree is a BSc in Economics, is a graduate of the General Management Program at Harvard Business School and the Advanced Management and Leadership Program at Oxford University.
Ms. Aboderin has presented case studies on Business Strategy at Harvard Business School and Business Continuity at University of Oxford Said Business School. Ms Aboderin has also given talks on Corporate Branding at Heirs Holdings Ltd; Six Sigma at Punch Commercial Printing; Problem Solving and Critical Reasoning at the WIMBIZ Graduate Internship Training Program.