Features/ Opinions

Is gender parity becoming a reality in business environment?

Credit: The Guardian Nigeria

Adetunji Faleye, Godwin Anyebe and Amechi Obiakpo take a look at the achievements recorded so far in the realization of gender parity in the Nigeria’s business community.

The world over, an inclusive environment is the foundation for sustainable profitability in every organisation. Such an environment allows all staff to be better, more productive and feel respected and valued for what they bring to the common table.

Attitudes towards equality are evolving, but even today’s younger generation is not immune to gender stereotypes and disparities. Today, inequalities between women and men persist, particularly in various organization and the general job market.

Equality between women and men is one of the founding principles of the European Union. This has enabled EU to make significant progress in gender equality over the last decades. However, gender gaps remain and in the labour market women are still over-represented in lower-paid sectors and under-represented in decision-making positions.

The Nigerian example

In March 2022, Nigerian women suffered backlash in their pursuit of gender equity, as five gender bills presented to the National Assembly were thrown out.

The bills sought to advance women’s rights on a number of fronts. These included: providing special seats for women at the National Assembly; allocating 35% of political position appointments to women; creating 111 additional seats in the National Assembly and the state constituent assemblies; and a commitment to women having at least 10% of ministerial appointments. The rejection of the bills showed that the assembly wasn’t interested in gender parity in politics in spite having 469 members with only 21 women.

According to current statistics, Nigerian women account for 70 percent of the country’s extremely poor, even though they comprise only 49.3 percent of the general population (IMF Report). The gender gap in economic participation and opportunity remains a significant concern.

Also in the country, women’s labour force participation rate stands at 56%, compared to 80% for men, highlighting a substantial disparity in workforce representation. Additionally, the gender wage gap remains a stark reality, with women earning 45% less than men in similar roles.

It’s worthy of note that, entrepreneurship is often considered a key avenue for economic empowerment, yet women face unique barriers in this realm. Women-owned businesses in Nigeria account for 41% of enterprises, but they tend to be smaller in scale and face challenges in accessing financing and market opportunities. This hampers their growth potential and limits their economic impact.


Recent developments indicate a significant shift in gender equality in Nigeria, particularly within the corporate sector. Unlike the political landscape, where gender inequality persists, the corporate world has seen notable progress. A prime example is the banking sector, where ten female managing directors and chief executive officers (CEOs) are now at the helm, shaping boardroom decisions.

Yemisi Edun stands out as the Managing Director and CEO of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited. With over 30 years of banking experience, Edun has held various leadership roles within the FCMB Group before assuming her current position.

Similarly, Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe leads Fidelity Bank Plc as its Managing Director and CEO, bringing over 30 years of banking experience and a history of holding various leadership positions within Fidelity Bank.

Tomi Somefun has been the MD/CEO of Unity Bank Plc since August 2015. A fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Somefun earned her Bachelor of Education in English Language from Obafemi Awolowo University in 1981. She also holds degrees from Harvard Business School and the University of Columbia Business School, New York, USA.

Kafilat Araoye emerged as the MD/CEO of Lotus Bank in 2020, boasting a first degree in History from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1985, and an M.Sc. in Industrial Relations & Personnel Management from the University of Lagos in 1987.

Dr Adaora Umeoji is set to take over as the new GMD/CEO of Zenith Bank, effective June 1, 2024, following the end of Dr Ebenezer Onyeagwu’s tenure on May 31, 2024.

Ireti Samuel-Ogbu assumed the role of MD/CEO of CitiBank in September 2020, becoming the first female CEO of the bank in Nigeria. Prior to her appointment, she held key roles within Citi’s Institutional Clients Group (ICG) in London, UK.

Bukola Smith became the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of First Securities Discount House (Limited) Merchant Bank in April 2021. Smith holds an MBA from Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK, and a B.Sc. Economics from the University of Lagos. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accounts of Nigeria (ICAN), Honourary Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, and an Associate Member of the Certified Institute of Pensions (Nigeria).

Miriam Olusanya assumed the office of the Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank in July 2021, making her the first woman to lead the bank in that position. She holds a degree in Pharmacy from the University of Ibadan and an MBA (majoring in finance and accounting) from the University of Liverpool, UK.

Halima Buba, a seasoned businesswoman and banker, became the MD/CEO of Sun Trust Bank in January 2021, after serving as the deputy general manager of Ecobank Nigeria.

Yetunde Oni made history in January 2024 by becoming the first female MD/CEO of Union Bank. She holds a degree in Economics from the University of Ibadan, completed Executive Training at Oxford University, and earned an MBA in Business Administration from Bangor University.

Also, in advertising and marketing communications by extension, women have moved up the ladder a bit heading some of the outstanding marketing communication agencies in Nigeria.

Temitope Jemerigbe, CEO of DKK Nigeria, boasts a stellar career, marked by exceptional performance at DKK and other agencies. Since assuming her role as CEO in 2012, she has garnered multiple awards for her outstanding work.

Bunmi Oke, CEO of LadyBird Advertising, is a formidable presence, having led 141 Worldwide before founding LadyBird Advertising.

Nene Bejide, CEO of Blanche Aigle Communication, has contributed her quotas to the growth of marketing communications in Nigeria with exceptional works her agency’ has deployed in the public relations industry.

Tokunboh George-Taylor, Founder and CEO of Skot Communications, brings over 30 years of experience in managing communication programs globally. She previously served as Managing Director of Hill+Knowlton Nigeria.


The benefit of gender equality has been supported by sobering statistics. A study by McKinsey showed that closing the gender gap in economic participation would add up to USD 28 trillion to the global GDP, or nearly USD 17 trillion in the Asia-Pacific.

Despite progress recorded so far, analysts emphasize the need for intensified efforts to promote gender equality in Nigeria. This includes addressing cultural norms, improving access to education and economic opportunities, and enhancing legal protections for women to achieve a more inclusive and prosperous society.

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