Nigeria: Olaleye - Gender Inclusivity Is Foundation a Sustainable World

16 March 2021

The Group Executive Director, Commercials, ipNX Nigeria, Bimpe Olaleye, in this interview sheds light on the wins and the journey ahead towards the attainment of a gender-inclusive world. Excerpts.

What is the significance of International Women's Day(IWD)?

IWD is significant for women and society at large. It brings together people of every race, religion, ethnicity, and age to raise awareness about the necessity of a gender-inclusive world. IWD equally provides an avenue to celebrate women's achievements all over the world and continuously nudges critical stakeholders for collective actions towards gender parity. In simple terms, it highlights how far we have come on gender inclusion, and shows us how far we still have to go as a people

In what ways does gender disparity harm the society?

Gender disparity harms our collective existence and development as a people. Chiefly, it leads to the exclusion of women who constitute about half of the world's talent, experience, and knowledge, leaving our societies operating at under 50 percent capacity.

There is growing evidence that women do not only bear the brunt of poverty but that women's empowerment is a central precondition for its eliminations. As such, poverty elimination is only achievable if the disproportionate economic burden, lack of access to education and health services, as well as lack of productive opportunities for women are addressed. According to a 2015 report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), advancing women's equality could add about $12 trillion to global growth by 2025. Clearly, the continued existence of gender disparity is a bane of societal development.

Attainment of gender inclusivity, whose responsibility is it?

Attaining gender inclusivity is everyone's business, as such, we cannot afford to leave the conversations to women alone.

Particularly because gender inclusivity in its truest sense is a necessary foundation to achieving a peaceful, thriving, and sustainable world. It is imperative that all stakeholders - men, women, educational institutions, corporate organisations, religious bodies, government, etc. - get involved.

More men need to join in to raise awareness about the reality of gender stereotypes and discrimination. It is also critical for them to help transform the power dynamics both in the corporate world and politics. Educational institutions should constantly educate the younger generations about gender equality, especially in their formative years. Corporate organisations have critical roles to play as well. They need to ensure that they create an equal platform for both men and women to learn and grow. Adequate policies must be in place to combat stereotypes.

The government must continue to empower women, and fight the gaps in the areas of financial inclusion, education, and politics because gender equality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic one.

Do you think there have been any wins on gender inclusivity?

For me, the number one win is the fact that we are having this conversation. The awareness level is growing, and that is the starting point towards attaining gender inclusivity. Men are becoming conscious of the reality of gender stereotypes and discrimination, and women are realizing that truly, there is no limit to what they can achieve. On the global scale, countries like New Zealand, Iceland, Germany, Denmark, etc. have incumbent female leaders. On the African continent, Ethiopia's Sahle-Work Zewde comes to mind. And recently, Nigeria produced the first female Director-General of the World Trade Organisation. In the corporate world, 20-First's 2020 Gender Balance Scorecard reveals that Africa's top companies seem to be ahead of their Western counterparts in terms of the gender balance of their Executive teams. Of the companies' 210 Executive Team members, the gender ratio is 77 per cent men and 23 per cent women - this is above the global average.

These wins should be celebrated and spur us to go further towards achieving an inclusive society.

Would you say Nigerian organisations promote gender inclusivity enough?

Corporate organisations are a reflection of what is obtainable in the larger society. And as it is with other stakeholders, more corporate organisations in Nigeria have woken up to the reality of an inclusive future, and are taking necessary steps in that direction. At ipNX, for instance, gender inclusivity is core to our operations because we believe strongly that everyone deserves an opportunity to reach their full potential. We give men and women equal opportunities to thrive. I feel this is the right thing to do because organisations will benefit from giving women voices and platforms. The question then is why would any organisation not embrace equality and inclusivity?

What advice would you give women who want to play in male-dominated industries?

You need to know what you want out of life and go for it. These days, there is truly no limit to the height a woman can attain. All that is required is for you to dream, focus, work on your dreams, and set out to shatter every glass ceiling. Importantly, you must be deliberate about challenging gender stereotypes and discrimination. You need to have mentors who can guide you - learning from the experiences of those who are ahead of you can help you navigate your way easily despite the many challenges.

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