By Rukayat Moisemhe
Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, has advocated the case for effective and balanced representation of women on boards and in leadership positions to engender better macro and socio-economic outcomes for the country.
Osinbajo made the assertion at the Institute of Directors (IoD) 2022 Women Directors’ Annual Conference on Thursday in Lagos.
The event had as its theme: “Facing Forward: The Evolving Nature of Boards in a Rapidly Changing Word” on Thursday in Lagos.
The Vice President recalled that during his tenure as Attorney General, Lagos, a survey of 200 lawyers in 1999 revealed that 89 per cent of judges were notoriously corruption.
“To that effect, reforms began, including headhunting of judges leading to the appointment of 52 judges, 71 per cent of which were women.
“By 2007, when the survey was again conducted, it turned out that there was 0 per cent corrupt judges and they turned out to be outstanding judges.
“Also, during the COVID-19 pandemic, policy responses of countries with female leaders was more proactive and effective and companies with female Chief Executive Officers generally have been observed to perform better,” he said.
He, however, noted that women representation in government positions in the country was still stuck in the pod and must be reconsidered.
He charged organisations and institutions to step up advocacy for women representation as an imperial objective not just on boards, but in politics, education and government due to their spiralling effects on societal and global outcomes.
Mrs Debola Osibogun, Chairman, Women Directors’ Development Committee, IoD, said the institute remained committed to promoting best corporate governance practices, including the need for increased female participation both in the private and public sectors of the Nigerian economy.
She noted that the choice of the conference’s theme was carefully made in recognition of the global paradigm shift which had placed huge expectations on the shoulders of company owners, boards and management.
According to her, flying on the banners of sustainability, responsibility and long-term value, come new perspectives on the nature and purpose of companies, and how they should be governed.
She noted that while gender was one of the many facets of diversity, the under-representation of women on corporate boards remained a key area of focus for boards, investors, and regulators.
She noted that though boardroom diversity is increasing across the globe, women on boards were still underrepresented as confirmed by the 2020 Global Board Diversity Tracker that 23.3 per cent of boards are now held by women globally.
“Our theme today is a loud and clear wake-up call for boards facing a rapidly evolving governance, unstable social, political and economic environment.
“As leaders, it is important that we place greater priority on human capital, the changing nature of work and the attitude of today’s workforce so as to help nurture talent to drive the recovery and create a culture of change.
“The board sets the tone at the top and reviewing its composition, experience and values are key to leveraging its diversity and increasing engagement with management and the wider stakeholders.
“Companies need to also invest in talent, training and continuous development to build skills and critical capacity required,” she said.
Mr Kunle Elebute, Chairman, KPMG Africa, noted challenges such as changes in technology, increased stakeholders’ expectations and impacts of the global economy was critical that focus of boards goes beyond traditional skill sets of commercial acumen and financial literacy.
He said that with the changing times, boards must continually evolve all its engagements to remain relevant.
Elebute stressed that companies must think strategically about talents and diversities in the boardroom to address competitive threats, mitigate business model disruptions and tackle climate risks.
“Investors, regulators and other stakeholders are increasing their focus on the alignment of board composition with the company’s strategy; front and center.
“The success or otherwise of boards is premised on its abilities to envision the future of inclusiveness, engage proactively with stakeholders, prioritised talents, human capital management and leadership succession.
“Companies must also consider its approach to cyber security and data privacy, reassess crisis prevention mechanism and think strategically about talent and diversity in the boardroom,” he said.
Dr Ije Jidenma, President, IoD, noting the changes that had reshaped the world in the past four years, said the development had led to enhanced laws and codes of governance.
Jidenma stated that the onus was on directors of boards to position organisations to take advantage of the need for diversity of boards with regards to gender, skill, experience to create new value.
“Regardless, we must face forward as a people, as organisations, confronting challenges head-on with initiatives to drive economic growth and stability.
“We must devote more time and energy as progressives with focus on long term and look forward to implementation of policies and must keep reinventing and evolving to withstand the tide of change,” she said.