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International Women’s Day 2022: Spotlight on women in Nigeria

Oban’s six part International Women’s Day blog series continues. For this instalment, we spoke to Tomi, a LIME based in Abuja, to find out more about social, economic and political conditions for women in Nigeria. This is what she told us.


What would you say were the main issues holding women back at work in Nigeria?

Access to finance remains one of the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs who want to start and grow a business.

Lack of access to education is another barrier. The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 found that in comparison to other countries, Nigerian females lag significantly behind men and boys in formal education, in terms of attendance, literacy rate and other metrics.

There’s also a high prevalence of gender-based violence. This has negative economic consequences because such violence hinders women’s productivity while they cope with the adverse physical and psychological ramifications.

In addition, as in other parts of the world, traditional beliefs place more domestic responsibilities on women than men, which impacts women’s ability to participate fully in the workplace. When women are employed, they are more often in lower-productivity and more informal jobs, constrained by lack of access to productive resources.

My father did not see the importance of furthering my education or using his connections to help with a well-paying job. This meant I could not pursue my post-graduate studies when I lived with him and remained unemployed or in a low-paying job for years.


What is the gender pay gap between men and women in Nigeria?

Nigeria ranked 128th out of 153 countries and 27th out of 53 countries in Africa on the World Bank’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020.

Nwaka et al. (2016) estimate a higher gender wage gap in less regulated self-employment compared to more regulated paid employment in Nigeria.

A quarter of women are in waged and salaried jobs, but they earn 17% less than men for performing similar jobs (World Economic Forum, 2018).

Paying a living wage is critical in a rapidly growing country where more than 40%  of the population lives below the poverty line, and the average Nigerian woman’s income is 58% of that of a man (Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics 2020, WEF 2021).


What is workplace equality legislation like in Nigeria?

While anti-discrimination legislation is positively associated with women’s employment and earnings, no law in Nigeria prohibits discrimination in employment based on gender.

The 2004 Labour Act allows women to work at night in most sectors, except for agriculture and industrial jobs deemed dangerous. But women cannot work the same way as men in the mining, construction, and energy sectors – there are restrictions in place.

Concerning pay, Nigerian law does not mandate equal remuneration for work of equal value, but there is legislation on sexual harassment in employment. While Nigerian law provides criminal penalties for sexual harassment, it does not provide civil remedies.

I have experienced inappropriate behaviours from men in most jobs I have had, in both the public and private sectors. The most shocking experience was when I worked as a government official. A day did not pass without a man acting inappropriately, from catcalling, following me to ask for my number, to just plain staring at me.

Years ago, while searching for employment, instead of looking at my skills and experiences, I was offered a job based on my appearance, and the business owner implied that I would be expected to sleep with him. One of the reasons I am now happy to work remotely is to avoid such situations.

Regarding entrepreneurship, there are no legal limitations on a woman’s ability to sign a contract, register a business, and open a bank account in the same way as a man. However, the law does not prohibit gender discrimination in access to credit, which can sometimes be an issue.

Contrary to the International Labour Organisation convention, in Nigeria, pregnant workers are not protected from dismissal.

Viewed through a corporate lens, there is little regulation in Nigeria. Existing regulation comprises the Security Exchange Commission Code of Corporate Governance for Listed Companies, May 12, 2014, which recommends that publicly listed companies consider gender when selecting board members. However, there is no specific gender-based rule or regulation (PwC 2020).

In contrast, in the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) establishes that Nigerian commercial banks should have a minimum of 40% of female representation on boards and in management. However, there is no enforcement, and only about 30% of banks adhere to this instruction (Central Bank of Nigeria 2012, PWC 2020).


What about women in C-suite positions in Nigeria?

In 2019, The Boardroom Africa found that 8% of CEOs were women, while in 2021, Equileap found a similar percentage of women leaders (7%). These figures surpassed the global average of 3.5%.

In Nigeria, women’s representation at the highest leadership levels (the board of directors, executive team, and senior management), ranged from 20 to 27%, and this was largely in line with global trends of between 17 and 25%. However, a higher proportion of women have made it to the top of Nigerian companies as CEOs and board chairpersons than in some G20 countries (SSE 2021).


What about female entrepreneurs or business owners?

A report on the “State of Entrepreneurship in Nigeria 2021”, produced by The Fate Institute, found the gender gap among younger entrepreneurs has narrowed compared to older generations as male and female ownership of enterprises were 57% and 43% within the age bracket of 18 and 35 years.

According to a 2019 report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), women in Nigeria accounted for 41% of ownership of micro-businesses in the country. The report, titled ‘The Impact of Women on Nigeria’s Economy’ showed that the percentage rate represents 23 million female entrepreneurs operating within the segment. However, women own only 20% of enterprises in the formal sector in Nigeria.


Can you highlight some famous female business leaders or entrepreneurs in Nigeria?

Folorunsho Alakija – Folorunsho Alakija has consistently stayed on top as the richest woman in Africa. She is vice-chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company. She is also involved in the fashion, real estate, and printing industries. Her Forbes profile is here.

Stella Chinyere Okoli – Dr. Stella Chinyere Okoli’s contribution has been in the health industry, and she is famous for her philanthropic deeds by making affordable drugs in Nigeria. Dr. Stella Chinyere Okoli is the CEO of well-known pharmaceutical company Emzor Pharmaceutical, producer of the quick relief for headaches in Nigeria and other countries, Emzor Paracetamol.

Tela Fela Durotoye – is a Nigerian beauty entrepreneur and lawyer. Tara Fela-Durotoye owns House of Tara, an internationally respected African brand with 26 make-up studios and more than 8,000 beauty representatives across the country. Her company has grown beyond Nigeria and has branches in Senegal, Benin, and Ghana.

Mosunmola Abudu –  also known as Mo Abudu, is a media mogul, philanthropist, and former human resources management consultant. She has been described by Forbes as “Africa’s Most Successful Woman” and rated as one of the “25 Most Powerful Women in Global Television” by The Hollywood Reporter. She is the founder of Vic Lawrence & Associates Limited. She also created, produced, and presented Moments with Mo, later founded a television station (Ebony Life Television), and has been producing entertainment content.

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This article is based on insights and commentary supplied to us by Tomi, one of Oban’s LIMEs based in Abuja. Oban’s LIME network comprises over 450 Local In-Market Experts based in over 80 countries around the world. Our LIMEs provide authentic, on-the-ground cultural, linguistic and digital insights that help our clients succeed in their target markets. To find out how your business could benefit from Oban’s LIME network, please get in touch.

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

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