Why is it taking women in Nigeria so long to rise in the banking industry?

On August 10, 2015, Tomi Somefun was appointed as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Unity Bank, one of the new generation banks which commenced operations in 2006 following the merger of 9 banks. The new appointee who graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University and has attended professional programmes at the Harvard Business School, University of Columbia and Wharton Business School is taking her seat among the likes of Sola David-Borha and Bola Adesola as a female Managing Director in the banking industry. Somefun’s appointment brings the total number of the female MD/CEOs in the banking industry to three. This means that of the 19 commercial banks currently operating in Nigeria, only three women are at the helm of affairs at their respective banks.

In 2013, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria announced that at least 30% women should be appointed to the board of directors in the banking industry, but according to the numbers, most banks have fallen short of that mark.

S/N Banks Total No of Board Members No of Female Board Members No of Male Board Members CEO Percentage of Female Board Members
1 UBA 15 4 11 M 26.6
2 Access 20 5 15 M 25
3 Citi 17 3 14 M 17
4 Diamond 22 3 19 M 13.6
5 Eco 10 1 9 M 10
6 Fidelity 15 2 13 M 13.3
7 FBN 22 3 19 M 13.6
8 FCMB 13 2 11 M 15.3
9 Heritage 10 1 9 M 10
10 Keystone 17 2 15 M 11.7
11 GTB 16 3 13 M 18.8
12 Skye 16 3 13 M 18.8
13 Stanbic IBTC 15 3 12 F 20
14 Standard Chartered 13 3 10 F 23
15 Sterling 21 5 16 M 23.8
16 Union 17 2 15 M 11.7
17 Unity 20 5 15 F 25
18 Wema 17 4 13 M 23.5
19 Zenith 23 3 20 M 13
20 CBN 11 2 13 M 18

On average, across all the banks in Nigeria, just 18% women are on the board of directors. Even the CBN, who issued the directive, does not meet the quota for female board members. Research shows that there are more women now than ever before in the industry, which was previously dominated by men. But despite the prevalence of women in the industry, there are still few at the top of the ladder. According to PM news, there are reports about women being having to trade their bodies for bank account opening from prospective clients, working long hours, all these without job security.

In some situations bankers, especially marketers, said that they were told not to get pregnant within a certain period. In addition, some women noted that they were not given fair maternity leave. These complaints are of course not exclusive to the banking industry in Nigeria. Throughout the country women in all sectors are paid less than men and occupy fewer positions of leadership.

With over 58% educated women in the country, it is clear that Nigerian banks need to review their policies to accommodate more women and organize more empowerment programmes to enable them compete favorably with their male counterparts.

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