“Interestingly economic prosperity drives a country’s competitiveness; it also boosts security and economic growth among others. To achieve economic prosperity, closing wide social gaps is essential and this should be done by reducing socially disadvantaged individuals, especially those capable of competing effectively in the economic and business terrain if unnecessary obstacles are removed. #EmbraceEquity is the slogan of this year’s international women’s day celebration and it is apt.” – Chinwe Egwim 

In your words, what would a gender-equal world look like? 

A ramp-up in productivity, shrinkage in the unemployment gap, and better policy direction, particularly for issues linked to women and children are a few benefits that could be derived from a gender-equal world. If both women and men are equipped and economically empowered, sustainable and inclusive growth would be attainable. 

What would you recommend as preliminary steps towards embracing equity? 

The foundational cracks can be fixed if gender lenses are considered while using education and the media as tools. There are professions still perceived as male-dominated (especially within the blue-collar fields), and educating and equipping students interested in pursuing whatever chosen career field regardless of gender would assist with creating a level-playing field in the job market.

I acknowledge that positive changes are being recorded but there is still vast room for improvement. For the latter, a clear method of shaping attitudes is projecting a better representation of women through media. Media platforms can inform and educate people, and as such, lay a foundation for behavioural change. 

Your thoughts on female empowerment organisations? 

I see nothing wrong with women empowerment organisations, they help with uplifting female voices and inspire young girls to engage in society. In corporate Africa, there are subtle gender biases that deter women from exploring or maximizing their own potential and some of these organisations are designed to tackle this. A handful of these organisations invest in mentoring programs and support groups that push for female-friendly workplace policies and processes.

However, I am averse to organisations that promote radical (or toxic) feminism due to downside risks such as negative shifts that do not encourage balance or equity. For me, the advocacy of gender equality is on the basis of equal opportunities for all.  

I also believe that the advocacy approach needs to be adjusted. I find that conversations, empowerment drives, and events largely exclude men. To an extent, this is a ‘preaching to the choir’ approach. To see real change, deliberately involving and sensitizing men (across all levels) while advocating for gender equality is non-negotiable.  

Do you really think we can all embrace equity, that is… do women really support women? 

That’s a good question. From my vantage point, the answer is yes… women do support women, but I do acknowledge that this is not the narrative for some women. Let me share a few thoughts about #EmbraceEquity.

A mindset shift is required when approaching connections and engagements via empowerment platforms and communities, a value-add approach should always be adopted. Indeed, connections should be mutually beneficial and so while I hear many ask why they should join associations or organisations, and I understand that benefits should be appealing, it is important that you also bring value into any space you are considering walking into as it assists with accelerating your growth with regards to the platform and also unlocking hidden benefits that one could miss because of an overly self-centred approach.  

There is also the need to abolish traits of entitlement, I find that some people do not even realize that they exude this. There are very high expectations of mentors to ensure their mentee grows even when the latter may not be qualified for an opportunity.

The disposition to learn and close skills gaps with guidance from the mentor is absent sometimes.  It is important that as women climb their respective career or business ladders, they intentionally pull others. However, it is worth noting that, it is easier to pull those that are deliberate about equipping themselves. 

I think there is the linkage between financial freedom and gender equality, what are your thoughts about being financially free? 

To pre-empt emergencies: Every family needs to be prepared for a contingency. It is better to have two sources of income for a household as opposed to depending on one source. 

To meet the rising cost of living: Inflation has risen noticeably. To own a decent home, send your children to good schools and attain an above-average standard of living has become difficult. Therefore, two-income households certainly fare better. Women that are financially independent not only contribute to the daily expenses of the household but also help to meet the family’s financial goals.  

To avoid helplessness: it is extremely important that every woman becomes financially independent so that they never have to feel helpless in life.  

To meet your goals: Becoming financially secure is essential when working towards specific goals. 

What are your thoughts on technology and women? 

I am excited about the forward steps we are seeing with regard to female participation in STEM, especially within Africa. Women offer fresh and unique perspectives on problem-solving, innovation, design and new products. Technology is an enabler and we have seen it enhance connectedness in the global village hence providing better access to opportunities for young girls and women.

This evolving trend will attract positive economic implications such as a boost to output, revenue diversification, ease in the unemployment rate and better consumption patterns.  

Any closing remark? 

Yes. There is an economic cost to women’s exclusion. Projections that point towards healthy inclusive growth also consider gender parity. Industry sources suggest that Nigeria could achieve high double-digit GDP growth in the medium to long term if policymakers take deliberate steps to close the existing gender gap. 

I have said this in the past, but it still remains relevant – an all-hands-on-deck approach is essential if we are to transform the hashtag #EmbraceEquity into a sustainable impact. 

Happy International Women’s Day!