Aieshetu Fatima Dozie : Now you see me

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Last year, I was compelled to write an article entitled “Do You See Me?” upon learning of President Buhari’s demeaning statement regarding his wife’s public rebuke of him and the so-called Cabal. Standing beside Angela Merkel, arguably the most powerful woman on earth, his innate patriarchy drove him to make what many of us found to be an incendiary and diminishing comment. Those words spoke volumes coming from the country’s lead citizen that his wife’s contributions didn’t matter and that she was primarily good for contributions in the Other Room.

We were also in the throws of a global misogynistic wave where women who dared to raise their heads and their voices were being figuratively dragged through the mud. At the time I wrote “Do You See Me?”, I could never have imagined that Hillary Clinton would lose the US elections to Donald Trump. On that fateful day, several people I knew couldn’t believe a man with virtually no technical depth or political experience who was being accused of pretty heinous acts against women had just been elected to the highest office on Planet Earth.

A few months before, when UK Tory leadership candidate, Andrea Leadsom, suggested that Theresa May would be unsuitable for the Prime Ministership simply because she hadn’t borne any children the firestorm that attacked her was immediate. It seemed at a global level women were fair game for abuse although there was no consistency with which our abusers were being handled. I confess to being weary and couldn’t quite digest what these macro events meant for my micro existence so I soldiered on. After all, we will lose a battle here and there but the desire for equality for women would continue.

I’ve tried to live my life along these lines as you can’t espouse values if you’re not living them. I genuinely feel that the world would be a better place if 50% of its population came to the table and were offered a valuable seat when we got there. If girls are educated and exposed to empowered female role models when they are young, they are more likely to pursue careers which promulgate the advancement of womanhood. I also knew that women couldn’t do it alone, we needed our male counterparts – HeForShe – to understand the benefits for their wives, daughters, sisters, families, and society in making the world a more equitable and safe place for women to thrive.

According to think tank Catalyst, at a global level women held only 24% of senior roles in 2016—a mere increase of 3% from 2011. In addition, one-third of global businesses had no women in senior management roles, no improvement since 2011. At this rate of change women will not reach parity with men until 2060. While I understand there are several complex factors which result in the skewed dynamics within the corporate world – availability of childcare, primary caregiver status, education levels, mobility, etc – the facts are sobering and we have to continue to work towards closing the gap.

We often look to the developed world to provide illustrative examples of what progress looks like but the analysis from McKinsey & Company’s 2016 Women Matter Africa report suggests that professional women fair just as well on the continent. In Africa, women hold 5% of CEO roles, less than a third (29%) are senior managers, and just under half (44%) of senior women hold line roles. Additionally, according to that report, “although the number of women in leadership positions [in Africa] may have risen, women do not necessarily have greater power. In the private sector, more than half of senior women occupy staff roles [(staff roles focus on support functions, for example, HR and legal; line roles focus on core operations, for example, strategy, finance, risk)] rather than the line roles from which promotion to CEO typically comes. In the public sector, approximately half of women cabinet ministers hold social welfare portfolios, with arguably limited political influence, that do not open doors to top leadership roles.” In essence, for women to exercise influence in the private and public sectors we need proper seats at the “big boys” table and that clearly isn’t happening fast enough.

This is why when I read that Mrs. Aishah Ahmad had been given a seat at a real table, I was jittery with excitement. She’s a woman I have recently come to know personally and have observed in her role as executive chair of WIMBIZ over the last couple years. She’s what I call a firecracker! She forges ahead and gets things done, particularly those things that she’s passionate about and she is deeply passionate about Nigeria’s financial sector and the development of girls and women.

Notwithstanding, when I heard about her nomination to the position of Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, a voice whispered in my heart that said brace yourself. The ensuing vitriol was as immediate and vicious as it was expected. I wondered whether her naysayers bothered to acquaint themselves with her professional and educational qualifications? Did they understand what it takes to work with the apex regulator of the banking sector? Have they studied precedent appointments in Nigeria, Africa, and the world at large? Somehow, I doubted it.

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