Women, Leadership and the Change we Need, By Taiwo Odukoya

And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

(Genesis 2:18)

All over the world, social and cultural factors have inhibited many women’s leadership aspirations.This has been replicated to a large extent in Nigeria. Resultantly, women are deliberated excluded from leadership in public and private spaces. The truth is, at creation the phrase “It is not good…” indicated man’s inability to accomplish all without adequate input from the woman. Could this be the gap in most governments, particularly in Nigeria?

History attests to the formidable role women have played in public and private leadership across the world. Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of Britain at a time when the government was considering declaring a state of emergency and she ushered in stability. Golda Meir was Israel’s first female Prime Minister and led it successfully through a period of war and heightened tensions. Other women that have held key leadership positions globally include Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Indira Gandhi, Angela Merckle, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hilary Clinton. All these women, and numerous others, have made significant contributions to their countries. I think it is time we came to practical terms with women’s capacity for leadership.

In their 2011 research, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman noted that “at all levels, women were rated higher in 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership, and two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree—taking initiative and driving for results—have long been thought of as particularly male strengths.”

According to a 2009 article published in the Boston Globe, a growing number of consultants and corporate leaders have devised a new strategy to boost the bottom line, one that departs from the standard productivity route: put more women in charge. A 2007 McKinsey and Company study also showed that European firms with the highest proportion of women in power saw their stock value climb by 64 percent over two years, compared with an average of 47 percent. No wonder all through the ages women have provided a more refined leadership during turbulent times. And these are indeed turbulent times. We need the women.

It was Carl Wilkens, speaking of Rwanda’s recovery from the 1994 genocide that said: “One of the things you can point to in the recovery is women. A lot of people ask, ‘How do you get accountability?’ ‘How do you fight corruption?’ And I say ‘Women.’”

Additionally, nations like Liberia, Central African Republic, Malawi and Sierra Leone, emphasize the fact that societies cannot embark on sustainable nation building or rebuilding without adequate input from women. Women’s empowerment should be a priority for all nations. Now this is not saying there won’t be one or two women in government or the private sector that would be guilty of corruption or incompetence, but rather that women, in general terms, possess an undeniable capacity for leadership. And there is a strong business case for this.

The World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Report shows that some of the most competitive countries in the world, like Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, are also some of the countries that have consistently created an environment for the active participation of women in private and public life. According to the report, women account for one half of every country’s potential talent base, and as a result a nation’s competitiveness in the long term depends significantly on whether and how it utilizes its women.

Our nation needs confident and brave men who will encourage competent women to share in the burden of leadership.The current administration deserves credit for its inclusion of women in key leadership positions, but it is important that more women are given opportunities to demonstrate their capacity for leadership.

Women in leadership should be given more than tokenistic roles. We need them to maximize their God-given potential and we need them to do it now. Policy makers at all levels must seize the imperative to ensure the widespread education of the girl child and to safeguard the health of the same. Women entrepreneurs must be given wings to soar on all fronts. We must deliberately ensure the widespread participation of women in political leadership and pull down all barriers in their way.

This must be done not just because it is politically correct, but as a matter of national survival and development.

Nigeria has a great future!

Pastor Taiwo is the Senior Pastor of The Fountain of Life Church.  He can be reached on pastortaiwo@tfolc.org


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