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“You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Welcome to the STRUGZ platform where life principles, careers, and business tips are shared. Female participation in business is a hotly debated issue within Nigeria and globally, with many local and governmental initiatives in place trying to bolster the number of women in management positions. In this week’s edition, we would discuss women in business: advantages, challenges, and opportunities surrounding them.

Globally, women have become engines for economic growth. Achieving gender diversity in enterprises is of critical importance to improving business outcomes. However, women remain underrepresented in business, particularly at senior management levels. Women rarely attain executive management positions or serve as members of company boards. Yet, women have increasingly overtaken men in terms of tertiary education attainment. While much progress has been made, women remain underutilized despite representing a dynamic and capable pool of talent.

Advantages of women in business

1. A diverse workforce is an innovative workforce

Diversity—from gender diversity to culture, age, and race, has been shown to foster creativity and innovation. From First Bank of Nigeria to Famfa Oil Limited and Bella Naija, organizations across industries are seeking to prioritize and benefit from a diverse and inclusive work environment.

Men and women will inevitably have different experiences and backgrounds, which shape their approach to business. Challenging each other and collaborating with people who think differently can breed creativity and promote the innovative ideas that push organizations forward.

2. Women excel at the soft skills needed for business leadership

While technical skill and knowledge are fundamental to career success, women like Ibukun Awosika who is the chairman of, Board of Directors, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, consistently cite soft skills as the most desirable professional attributes. Although characteristics like effective communication, empathy, and self-awareness are difficult to measure, they are highly valued and can make a real difference to the bottom line. Soft skills and emotional intelligence may prove a key competitive advantage for women in business. Women outperform men in 11 of 12 key emotional intelligence competencies. These competencies included emotional self-awareness, empathy, conflict management, adaptability, and teamwork—all essential skills for effective leadership in the workplace.

3. Women represent huge economic power and offer important consumer insight

It’s been estimated that women contribute in excess of N20 trillion in consumer spending every year. With the power of the female consumer in mind, it’s evident that women are best placed to tap into that opportunity and bring valuable consumer insight to the table.

Women still being under-represented in key fields is a major challenge being faced today by women in business. While a number of industries are showing trends of a growing female workforce, sectors like finance, engineering, and tech still tend to be strongly male-dominated. Also, gender bias is another challenge encountered by women in business today. While most executives agree that the best person regardless of gender should get the job, the stories of women finding more success with a male or gender-neutral name on their CV demonstrate that unconscious bias still exists. The women who are in or want to position themselves for leadership roles often feel they come under particular scrutiny. Where men may be encouraged to be ambitious or assertive, women are programmed from a young age not to be bossy.

For a growing number of women, the fastest route to the c-suite is launching their own business. Today’s start-up culture empowers women to be their own boss and pay their own salary, defining how they want to work and make the balance of career and family life easier. Entrepreneurship presents a path for women to close the pay gap and rise to leadership positions, on their own terms.

Women who run their own company also offers the opportunity for women to collaborate with and hire other ambitious, like-minded women, fostering a new generation of women in leadership roles. Also, women in business are advised to attend female leadership programs like Inspired Women of worth (IWOW) leadership network, WIMBIZ, Women Impacting Nigeria (WIN) and they also could get financial funds for business development from Business Development Fund for Women (BUDFOW) on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development (FMWASD) that provides soft loans to women entrepreneurs.


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