21st century or not, till date, gender divide still remains a topic of discord, most especially in industries in Africa which sadly still host gender discrimination in male dominated fields such as tech, construction, Engineering, Oil and Gas.
Although the narrative is changing by the minute, witnessing a long awaited shift as visible in several professional fields- medicine, law and academia, gender inequality still thrives in certain industries.
Cue in the finance world, known for its lack of diversity and inclusion,
women have been significantly lacking in its upper echelons. The big money industry sees men holding the reigns in management capacity, while women remain significantly underrepresented in leadership in financial services across the world, in the long run hindering economic growth and world development.
Today March 8 as we join the rest of the world in celebration of women, builders of the nation, we stand in ovation of super achievers,
doyennes, matriachs of the big money industry who have successfully risen above the odds, calling the shot in a world where they were blatantly deemed unfit.
1. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Director General WTO
Can do attitude and no nonsense approach in leadership, Nigeria’s Amazon Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has earned and secured her place as a respected global leader, economist, and policymaker on finance and economic development and rightly so.
A fearless leader, highly accomplished with a well of innovative ideas and stellar track record to show constantly steering complex financial reforms, Economist and international development expert Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala with over 30 years of experience, the first woman and the first African Director-General of the 164-member World Trade Organization most definitely stands tall.
Former Finance and Foreign Minister of Nigeria; Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala previously served as a Managing Director of the World Bank where she oversaw the World Bank’s operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia and Europe and Central Asia as well as spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries.
The finance Guru during her tenure as Finance Minister garnered high praise globally for improving Nigeria’s financial stability and fostering greater fiscal transparency to combat corruption.
While at the World Bank where she pursued a 21-year career as a development economist, Okonjo-Iweala held several key positions at the World Bank, including as Managing Director.
She set the pace high by being the first female and black candidate to contest for the Presidency of the World Bank Group in 2012.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also served as Director of Institutional Change and Strategy (1995-1997). From 1989 to 1991, she was Special Assistant to the Senior Vice President, Operations.
Born in June 13, 1954, Okonjo-Iweala has been named five times as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in the World by Forbes magazine.
The Harvard graduate has been listed as one of the Most Influential People in the World by TIME magazine.
Boasting of stellar achievements, the
economist and international development expert with over 30 years experience has in no small measure distinguished herself beyond the African continent.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was named Forbes African of the Year (2020), Minister of the Decade, People’s Choice Award (2020) by Nigeria’s This Day newspaper. She also received the International Service Award of the World Affairs Councils of America (2020) as well as the Aminu Kano Award for Leadership (2020). In 2019, she was named one of Transparency International’s 8 Female Anti-Corruption Fighters Who Inspire. She has been ranked by Fortune as one of the 50 Greatest World Leaders in 2015, by Forbes as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World consecutively for four years, by Time as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2014, and by the UK Guardian as one of the Top 100 Women in the World in 2011, among other accolades and honours.
Dr. Iweala who holds a Bachelor’s in Economics from Harvard University and a PhD in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has received sixteen honorary degrees, including from Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Tel Aviv University and Trinity College, Dublin.
She is Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation and sits on the boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, and the African Risk Capacity.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has authored several books including Reforming the Unreformable: Lessons from Nigeria, published in 2012.
2. Ibukun Awosika: Chairman First Bank of Nigeria
A woman of many firsts, Ibukun Awosika’s success story is most definitely meant for the books!
Ibukun Awosika is the Chairman, Board of Directors, First Bank of Nigeria Limited. She makes history as the first women to take up such position since its establishment.
Although today she wears many hats: Businesswoman, Corporate executive, Author, Motivational Speaker, Actor, amongst others. Ibukun was unsure what career path to pursue way back. From setting her eyes on being an Architect to later Law, then studying Chemistry to Accounting and at last discovering her love for figures, this heroine sure had a rocky start. And then came architecture in the mix , she established her own furniture manufacturing company called Quebees Limited, at age 25, in 1989, it would later evolve into The Chair Centre Limited and SOKOA Chair Centre Limited which has earned it place as a go-to brand in the the competitive space.
Goal driven and a high achiever, She is also the founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Chair Centre Group. The companies within the group include: The Chair Centre Limited, Sokoa Chair Centre Limited, Furniture Manufacturers Mart, TCC Security Systems and Cubes and Boxes Limited. These companies are involved in manufacturing, retail and bank-way security systems services.
Ibukun chairs a number of corporate and not-for-profit boards amongst which are: House of Tara International and Afterschool Graduate Development Centre (AGDC), dedicated towards helping address youth employability and enterprise issues in Nigeria. She sits on the boards of Digital Jewel Limited, Cadbury Nigeria Plc., Convention on Business Integrity (CBI) and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority. She was Chairman, FBN Life Assurance Limited, FBN Capital Limited and Kakawa Discount House Limited.
The business magnate, a multiple award-winning entrepreneur author and motivational speaker is the first Nigerian recipient of the prestigious International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge Award as a nominee of the United States Department of States in 2008.
On September 7, 2015, Ibukun made history when she became the first woman to be appointed Chairman of First Bank, Nigeria, Ltd.
Ibukun Awosika is member of IESE’s International Advisory Board (IAB). She also sits on the board of Digital Jewel Limited and Cadbury Nig Plc.
As a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative, Aspen Global Leadership Network, Institute of Directors and Society for Corporate Governance Nigeria, Ibukun, through her projects aspires to use her opportunities in life to further the greatness of Nigeria by raising entrepreneurs to create jobs for the large unemployed youthful population. She is a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), served on National Job Creation Committee (NJCC), and sits on the International Advisory Board of IESE Business School, Barcelona-Spain and is former Chairperson, Board of Trustees of Women in Management, Business and Public Service.
The 58 year old business mogul bags a degree in Chemistry from the Obafemi Awolowo University. She also holds post graduate and MBA certificates upon the completion of several business programmes at the Lagos Business School and IESE Business School.
She loves to watch investigative and legal series in her leisure time. She is happily married to Abiodun Awosika and they are blessed with three wonderful sons.
3. Osaretin Demuren: Chairman Guaranty Trust Bank
Trailblazing finance expert Osaretin Afusat Demuren is no doubt an authority in her field and yes, the definition of inspiration. A woman of many firsts, the top financier joined Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 1976 where she served for 33 years holding several significant roles in Research, Exchange Control and Trade & Exchange Departments.
Prior to joining GTBank in 2013, the Edo state born had already made a name for herself as the first female director of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In 1999, Osaretin Demuren became the first female to be appointed a Departmental Director of the Apex Bank as the Director of Trade & Exchange.
April 2015, saw Demuren belt another feat emerging the first female Chairman of Guaranty Trust Bank.
Osaretin Demuren is a graduate of some of the world’s top business schools such as Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, Upenn Wharton Business School, Moscow Institute of Economics, Statistics and Infomatics, Kiev State University, Kiev. Upenn Wharton Business School amongst others.
Demuren also sits on board of companies such as Trust Fund Pensions Plc. and LAPO Microfinance Bank and is also affiliated with the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Society for Human Resource Management of America,
Nigerian Statistical Association and Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria
Ever driven by the need to inspire, to impact her world, a philanthropist, Demuren founded the Alphamen Foundation, dedicated to skill development for children who find it difficult to gain admission into the university.
She is happily married to former Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Dr. Harold Demuren.
4. Dr. Ajoritsedere Awosika: Chairwoman of Access Bank plc.
Dr. (Mrs.) Ajoritsedere Awosika, MFR is an accomplished administrator with over three decades’ experience in public sector governance.
Well versed in public and private sectors, the former Chairman, Chams Nigeria PLC has served as the permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Ministry of Science & Technology and the Federal Ministry of Power respectively.
She was appointed to the Board of Access Bank in April 2013 and served as the Vice-Chairman of the Board Audit Committee and Chairman of the Board Credit and Finance Committee.
Dr. Awosika sits on the boards of Capital Express Assurance Ltd and Josephine Consulting Limited.
She became Chairman of the Board of Access on January 8, 2020 following the retirement of Mrs. Mosun Belo-Olusoga after a twelve year tenure which came to an end.
A wealth of experience from having navigated the Public and Private Sectors, Ms. Awosika was also National Coordinator of the National Programme on Immunisation, served as a Director at the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, and was the Director of the Department of Community Relations & Youth Development at the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
In April 2013, the top executive joined the company’s board of directors as a Non-Executive Director and was also admitted into the board of Chams Plc, a Nigerian information technology company headquartered in Lagos.
January 2019 saw Dr. Ajoritsedere Awosika mount the position of Chams Plc’s board Chairman .
She is a fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacy. She is an alumnus of the University of Bradford, where she holds a Doctorate in Pharmaceutical Technology.
Dr. Ajoritsedere Awosika hails from a prestigious family; she is the sixth daughter of the first Nigerian Minister for Finance in the first republic Festus Okotie-Eboh.
5. Zainab Ahmed – Nigeria’s Minister of Finance
An accountant by profession, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed born 16 June 1960 is the current Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
The well respected minister previously served as executive secretary and national coordinator of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and became the Minister of Finance following the resignation of erstwhile Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun on 14 September 2018.
With her stacked portfolio, proof of which is extensive experience in public sector reform and management, in over 30 years of her career, she has served the Nigerian public in various high ranking positions, including as managing director of the Kaduna State of Nigeria’s investment company, the Chief Finance Officer of the Nigeria mobile telecommunications company, and also as executive secretary and national coordinator of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Zainab Ahmed is proudly one of the country’s most influential ministers.
Well done Queens! Keep blazing the trail, showing us just how it’s done!