(L-R) Egbe Oyegun-Adeoye, Executive Director, Navigate Consulting Africa Ltd; Dominic Christian, Global Chairman, Aon Reinsurance; Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, GMD, CMC Connect and Bekeme Masade-Olowola, CEO, CSR-In-Action during a panel session at the Dive In Festival for Diversity and Inclusion in Insurance held in Lagos recently.
Some experts representing both international and local firms have joined forces to lend a voice to the empowerment of women and gender equality in leadership, especially as regards the workplace.
Chairman of Inclusion@Lloyd’s, who equally doubles as Global Chair of Aon Benfield Reinsurance, Dominic Christian; Executive Director, Navigate Consulting Africa Ltd., Egbe Oyegun-Adeoye; Managing Director, CMC Connect, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya and member Board of Directors, Global Reporting Initiative, GRI, Bekeme Masade-Olowola, were the panelists at the ‘Dive In Festival for Diversity & Inclusion In Insurance’, with the theme: ‘Empowering Women in Leadership’, which held recently in Lagos.
The event, which was a gathering of key players in the Insurance sector, basically talked to the issue of inclusion, especially of the women folk; stressing that by enabling and empowering women to lead in the workplace, an atmosphere of belonging with outstanding results is created.
According to Dominic Christian, Global Chairman, Aon, five years ago, when the first Dive In festival was launched in London, they wondered back then whether it would be popular enough to warrant an annual event.
“We had no idea how much support and enthusiasm was out there around the insurance industry for an initiative like this whose focus is on levelling the playing field for talent and supporting people to reach their true potential at work.
“Inclusion@lloyds created The Dive In Festival as an opportunity to enable open conversations around topics such as gender equality, social mobility and cultural differences, physical and mental health and well-being.
“We know that in order to unlock the business power of diversity, we need to build workplace cultures where people feel they can be themselves. We need to practice inclusive leadership – role modelling the behaviour we want to see in the business, respecting differences and creating space for everyone based on talent and equality.
“Our festival message, then as now, was that diversity and inclusion are good for business. Our industry must be one step ahead of the complex global challenges that are affecting business and the public sector – from globalisation, to climate change and cyber crime- and to do that, we need the brightest minds and the boldest innovation. That doesn’t come from groups of people who all think the same way. We need different perspectives, life experiences and cultures in our teams to see opportunities from different angles,” he said.
He added that since its launch in 2015, the festival message has spread across four continents. Christian also alluded to the fact that women represented 50 per cent of the global population, hence the importance of inclusion.
“Gender is one of the most apparent signs of diversity. Walk into any workplace and it is immediately apparent that there is a problem if the room is almost exclusively male”, he said.
Quoting from ‘The Business case for Change’, a global research published by the International Labour Organisation earlier this year which cited Nigerian companies among its respondents in Africa, he said: ‘Our findings indicate that enterprises with equal employment opportunity policies and gender-inclusive cultures are over 60 per cent more likely to have improved profits and productivity, and they are almost 60 per cent more likely to experience enhanced reputation, greater ease in attracting and retaining talent, and greater creativity and innovation. The business case for gender diversity, particularly for increasing the proportion of women in the management and board pipelines, is compelling.’
On their part, Bekeme Masade-Olowola and Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, were united in stressing the need for attitudinal change and a change of the mindset and thinking of the African woman, especially as it relates to cultural and traditional beliefs.
They were both of the opinion that the African cultural system of/and beliefs had done a lot in stifling the growth mindset of the African woman, and this, they say, had affected her performance in the work place. They also alluded to religious beliefs which had great influence on most African societies, as being a factor which had limited the Nigerian cum African woman’s ability to express herself in critical situations, rather seeing herself as being subject to the menfolk.
They unanimously posited a changed mindset and reorientation in order to get out of the mental rot affecting women.