By Morenike Taire, Woman Editor & Josephine Agbonkhese
History was again made on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, when Access Bank Plc announced the appointment of yet another woman, Dr. (Mrs) Ajoritsedere Awosika, MFR, as its new Chairman.
To begin with, having a woman chair a bank isn’t common with Nigeria where womenfolk are conspicuously under-represented in corporate leadership, both in the private and public sectors. For example, since 1984 when the United Bank for Africa, UBA, Plc, broke a longstanding jinx in Sub-Saharan Africa by appointing as its Chairman the late Bola Kuforiji Olubi, only a scantily few banks have had the heart to try their hands on women at that level.
This includes Standard Chartered Bank Group which appointed Bola Adesola its CEO in 2013 and then its Senior Vice Chairman in 2019; Access Bank with its appointment of its outgoing Chairman in July 2015; First Bank with the appointment of its current Chairman Ibukun Awosika in September 2015; and Standard Bank Group with its appointment of Sola David-Borha as CEO African Regions in 2017.
While the rationale behind maintaining a female Chairman may not have been openly stated by the bank, this certainly would never have seen the light of day if the bank under-performed since 2015. While fielding questions from theafricareport.com earlier in June for instance on the bank’s proactive strategy towards the promotion of the advancement of women within its ranks, Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, Director of Sustainable Development at Access Bank, said: “…there is one reason. “Women bring a good balance. In reality, they are more risk sensitive, able to concentrate better… In management, they get better results.”
True to this, theafricareport.com stated in the same report that under the leadership of Belo-Olusoga, the bank made 95 billion naira (€227m) after-tax in 2018 with a total balance sheet of 11.8bn. In addition to that, it boasts of a total of 350 branches in seven sub-Saharan countries and recently won the Africa CEO Forum’s Gender Leader Award in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.
“We have established principles of sustainability, nine in all, and the fifth is dedicated to the empowerment of women. …we also need to involve men, hence the establishment of the Male Champions for Women, a group of men dedicated to these issues. We want to create an environment that is conducive to women’s participation at the highest level.
“Our philosophy, which focuses on the advancement of women, also applies to the services we offers: since July 2014, the W initiative, (“W” as in “woman”) has included products or programmes specifically designed for women, such as the W Power Loan, which addresses specific needs in three key areas: career, entrepreneurship, and family life, with, for example, loans, training courses, medical coverage, etc.,” Victor-Laniyan told theafricareport.com.
Awosika’s appointment which takes effect from January 8th, 2020, when the current Chairman, Mrs. Mosun Belo-Olusoga, will be retiring, obviously reaffirms the bank’s position on inclusiveness.
The incoming Chairman, Awosika, joined the Board in April 2013 as an Independent non-Executive Director and has been the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Board Credit and Finance Committee and the Board Audit Committee respectively in addition to membership of other Board Committees.
She is an accomplished administrator with over three decades experience in public sector governance. She was at various times the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministries of Internal Affairs, Science & Technology and Power.
Dr. Awosika is a fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacy. She holds a Doctorate degree in Pharmaceutical Technology from the University of Bradford, United Kingdom.
She is the Chairman of Chams Plc and Josephine Consulting Limited, and a non-Executive Director of Capital Express Assurance Ltd.