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Empowering Women in Business: Closing the Gender Gap in Nigeria

The Need for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Nigeria

Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest economy and over 200 million citizens. Women comprise nearly half of its population and workforce. Yet systemic gender inequality persists across the private and public spheres.

Nigerian women face steep obstacles to accessing capital, assets, and leadership representation to unlock their entrepreneurial potential. But research shows advancing women’s equality offers immense growth opportunities, potentially adding $229 billion to Nigeria’s GDP by 2025.

Targeted initiatives to strengthen women’s rights, inclusion, and economic participation now stand to uplift communities, fuel prosperity, and drive national competitiveness.

Obstacles Facing Business Women in Nigeria

While more Nigerian women are starting businesses than ever before, few scale to mid-market or corporate levels compared to male-owned firms. Key barriers include:

Limited Access to Startup Capital

Just 7% of total bank lending in Nigeria goes to women business owners due to discriminatory policies and cultural norms.

**Restricted Networks**

Male-dominated business affiliations often exclude women from mentorship, training, client referrals, and deals.

Heavy Household Responsibilities

Disproportionate family obligations reduce time and mobility for Nigerian businesswomen to network or pursue opportunities.

Fewer leadership opportunities

Within Nigerian corporations, women hold just 17% of senior management roles and 30% of junior-level positions.

Knowledge and skill gaps

Many women lack financial literacy, formal business training, tech expertise, and other skills key to commercial success.

Lack of support systems

Insufficient government policy, programming, and infrastructure prevents Nigerian businesswomen from reaching their potential.

Government Initiatives to Support Business Women

To start addressing huge gender divides, federal and state leaders have launched initiatives to empower female entrepreneurs, including:

The MSME Clinics

Women-focused training, mentoring, and financing programmes for micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises across 30 Nigerian states.

The National Gender Policy

Seeks increased economic participation by Nigerian women through upgraded education access, leadership development, gender-equitable policy reform, and more.

SHE-P tax incentives

Corporate tax reductions for Nigerian firms with women holding a minimum of 50% of board seats and 33% of executive positions.

Regulatory Guidelines for Gender Lending

In 2020, Nigeria’s Central Bank directed financial service providers to increase capital allocation to women business owners.

While encouraging, current policies fail to match the scale of systemic disadvantage holding Nigerian women back.

**Strategies for Nigerian Businesses to Empower Female Leaders and Entrepreneurs**

Private companies have both tremendous need and incentive to take the lead, empowering Nigeria’s women in business and driving tangible growth gains.

Lead innovation with gender-inclusive products and services.

Optimising offerings specifically for women’s needs and perspectives enables companies to tap into a missed $50 billion market.

Set organisational gender diversity goals.

KPIs for women’s workforce participation and advancement Focused recruitment, career development, and succession planning breed enterprise success.

Create employee engagement programmes for women.

Mentorships, leadership workshops, and networking build female capabilities, inclusion, and loyalty at all career levels.

Offer flexible working conditions.

Providing arrangements like remote work and flexible scheduling helps Nigerian women balance professional and caretaking demands.

Expand Procurement from Women-Owned Businesses

Supply chain programmes deliberately contracting female founders reinforce both corporate impact goals and Nigeria’s economy.

Launch empowerment initiatives with the government.

Philanthropic assistance in legislative advocacy or funding entrepreneurial networks and start-up incubators accelerates large-scale social progress.

As Nigeria’s biggest sources of innovation and employment, private companies must bring their resources, networks, services, and leadership to bear behind gender equity campaigns enabling sustainable national prosperity.

Spotlight: 25 Nigerian Businesses Championing Women’s Empowerment

Many homegrown Nigerian corporations and hyper-growth startups have already stepped up to spearhead women’s advancement across Africa’s tech and commercial landscape. Here are 25 standouts, leading by example:

  1. Flutterwave, a fintech unicorn, provides payment technology designed for and by female merchants.
  2. Jobberman leverages algorithms to remove gender bias from job-matching platforms.
  3. Paystack: Half of employees are women, with equal pay at every level.
  4. The PiggyVest-HerVest initiative offers tailored digital wealth management services for women.
  5. Kuda Bank targets half of the #WhereIsTheMoney campaign lending to fund women entrepreneurs.
  6. Nestle Nigeria extended maternity leave and opened on-site daycare at Lagos HQ.
  7. Dangote Group runs skills training, capacity building, and microfinance programmes for women in communities near production plants.
  8. Zenith Bank hosts an annual conference promoting thought leadership on African women’s economic participation.
  9. Access Bank launched a salary-backed credit product to help close the gender lending gap.
  10. FCMB Group supports groups like Leading Ladies Africa that promote professional excellence among women.
  11. Stanbic IBTC Bank mandates equal gender representation for graduate trainee programme recruitment.
  12. Guinness Nigeria: Fully paid maternity leave doubles to 20 weeks for returning mothers.
  13. Interswitch Group funds the newly launched African Women Leadership Network organisation.
  14. Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC): Workshops encourage unbanked women to access financial services.
  15. Honeywell Group: Female staff get 5 additional vacation days and overseas career development opportunities.
  16. Sahara Group’s founder mentors young women through the Pearl Africa entrepreneurship initiative.
  17. Promasidor Nigeria supports groups like Women in Successful Careers to guide female youth into STEM.
  18. Computer Warehouse Group (CWG): Supports Women in Tech Conferences to Build Digital Skillsets.
  19. Airtel Nigeria partners with ITU on training programmes connecting rural women to mobile Internet.
  20. Avon HMO is an industry pioneer offering specialised women’s health insurance coverage.
  21. Oando Energy Resources (OER): Employees founded Lean in Circles, providing career mentorship and empowerment workshops.
  22. Seamfix workplace policies exceed national standards for women’s leave, safety, and development opportunities.
  23. Terragon Group, a digital agency, leverages female-centred design thinking to pioneer data-driven marketing.
  24. Phillips Consulting was recently named to the Top 50 Worldwide Gender Equality Champion lists.
  25. SystemSpecs Group: Providing tech and knowledge resources to support VMware Nigerian Women in Tech Community meetups.

While more work lies ahead, these companies exemplify how reorienting workplace culture, policy, and community engagement around women’s empowerment enables businesses to lead positive national change.

Profiles of Inspiring Women Business Leaders in Nigeria

Beyond private sector initiatives, realising equality depends on women rising into leadership positions to transform structures and mindsets through their lived experience.

Nigeria boasts a growing class of standout female executives, founders, and directors who role model tenacity and brilliance. Here are four pathbreaking leaders speaking on driving women’s economic participation in Africa’s evolving digital economy:

“True change requires participation at the highest levels, where policies and decisions that impact huge numbers of women are being made.”

Omobola Johnson, Chairwoman, Nigerian Women in Management and Business

Senior Partner, TLcom Capital

Founder, Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre

“We must leverage the power of technology and digital connectivity to provide more low-income Nigerians—especially informal workers and microbusinesses—access to critical financial tools for resilience and empowerment.”

Abiola Olaniran, Co-Founder, Kuda Bank

Forbes Fintech 50

“By investing in our communities’ health, education, and economic potential—with the foresight to unleash women’s strengths—business can drive inclusive national prosperity.”

Ola Orekunrin, Founder, Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group

Youngest Director of the Lagos State Health Commission

“We are working diligently to dismantle barriers women face in the workplace by fostering an environment for them to voice their needs, grow careers, and assume leadership supported by forward-thinking corporate policy.” **

Ivie Imasogie, Head of Human Resources, AppsTech

Recognition Champion, Oracle Excellence HR Awards

As these leaders highlight, realising women’s full economic participation demands collaborative action across sectors to enact cultural shifts and structural reforms securing opportunity, agency, and access for Nigeria’s women to participate equally.

Key Takeaways

  • Systemic obstacles inhibit Nigerian women from equitably accessing leadership, capital, and assets to unlock their entrepreneurial promise.
  • Empowering women spurs immense growth, potentially adding $229 billion to Nigeria’s GDP by 2025.
  • Government, corporations, and nonprofits must work across sectors to pass regulations, implement policies, and fund capability advancement driving women’s economic inclusion.
  • Notable Nigerian startups and companies model best practices for women’s engagement, leadership, and empowerment in the workplace.
  • High-profile female business pioneers are stepping up to shape a more equitable commercial landscape.

Supporting Nigerian women’s rights and economic participation accelerates communities, markets, and the nation towards a more prosperous future.

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