Barriers and bias: Is leadership gender specific? - Punch Newspapers
The most widely read newspaper in Nigeria
24 September 2021In Nigeria and beyond, a trending movie this time is the King of Boys 2 (The return of the King). It is a seven-part series Nollywood movie, streaming on Netflix platform on the Internet. In my view, the storyline of the movie can easily pass as a reflection of the dark side of politics in the country, Nigeria. It tells the story of Alhaja Eniola Salami (real name Sola Sobowale), the lead character, as a very powerful businesswoman, and an influential political figure. She is the eponymous King of boys, heading a table of gang-lords and whatever deal any of the other men on the table makes, they are obligated to give her a percentage as the King.
Despite the elated performance of Alhaja Eniola Salami (Sola Sobowale) in the movie, the heavy criticism of her role is the focus of this piece. Alhaja Eniola’s criticism was no surprise at all, I must submit, having played a significant role that many believed was best suited for the male gender, and this made the condemnation of her role in the movie severe.
In Africa, gender equality is a lip service phenomenon and it is not only in entertainment but also prevalent in the business world and indeed in politics and governance. From observation, women leaders are basically in their minority, even in the military, education, and religion. Their acceptability is usually low and this has existed for several generations and has become a norm in homes, businesses, governance, and most spheres of African life. headtopics.com
Undeniably, politics and corporate leadership in most African nations bear a masculine face and Nigeria is not an exception. Women are viewed to have very limited access to decision-making processes in all domains. More so the continent particularly instils a culture and norms that women are subordinates and in some cases are perceived as lesser beings than men principally in leadership. Leadership is the action of leading a group of people and it is connected to governance, management, and/or administration of corporate entities.
Though women and men have different biological and physiological make-up, conversely, women may still share common features with men in terms of educational qualifications, socio-economic status, and occupation, among others. The biological make-up which is associated with gender is what is widely acknowledged and valued in leadership, rather than personality, competence, and character. This perception is particularly challenging for women mainly because effective leadership transcends gender. So, the continued criticism of Alhaja Eniola on her role in the movie is largely tied to gender disparity.
Painfully, it is well documented in literature that leadership is a role perceived as a masculine role on the African continent. So, regardless of the capacity, experience, competence, knowledge, displayed by women, they are not seen as having parity with men. For this reason and despite women’s share of the population, women remain underrepresented in leadership across the continent.
For instance in Nigeria, the World Bank reported in 2020 that the labour force in the country had 44.82% of female representation. The big question is, how many of these females hold key leadership roles? Furthermore, the report ranked Nigeria as 128th out of 153 countries in a survey and the country has remained within the 100th and 130th position out of these 153 countries, over the last 10 years (2010 – 2020). In the same vein, out of 53 countries in Africa, Nigeria holds the 27th on the World Bank’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020. This available data implies that as a nation, Nigeria still has much to do in attaining gender parity and having meaningful representation for women. headtopics.com
It suffices to say the trend is not due to a lack of competence or leadership traits on the part of women but that the public has accepted the culture as a way of life on the continent. Remember, when partisanship, political pressure, and gender bias are taken into account, the gap and differences become sharper and more obvious. Even though generally, women are perceived to have an advantage over men on honesty and ethical behavior index which are key elements of leadership, these traits in women are rarely considered.Read more: The Punch Newspapers »
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