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— Mar 08, 2024

#IWD2024: Inspiring Inclusion for Women in Finance

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This year, we turn our spotlight toward the remarkable women who are shaping the future of the finance industry. For decades, the finance industry has […]

#IWD2024: Inspiring Inclusion for Women in Finance

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This year, we turn our spotlight toward the remarkable women who are shaping the future of the finance industry.

For decades, the finance industry has been a male-dominated field, often pictured as a sea of power suits and boardrooms filled primarily with male figures. Statistics provide a distinct illustration of this. While women comprise roughly 50% of entry-level positions, according to a 2022 report by Catalyst, their representation shrinks significantly as they climb the corporate ladder. 

Data from Deloitte also revealed that only around 21% of board members and 19% of C-suite roles are held by women, with an even smaller 5% holding the coveted CEO position. Focusing on Wall Street, a global financial powerhouse, the numbers are equally alarming. This glaring lack of representation at the top underscores the persistent gender gap in leadership roles within the financial sector.

Despite these challenges, positive developments are emerging. While representation in leadership positions remains limited within the Nigerian financial sector, eight out of 24 commercial banks boast women CEOs, according to a 2023 report by Women’s World Banking. This is a noteworthy accomplishment, though it translates to only one-third of top leadership positions held by women, highlighting the ongoing need for progress towards inclusion across all levels of the industry.

This International Women’s Day (IWD), aligning with the theme of Inspire Inclusion, we decided to celebrate the remarkable stories, experiences, and insights of women who are leading the charge in the financial industry, breaking barriers and paving the way for a more inclusive future. These women, through their dedication, resilience, and expertise, are not only achieving success themselves but also inspiring the next generation of female leaders in the financial industry.

On Dealing With Societal Expectations and Beliefs that Question Women’s Leadership 

Tosin Faniro-Dada – Partner, Breega

Navigating the finance industry, which is predominantly male dominated, has been a journey filled with challenges, triumphs, and a determination to break through gender barriers. One of the most significant challenges I’ve faced revolves around societal expectations rooted in gender stereotypes. There have been instances where I walked into meetings only to be questioned about the possibility of someone else joining me. My response? A firm but polite “No, it’s just me.” Many times, I find myself the only woman in the room. These experiences have become opportunities for personal growth and resilience. They’ve taught me to be courageous, stay focused, and put in double the effort to prove my capabilities. While I firmly believe in the value I bring to any organization, I also recognize the importance of paving the way for future generations of women in finance. I want to show them that a successful career in finance is not just a possibility; it’s an achievable reality. It’s about breaking barriers, standing tall, and letting upcoming women know that they belong in the room just as much as anyone else.

Women are shattering barriers and claiming top leadership roles across diverse industries, and one standout example is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Her journey is nothing short of inspiring; she made history as the first woman and first African Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Mrs. Iweala’s story is close to my heart because it radiates resilience. Serving twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, she faced numerous challenges during her second term, including death threats for standing up against corruption. Yet she never backed down. Another remarkable woman is the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, the former Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control. She waged a war against counterfeit drugs in Nigeria, tirelessly raising public awareness. Even after surviving an assassination attempt, Prof. Akunyili persisted in her mission. Her incredible dedication earned her over 900 awards, the highest ever received by any Nigerian.  These stories aren’t just tales; they’re powerful motivators for women to be bold, fearless, and confident in their capabilities. Both women teach us the importance of resilience, urging us not to surrender in the face of adversity. Their journeys are beacons of inspiration, encouraging us all to pursue our dreams with unwavering determination.

Fostering a more inclusive environment and empowering women in finance requires a combination of organizational changes, industry initiatives, and individual actions. Changes such as representation in leadership. Ensuring transparency in leadership opportunities and promotions, providing equal chances for women to advance. Flexible work arrangements to accommodate diverse needs including working mothers. Reviewing hiring practices and ensuring that recruitment processes are unbiased. Additionally, supporting networks and organizations dedicated to addressing gender disparities, promoting inclusivity, and providing career support for women in finance is crucial.

On Navigating Pervasive Stereotypes

Oluwatosin Olaseinde, CEO Money Africa

For me, personally, navigating stereotypes in the finance industry has been about consistency and determination. Instead of allowing myself to be defined by outdated perceptions, I’ve chosen to focus on doing the work and showcasing my skills. Through consistently showing up and delivering results, I’ve been able to challenge these stereotypes head-on. After all, actions speak louder than stereotypes.

One of the most significant challenges women face in finance is the difficulty in raising funds compared to their male counterparts. Rather than viewing this as a setback, I’ve embraced it as an opportunity for growth. From day one, I’ve focused on survival, seeking out alternative funding avenues and innovative strategies. This mindset shift has not only helped me overcome obstacles but has also contributed to my personal and professional growth, strengthening my resilience and resourcefulness in my career journey. 

To other women aspiring to thrive in the finance industry, my advice is simple: there’s room for you. Despite the existing stereotypes and biases, don’t let them deter you from pursuing your ambitions. Instead, use them as motivation to prove your worth and capabilities. Focus on honing your skills, building a strong support network, and advocating for yourself in the workplace. Your actions and achievements have the power to shatter stereotypes and open doors, not just for yourself, but for countless women who will follow in your footsteps, creating a fairer and more inclusive financial industry.

On the Importance of Mentorship and Building a Support System

Chigozirim Ugochukwu – COO/ Co Founder, GetEquity

Throughout my career, having a strong support network and a dedicated mentor has been instrumental in my growth and development. My first significant career break came through the guidance of my mentor, who also helped me navigate the complexities of a career switch. She instilled in me the confidence and assertiveness needed to thrive as a leader, particularly within the Fintech industry.

Now, as I navigate my own career path in the finance industry, I actively seek out three key qualities in a potential mentor. Firstly, I value a mentor who “gets it,” someone who possesses empathy and understands the unique challenges I face, offering insightful perspective and helping me see situations clearly. Having a mentor who can advocate for me in relevant professional spaces is invaluable. Their ability to speak highly of my work can open doors and foster new opportunities. Finally, open communication is crucial. I appreciate mentors who are approachable and readily available to share their knowledge and offer guidance.

Beyond my personal experience, I actively contribute to fostering a supportive and empowering environment for other women, particularly young professionals in finance, by making myself approachable. While I may not be able to mentor everyone, I ensure everyone feels welcome to reach out and initiate conversations.

For women in finance hesitant to reach out for mentorship, my advice is simple: “Shoot your shot!” While offering value is beneficial in return, the most important step is taking the initiative to reach out for mentorship.  


This International Women’s Day, inspired by the stories of Tosin Faniro-Dada, Oluwatosin Olaseinde, Chigozirim Ugochukwu, and countless others, we move forward with a commitment to “Inspire Inclusion” and ensure that future generations of women entering finance don’t have to navigate “seas of power suits” filled exclusively with men. Instead, there is an industry where women feel empowered, valued, and actively shape the future of finance.

Leading by example, GetEquity is proud to have women like Chigozirim occupying leadership positions, demonstrating our commitment to gender parity at all levels. This International Women’s Day is a springboard for action, and we are championing representation in leadership, dismantling biased hiring practices, and actively supporting initiatives dedicated to gender parity. Together, by fostering a culture of inclusion and empowering women at all levels, we can transform the financial industry—not just for today but for even generations to come.



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