Lynda Madu is the Associate Director of Corporate Services and Development for Nestoil Group. In the late 90s, she started her career as a consultant with Arthur Andersen, which later became Andersen and then KPMG. She has a background in Mathematics and Computer Science. She is a wife and a mother, of twenty-two years and counting.
At KPMG, she does Business Consulting, providing services for clients across various industries and sectors of the economy. From there, she left in 2010 to work for MainOne Cable Company, the year it launched its operations. The CEO of the company, Funke Opeke, was a previous client and project sponsor on one of her assignments a few years earlier. She was quite fascinated by the MainOne story and decided to join in it, worked there for a little more than eight years before she left for Nestoil.
The point she begins to speak for women and women matters:
“I would say for as long as I have been a woman. Of course, as we get older and more mature, we get more and more conscious of it. It is something I am very passionate about. I have four daughters, and perhaps that even makes it more of a passion for me. Some of the challenges are quite evident in the corporate world, coupled with cultural issues and societal pressures. And I know for sure that it is not just a Nigerian or African issue, it is a global one; I have read several books and articles on it and have also related with other citizens from across the globe, especially women, that confirm this. So, as you get into it, it is right in your face; you have discussions with people and can relate with the issues, and therefore, you are encouraged to make your own contribution at whatever level, particularly if you think you have the opportunity to do that.”
Feminism becoming rather controversial:
“Feminism, for me, simply means that you recognize and treat me as a person, first. Consider my work purely on its own merit and based on my results and the quality of my output. As a woman, it is a quest for fairness, even if we know the world is not necessarily a fair place. You are probably right to say issues about feminism could be controversial but that is because sometimes people, including women, subconsciously have their own idea of where the woman should be, and so see feminism as a threat to that ideology.
I do not think that women are asking for any special favours or such. Women are simply saying, see them first as human beings, judge their work based on quality and not gender. As women, they are entitled to their human rights. We are saying ‘remove the biases and judge my work especially in the corporate environment based on its merits, and please do not deprive me of my rights, just because I am a woman’.
Over the years, International Women’s Day (IWD) has been marked in Nigeria. In your assessment, can you say it has achieved or it is achieving the purpose for which it is being marked?
It is a work in progress. We may not be where we want to be yet, but the awareness is being created and people and corporations are taking necessary actions. There are still a lot of required interventions:at the global level,at national levels; and even within organizations in Nigeria and everywhere for that matter. Year on year, people are more aware of the relevant issues; they see attempts to fix some of the issues, they know that something can be done about them, and so are encouraged to change styles and approaches and even define processes and policies that address the gender issues.
It is reflected even in the way certain organisations now hire. They know the benefits of gender balance and personally when I have to make the choice and all things being equal, I am more likely to select a qualified (quality cannot be compromised) woman over an equally qualified man. And that is because several studies have been done on the impact of women in management and business. McKinsey, in a recent one (study) showed a clear correlation between gender equality and an increase in GDP. Countries like Japan are, therefore, beginning to make deliberate efforts to fix gender inequality knowing the value that brings to the economy.
Some other countries and organisations insist on gender quotas, both in management and Boards. Even in Africa, Rwanda is doing very well in that regard, ranking in the top 5 countries for gender equality. South Africa also has a very good representation of women in government and in their parliament. There is great value in gender balance. And by that I do not mean equal, absolute, numbers like 50-50; no. That would be unrealistic in many places.
Gender balance in workplaces in Nigeria:
No, not at all. We are not satisfied at all, we are not there yet. But we are making progress, given where we are coming from. Fact is, it also depends on the industry, it is more difficult to achieve in some than others. For example, our companies like the dredging subsidiaries or the fabrication or pipeline construction may not be able to achieve that balance because of the types of jobs that exist in those areas. But things are changing and the numbers are improving. In the average university today, you would find out that there are more women in the engineering and technology classes than you had in our days. In our Math or Abstract Algebra classes in those days, women made up just about 20percent of those classes. And the ratios were even much lower in the Civil Engineering classes for example. But all that is changing, and rapidly too. Which is why I talk about the deliberate effort we have to make if we must change the situation. Waiting for it to happen organically would mean waiting a very, very long time; it may not be in our lifetime. So, everyone has a role to play. And women, in particular, have to support other women. Those in leadership positions have to encourage other women to speak up and let their voices be heard because they have great ideas and their concerns are valid.