|[FILES] Obiageli Ezekwesili, PHOTO: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde|
Former Education Minister, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, has said that Nigerians must imbibe a culture that embraces diversity, mentorship and transparency as factors to help eliminate barriers faced by women in the legal profession and workspace at large.
She also pointed out gender discrimination, political, sociological and religious biases, as major barriers against women.
According to her, “maternal wall”, inflexible work schedules, limited access to training and failure to receive credit for work done contribute to travails of women.
She said this at the International Women’s Day conference organised by the Nigerian Bar Association, Women Forum, (NBA-WF) themed, Pathway to Diversity: Challenging Blindspots and Powering up for Inclusion.
Ezekwesili noted that people were becoming conscious to the fact that in most part of the world, women are isolated in decision making.
She said: “Thanks to increased media scrutiny and the fierce engagement of women, we can now see changes. We cannot underestimate the place of advocacy.”
Ezekwesili argued that the progress remained slow as the matter of gender equality in terms of pay has remained unresolved.
According to her, the data obtained from payscale states that uncontrolled gender pay, which takes the ratio of the median earnings of women to men “without controlling” for various compensable factors, has decreased by $0.08 since 2015.
In 2021, women, she said, make only $0.82 for every dollar a man makes, which is one cent more than they made in 2020.
She also called on privileged women in the law profession to assist other women into leadership positions as gender equality widens when those in privileged positions don’t recognise or do anything about it.
Ezekwesili therefore called on female lawyers to identify obstacles in their profession so as to stimulate growth among themselves, urging the need to develop a system that allows women move up the ladder in the profession.
Chairperson, NBAWF, Oluyemisi Bamgbose called on women globally, particularly female lawyers, to actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight biases, broaden their perceptions and be deliberate about having a seat at the table.
She also mentioned that the forum had designed a mentorship programme for young female lawyers, which would provide effective and beneficial interaction between young female lawyers and selected senior lawyers on a one-on-one basis.
Vice chairperson, NBAWF, Chinyere Okorocha noted that this year’s international women’s day theme was chosen to challenge self-imposed limitations and the typical categorisation of women as lesser gender.
Also speaking, President, NBA, Olumide Akpata, said that the enlightenment of female lawyers, especially the young ones is key to the instatement of the modern legal profession.
According to him, relative to their population, women do not have too many lawyers in Nigeria. “We just have too many of our lawyers concentrated in the same geographical area and crowded in the same practice area.
“I have therefore made it a cardinal policy of my administration to emphasise on the opening up of new frontiers of practice for our lawyers. To achieve this, we must devote significant time and resources to the training and retraining of our lawyers, especially the female lawyers.
“Beyond this, there are the exciting initiatives currently being undertaken by our recently revitalised NBA Institute of Continuing Legal Education, NBA-ICLE, on equipping our members with skills relevant to advancement in legal knowledge, legal business development and individual career advancement. Please endeavour not to be left out,” he tasked participants.
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