International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated worldwide on the 8th of March annually to celebrate the socio-economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It also marks a call to action for pushing the gender equality agenda. This year’s theme for IWD focuses on a call to #BreakTheBias. Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead on the corporate ladder. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough. Action is needed to level the playing field.
Banking is one of the industries that require corrections in terms of gender balance, especially in leadership positions and in line with sustainable banking principle. It is widely accepted that more must be done consciously to break biases on the female gender in banking leadership. Certain significant steps have been taken with the appointment of Elsie Addo Awadzi as a deputy governor of the Bank of Ghana as one of the most potent signals of female banking professionals ready to #BreakTheBias.
A Player in the Banking Industry that has shown much interest and making effort to break the bias is the Universal Merchant Bank (UMB). As UMB marks its 50th jubilee celebrations, it is celebrating achievements and milestones that its female team members and alumni have achieved. Since 1972, UMB has produced and grown significant female leaders including Elizabeth Zormelo and Marian Barnor – former Board Chairpersons, Nilla Selormey – former Managing Director, Stephanie Baeta Ansah – former Deputy Managing Director, Kay Yaakor Kwao-Simmons – former Board Member, Racheal Baidoo, and Naa Shormeh Gyang – former Board Secretaries.
Currently, 41.20% of UMB’s leadership is made up of women including Brenda Semevo Afari, General Counsel, Belinda Owusu Boamah – Executive Director, Strategy & Growth, Akwelley Adoley Bulley –Human Resource, Nelly Abotchie – Public Sector & Syndications, Ivy Buagbe – Credit and Charlotte Lily Baidoo – SME Banking leading the charge in breaking the bias. In a conversation with this reporter ahead of the UMB’s Ladies Breakfast conversation, some of these leaders shared their views on International Women’s Day and the significance of Breaking The Bias with this reporter.
“When I started off in banking, women leaders were extremely rare. I am very happy to note that currently this is not the case. From the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana and the CEOs of a few other banks, we are shattering the glass ceiling of gender disparity in banking leadership” noted Belinda Boamah, Executive Director for Strategy & Growth at UMB. “I am proud to note that our medium-term strategy, which we have christened OGYA! is very deliberate and specific about promoting female human capital and extending specific proposition to women in SME and enterprise. These are the concrete policy steps required to break the bias.”
On her part, Brenda Semevo Afari, General Counsel of the Bank said “I am very proud to follow in the path of two great female predecessors in this role. I am truly standing on the shoulders of giants and I must say there is a significant number of female lawyers who are general counsels in the industry. This is a great statistic, and I am proud that in this functional specialty we are seeing such remarkable progress. I am constantly guided by this, as we pay forward to the next generation.”
“The gender question is a key variable in our human capital management strategy here at UMB, and I daresay it has been the case for the last 50 years. We have heritage of and lead the way in promoting women into leadership, perhaps more so than many other players in the market. Going forward, our focus is to ensure that the pressures of life does not hinder our female talent from acquiring the digital and 4th Industrial Revolution skills they need to progress into leadership”.
The breakfast session focuses on female leaders supporting younger and junior colleagues with practical tips on navigating careers in the bank to the top. The programme can be viewed on UMB’s social media pages i.e. Facebook & YouTube page.