Efforts by Africa’ biggest telecoms company MTN to help bridge the gender gap in tech has led to the lopsided intake in favour of women for its upcoming  Graduate Development Programme with 80% women and 20% men to expedite gender parity. This according to the telco is because as the world is experiencing a rapid economic and societal evolution; things are changing really fast and adopting new realities doesn’t take a long time anymore. Every minute old trends are dying and new ones are taking form. But it looks like we are stalling in the department of gender inequality.

Gender inequality is way expensive and is costing the world too much. The World Bank estimates the economic cost of gender inequality around the world to be $160.2 trillion, a huge loss in human capital wealth. Gender parity on the other side will add more prosperity to the world. McKinsey reports that closing the gender gap in the workforce could add a staggering $28 trillion to the global GDP, that’s a 26% gain. Even if complete parity is not achieved, we could still add $12 trillion (11%) to the global GDP.

This is only achievable by allowing working women to reach their “full potential” and having equal access to resources while playing identical roles in the labour markets to that of men and getting paid what’s worth.

Looks like companies like MTN understand the assignment and are taking the lead with incentives that promote gender parity. MTN knows that for more women to assume more senior roles in the future, confronting the early-career gender gap is important ( i.e more women must first enter the workforce and progress with time.) Now, it will admit 80% women and 20% men into its graduate trainee program.

“We have set our graduate development program at 80:20; women take 80 while men take 20,” said MTN Nigeria CEO, Karl Toriola during a brief speech at the launch of Nigeria2Equal’s peer learning platform and the gender gap assessment report, Gender Equality in Nigeria’s Private Sector.

Nigeria2Equal’s core mission is to bring companies in Nigeria’s private sector together to reduce gender gaps in leadership, employment and entrepreneurship.

In partnership with the International Financial Commission (IFC) and Nigerian Exchange Limited, Nigeria2Equal started a gender gap study and 15 top private companies in Nigeria participated as specimens. Now, they launched the report and one of the initiatives to help bridge the gap, peer learning among companies.

MTN, which recently appointed its first female chief marketing officer, said they’re very intentional about gender parity and that’s why they are going all-in on that decision.

“To achieve gender parity at the workplace, companies must be intentional and committed to walking the talk,” Toriola added. He added that the development is not only in the papers and that they’ve already kick-started.

“You’d be surprised what women can achieve when given the resources they need to excel,” he said, citing an example from his time in Cameroon. “I have seen it,” he concluded.

The event hosted about 14 other CEOs from the companies that participated in the study, including Sterling Bank, Cadbury, UAC, Access Bank and AP. Among all these CEOs, there was only one woman. And this further legitimizes the case of the initiative.

Similarly, according to Nigeria2Equal’s report, though women represents 17% of Board Chair (greater than global average of 6%), 7% of CEOs (same with global average), and 17% of CFOs (greater than the global average of 13%), the average percentage of women in the workforce is 33% which is lower than the global average of 37%.

These two reports indicate that commitment to gender parity at the senior level has been on the rise. The average C-suite has 24 percent more women than in 2015. The share of open roles going to women is rising, through either promotions or hiring. But the gap is still wide across all metrics.

In Nigeria, there was huge evidence of this in the first half of the year. Four women assumed the echelon seat in some of the biggest banks in Nigeria, making it eight banks out of the 26 commercial banks that are led by women. A decent number but not anywhere close to where we should be par the SDG 5 (to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making.).

This is not an overnight success but a result of decades of constant advocacy. Initiatives like that of Nigeria2Equal and efforts from companies like MTN are making sure that it doesn’t take us another chain of decades to achieve full-blown gender parity.

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