By Chinenye Anuforo
Toyin Sanni is the group chief executive officer, United Capital Plc. She is an investment banker whose professional training cuts across law and the stock market.
According to her, women make up about half of the world’s population and college graduates entering the workforce in many countries.
However, between entry level and the top of the ladder, the proportion of women thins out to as low as 5.4 per cent; she then asks, why can’t women have a fair share of leadership positions?
In this interview with Daily Sun, Sanni, author of the book, Yes, You Too Can Get to the Top, a guide to women aspiring to reach the pinnacle of the career, which was launched in Lagos recently, says that it is only when gender disparity is abolished that women can actualise their full potential. She also spoke on burning issues in the capital market.
Tell us about your book, Yes, You Too Can Get to the Top
It is the second in a series of I planned to write. The first in the series is Yes, You Too Can Maximise Your Life. I wrote that to encourage and equip women on what it takes to maximise their potential.
Each of us has good potential embedded in us to achieve amazing things. Some of us that have the ability to communicate owe it as a duty to those that are coming behind to inspire them. So, that was the first book.
This second book takes off from where the first left off. The book is what I call women’s manual to the top. It is meant to inspire, motivate, educate and provide practical information for young women in achieving career, business and life successes. It cuts across every aspect of a woman’s life. It is also of immense value to everyone, even though they are all women’s books.
What fired your imagination to write the book?
As I grew up, I became increasingly aware of the significant gap between men and women. There is a gender gap in terms of what women have been able to achieve and the opportunities available to them, especially in terms of economic empowerment, compared to men.
I, therefore, desire to close the gap as much as possible. I draw my inspiration from my desire to help in closing the gender gap, economically.
This is a gap that Mckinsey has put a value to and they believe that the economic value lost globally is about $12 trillion. In other words, if every woman is able to actualise her potential and operate at the same level as the man next to her, we would be bridging a gap of that huge proportion. I am here in my industry doing my best to contribute to the closure of that gap.
Recently we saw a rebound in the Nigerian capital market. Why was it so and do you think it is sustainable?
I think the main factors behind the rebound we saw in the equities market include increased confidence in policy initiatives by the government in recent times.
For example, foreign investors were very concerned about availability of foreign exchange and the liquidity of the foreign exchange market.
Now that those liquidity concerns have been addressed significantly. It has given them confidence to play more in our market, and domestic investors have also been encouraged by the performance of our corporate entities’ performance. That has also encouraged investment activities.
There is a sense also that Nigeria is an oil revenue-driven economy and with some of the security concerns in the Niger Delta having been addressed and production going up (stability is returning).
There is increased confidence in the economy. I am aware that exports, even non-oil export, levels have also begun to inch up; so there is a more favourable view of medium to long term outlook for our economy.
Where does the government come in?
The fact that government has articulated the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP), even though in some areas it may be looked at as pretty ambitious, the fact still remains that there is a plan in place and communication is taking place.
Some of the new initiatives on ease of doing business are regarded as far-reaching initiatives that, if the government follows through with those initiatives, it would stimulate economic activity to attract more foreign direct and portfolio investment.
I think it is a vote of confidence in some of these initiatives that is why confidence is being restored in the equities market. With respect to sustainability, if we keep doing all these and we do not precipitate any crisis, especially in the area of security and liquidity control, inflow and outflow of money, and support them with physical measures, there will be pockets of profit-taking from time to time in our market.
What do you think can be done for local investors’ confidence to improve?
Government should continue to enforce its rules and sanctions to protect investors through regulatory authorities and the market as well. The market should focus on ensuring that investors are protected, (the same applies to) our trade group self-regulatory organisation. Regulators should also work on ensuring that investors’ protection initiatives are sustained.
Investor education is very important. The financial literacy technical committee initiatives include an ongoing plan to ensure that Nigerian investors understand all that they need to know about the financial industry. We must engage with investors and explain the opportunities, risks that are inherent in investment ability and I think that,over time, investor confidence would rise as they understand that before they invest, they should seek professional advice, invest in what they know and understand. Ultimately, the investment horizon should match the nature of asset you are investing in.
What do you make of some analysts’ view that the Federal Government savings bond plays a part in the rebound of the capital market?
That initiative is a movement to mobilise savings, which is helpful because one of the gaps identified in the 10-year master plan was a dearth in savings habit and the realisation that we need to do everything possible as a country to encourage people to save.
The fact that it also gives opportunities to investors to invest is positive but I would urge government to bear in mind that, as long as investors can’t put fund in government securities, there is a risk of de-motivating them from investing in private sector ventures, medium to long term ventures that will develop the economy through SMEs.
How do you cope in a male-dominated industry?
Sometimes, you just fight against negative mindset and limiting beliefs about what a woman can be. There are all kinds of beliefs that have been propagated over time, but it is my pleasure to debunk many of them as well as the kind of challenges I face in this work.
For instance, some people think women spend less time on the job, make excuses and spend more time on sick leave but we have proven that they are all false claims.
I think we also bring some personal attributes to the table. We multi-task better and are more sensitive to certain skills that are also relevant in terms of emotional intelligence, and when we put all these on the table, we tend to achieve better results than men in many ways.
What advice would you give to young and aspiring women who would become tomorrow’s leaders?
They should not underrate themselves but believe that they can achieve anything they set their mind to do. Recently, I have heard about the concept called the “impostor syndrome,” which affects a lot of women, making them believe that they do not belong in leadership position and management roles. I strongly think they need to discard these patterns of self-doubt; they should develop themselves, professionally, to maximise any opportunity that comes their way. Occasionally, we need to actively network on our own because I believe that everybody in the world is connected in one way or the other and those connections are created by God for us to expand our scope for positive development.
Above all, women should also learn to trust their instincts better. A lot of women do amazingly well with businesses because of their good hunch. We should stop ignoring our hunches but subject them to investigations in order to yield substantial returns.