Banks With More Women On Their Boards Perform Better – Newman
Dr. Lucy Newman is the Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Financial Institution Training Centre (FITC). She was one of the 2017 MMS Woman of Fortune Hall of Fame (WoFHoF) inductees. In this exclusive interview with MMS Plus, Dr. Lucy discusses issues bordering on discrimination and other challenges confronting the female gender in Africa. This interview was taken during 2017 MMS WoFHoF induction, conference and awards last month. Enjoy it.
How do you feel as you are been celebrated today as an icon?
It is a very humbling experience and it makes me want to sit down and think about what I have done to make me deserve such recognition. When I got the letter, I was amazed and I started asking them: what are the criteria, what did you see and all that. What this has taught me is that, no matter what you find yourself into people are watching. If you do it right, you leave the ladder for others to climb, if you do it wrongly, you have not only cut the ladder, but you have shut the door against many others. So for me to be honoured; it is a privilege. I see it as a call to responsibility and I intend to keep the flag flying.
You will observe that this recognition is for selected women who have been able to distinguish themselves in various fields. How were you able to maneuver your way to get to this extent?
I had just gained admission into the university when I lost my father. I grew up very close to my father. My middle name is his mother’s name because my father was the last child of his mother. So my first mentorship came from my father because of the way he runs his family. I was very close to my siblings and the home. Based on that, I got mentorship from my father. When I lost him he was irreplaceable by anybody and I was just hungry for that father-child relationship. My father didn’t bring us up in the African way because very early in life, he traveled to United Kingdom and studied nursing. During those days, they travel abroad by ship and it took them three months. He lived with his family with a close relationship even though he had been married and separated. He was very close to his children and we enjoyed friendship of father and child. For me and him it was special so I couldn’t establish that father-child relationship again after his demise but I later found out that God could be my father
I got the clarity of the concept of God as my father very early in life. I discovered that I could have that relationship with God. Looking at that; it really influences how I take decisions and how I look at other people. It determines how I make choices and how I hold myself accountable for tasks that I found myself responsible for. I found myself ultimately accountable to my heavenly Father. So with that sense of thinking when I see people, I see them not from what they have done in the past or how they have failed. I see them from what they could be and what my role is to make them achieve that. This has been phenomenally the principle on which I relate with people in my family, at work, and everywhere. It has also affected my choice of career that when I see companies doing badly, I don’t accept it. I feel that they can be better and I think of how I improve them and that has been my motive. I find out that when you build other people, you are actually building yourself in default. You don’t realize it when they are growing but as you develop others they get close to you and the spare of influence increases. Your impact on people increases and one day you will look back and you will find out that you are actually an influential leader and people can say I am ‘this’ today because I met this person. That has been something that I am so grateful for in my life. I have had family system because of that. My cousins, my sisters, siblings and even in my place of work I tried to establish that family bond and also in the place where I worship. So that has been my thinking that everybody is created to be the best and I always ask myself – what is my role in bringing out the best in people?
Looking at the Nigerian society, has our society been able to place women compared to the men folk?
No! We have not yet woken up to the reality of the capacity of women. Most decisions makers today in our society can tell you that they went to school because they had a petty trader who was a mother who sponsored them. They are from a polygamous family but we seem not to be conscious of the gold mine that we have in women folk in this country. There is a lot of treasure at the base of the pyramid and many of them are in women in the villages, the traders in the market, the old aunties and the grandmas at home and the young ladies. When we realize that, then we can take our pride of place.
Most women are Chief Executives, in fact Chief Finance Officers of their families and they manage resources. When you give them little, they manage it, economize and feed the family. Some of them do petty trade and they send their children to school. This shows how much they can achieve if they have the skills, capacities and network and supporting laws to make them equal citizens? There are higher and lower animals, and I think right now the women are still the lower animals as it appears in our society.
In this part of the world most parents still give priorities to the education of male child at the detriment of the female. What’s your view on this?
That is very sad and I can still say that while growing up, I witnessed my father personally take responsibility to send the daughters of his cousins and brothers to school because he didn’t place priority on men and today I have women in the family that are amazons. These are the things that my father stood for.
I sincerely hope that the Nigerian society would see that the woman is capable. When you educate a woman, you are also investing in her children that are yet to be born, most of the women in the family watch out for the brothers and sisters. We have seen families where the father dies and a daughter like the third or fourth born just went to school and then she is responsible for educating others. And when it is the time to farm in the village, most of the men who have farms in those days used to have many wives so that they can have more labour on the farm. The women who are farming, come back home to cook, clean the house and go back to farm. Naturally, women are endowed with capacities to work hard and manage many things. It is only in few cases we have exceptions where they can be so greedy, extremely corrupt, vile and all that but on the average, women are good and I hope the country will give them the opportunity. We have had our affirmative action, some the countries are already doing fifty-fifty percent (50:50) while we are still struggling with seventy-thirty (70:30) and I hope that it would work.
There was something that happened in the financial system, when the Former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) made it a law that twenty percent (20%) of the board should be women. We can see the boards that have twenty percent (20%) women perform better. Now, we are getting strong women at the helm of banks and they are doing well. So, I think we should give women a chance so that we can see what they can do. Don’t be intimated, don’t be scared that they are taking over they are your mothers, they are your sisters, they are your daughters and they will make you proud.
There is still some form of discrimination against the female child and in most cases her education is truncated whenever she makes mistake of being pregnant out of wedlock especially as a teenager. How do you think this situation can be managed?
I have always been against abortion. First of all, from the aspect of religion it is wrong to kill and because of stigmatization many young girls have been driven to early graves because they seek to terminate such pregnancies. Sometimes we might not even understand. No matter the circumstances even if it is in the case of rape or whatever; it is good to allow that life to form. That person has a role in destiny and if you terminate that person, you don’t know whether that is the person who has the solution to the world. The person that is a victim of pregnancy out of wedlock shouldn’t be seen as an outcast. If God who made the earth gave that person permission to exist, then who are we as men to decide that that person doesn’t deserve life?
Bringing up a child as a single mother is a big challenge and any person that can do that can damn the consequences. It has wielded a lot of strengths. And the good thing is that if you look at some of this people, they do well. Why do you think they do well? Nature itself is fighting for them. They say people who don’t have fathers, God is their father so when you look at such a person and tend to deal with them, you will incur the wrath of God. So, therefore women who have chosen to give life than to take the easy path of abortion should be courageous and most times, they have learnt their lessons and even God forgives, so why won’t people forgive? They actually make fantastic wives because they know how life can be and when they find a man in their lives, they cherish him a lot. In some countries, it is not an issue but it is part of our third world behavior and it is so archaic. But that is not also a license to go all out and choose to bring children into the world without parents. I am not in support of such careless practice but we need to weigh things and look at things in the right perspective. I will be the last person to condemn somebody.