As a way of tackling the low involvement of women in the transport and logistics sectors of the economy, the Secretary-General, Abuja Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control for West and Central Africa, Mrs. Mfon Ekong Usoro has called for the 35 per cent representation of women in the Federal Ministry of Transport.
Regarded as a juicy ministry, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), and the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) are under the purview of the ministry.
Others are the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), Zaria, Kaduna State and the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State.
Usoro in a paper titled: “Sustainable Participation of Women in Logistics and Transport Industry” argued that if women have 35 percent of the positions in the parasatals under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Transport, it will go a long way to redress the gender imbalance in the transport and logistics sectors of the economy.
In the paper which was delivered at the second Women in Logistics and Trade in Nigeria (WILAT) Day Conference 2014 in Lagos, Usoro noted that there are barriers to the career progression of women in the two critical sectors.
The Abuja MoU Secretary General who was the first female to head any of the parasatals in the Federal Ministry of Transport expressed dismay that women thin out at the top managerial level in the two critical sectors.
Her words: “The Federal Government under President Jonathan introduced a policy of 35 percent representation of women in appointive positions. The federal executive council (FEC) reflects correct implementation of the policy. However, the implementation of the policy has not trickled down to government parastatals and agencies.
“It is the work of women advocacy groups like WILAT to encourage and urge the Minister of Transport to appoint capable women into boards, executive management and directorship and as CEOs of the agencies under the ministry in the 35 percent proportion. It is no longer acceptable not to have women sit with men in decision making roles."
Giving an insight into why many women are disadvantaged in the two sectors, she said the number of women in management positions in the maritime agencies was symptomatic of the industry generally and permeates both the public and private sector.
Attributing this to what she called “managerial glass ceiling”, Usoro who was the pioneer Director General of NIMASA explained it was the invisible barrier which women come into contact with when climbing up the corporate ladder.
According to her, it is a barrier so subtle that the uninitiated would vouch that the system is transparent, but yet so strong that it prevents women from moving up in the management hierarchy. Glass ceilings are subtle, indirect obstacles resulting from labelling and stereotyping that place stumbling blocks in the career paths of many women.
It is a phenomenon of women’s careers being stuck at middle management levels.
Usoro called for a multi-thronged strategy for a sustainable elimination of what she called “entrenched structural and cultural obstacles” to our growth path.
“The primary drivers for change must be women acting as a group and by individual efforts to secure enduring and positive change. The current climate is well disposed to conversations on gender parity in every sphere of our society and we must exploit it and create new opportunities. Change must be driven at governmental, institutional and personal levels," she added.
According to the maritiime lawyer who has consulted for several individuals and organisations within and outside the country, the conscious inclusion of women in training and employment programmes with a particular focus on leadership will improve understanding of gender issues and concerns and allow for appropriate articulation of gender empowerment strategies in policies and projects in all transport sub-sectors.
She argued that this would benefit the institutions involved and create a more balanced work environment, pointing out that it is important to build strong female partnerships in various countries in Africa.