Lauren Greenbacker, Associate
Paul Hastings (Washtington, DC)

Melissa Fishkin, Associate
Paul Hastings (Washington, DC)

The percentage of women on boards of Nigerian companies—16.8% as of 2016 (and 7.5% of board chairs)1—is above the continental average of 12.7% in 2015.2 Historically, many sociocultural factors have made progress toward gender equality in the corporate sphere difficult, including limited access to education for women which, in the past, contributed to the relatively low number of women in corporate positions and the boardroom.3

While many companies in Nigeria still struggle to attain adequate representation of women on their boards, Nigeria’s major oil and gas company Oanda has been recognized as having one of the highest percentages of women directors in Africa, with women comprising over 30% of its board.4 Recent developments—in particular, a regulatory directive issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria—have reflected innovative approaches toward combatting underrepresentation of women on corporate boards, suggesting that progress toward gender equality is in motion.

Corporate Governance Code

In 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria issued a new Code of Corporate Governance for Public Companies (the “Code”).5 The Code includes a recommendation for publicly listed companies to take gender into consideration when selecting members of their boards of directors, stating, “The criteria for the selection of directors should be written and defined to reflect the existing Board’s strengths and weaknesses, required skill and experience, its current age range, and gender composition.”6 The Code provides guidance for publicly listed companies, but does not include penalties for failure to consider these factors.  There are currently no quotas for women on corporate boards.7

Central Bank Directive

Following the issuance of the Code, the Nigerian Central Bank, the primary regulator for Nigerian financial institutions, announced a regulatory directive requiring all banks operating in Nigeria to meet a quota of 30% participation by women on their boards by 2014.8  However, as of 2018 only 22.3% of the board appointments are women.9 

The directive also requires banks to ensure that at least 40% of their management is composed of women and that their annual reports include statistics on representation of women within their institutions.10  The then-Governor of the Nigerian Central Bank stated, “The decision was taken with a view to stimulating women’s participation in development and nation building,” explaining that the regulatory action was  based on recognition of the underrepresentation of women among the leadership of financial institutions.11  Many advocates hoped that by changing the landscape of the financial sector, the regulatory directive would spur change in other market sectors as well.

Though the regulatory directive represented a strong step toward parity, subsequent studies have revealed that many financial institutions continue to fall short of the 30% target. For example, Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ)—a Nigerian non-profit organization that advocates for the success of women in the workplace—found that 19% of board members for Nigerian banks were women as of 2014.12 While this percentage falls significantly short of the 30% target identified in the regulatory directive, 19% is significantly higher than the countrywide average of 11.5% and the continental average of 12.7%. Moreover, this percentage has increased from 15% to 19% since the announcement of the regulatory directive in 2012, suggesting that progress toward gender equality in Nigeria is ongoing.

Organizations Supporting Gender Diversity

Outside of government directives, the Governing Council of the Institute of Directors Nigeria (IoD Nigeria) started a Women Directors Forum to promote dialogue between top women directors, leaders, and groups within the IoD, on the challenges to achieving gender equality in Nigeria.  The Forum is structured as interactive panel sessions for eminent women to discuss topics from their respective experiences.13 WIMBIZ also has programs to assist female entrepreneurs and increase the presence of women on company boards and management teams.14


While the representation of women on boards in Nigeria currently falls just below average among African nations, the unique approach of tackling this issue through the lens of the banking sector suggests that Nigeria will continue to make strides in this area. Though the regulatory directive so far lacks a strong enforcement mechanism, the shift toward parity within financial firms could play a significant role in shifting norms throughout the private sector as well.

1 Women in the boardroom: A global perspective, Deloitte 41 (2017),

2 Where are the Women: Inclusive Boardrooms in Africa’s Top Listed Companies?, African Development Bank (June 2015), (hereinafter, “African Development Bank Report”). 

3 Y. Fakeye, O.J. George & O. Owoyemi, Women in Purgatory: The Case of Nigerian Women in the Boardrooms, 1 Asian J. of Bus. & Mgmt. Sci. No. 10 (2012), 134, 137,

4 African Development Bank Report, supra note 2, at 26.

5 Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria, Code of Corporate Governance for Public Companies (2011),

6 Id. at 13.2.

7 Sarah Iqbal, Women, Business, and the Law 2016: Getting to Equal, World Bank, at 186,

8 Sunday Michael Ogwu, CBN directive: Women Occupy Only 22% Boards’ Seats in 21 Banks, Daily Trust (Feb. 8, 2018),

9 Id.

10 Id.

11 Maggy Parries, Nigeria: Banks to Appoint 30 Percent Women Board Members – Sanusi, Fin. News Newspaper (Apr. 15, 2013),

12 Women in Management, Business & Public Service, WIMBIZ Findings on Female Representation on Boards and Top Management of Financial Institutions in Nigeria (Aug. 2014), Due%20Diligence%20Analysis%20for%20Financial%20Institutions%20in%20Nigeria%202012-August%202014.pdf.

13 Women Directors Forum, Institute of Directors Nigeria (IoD Nigeria), (last visited Sept. 12, 2018).

14 Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), (last visited Sept. 12, 2018).