Posted on Mar 08, 2016
To commemorate this year's International Women's Day themed "Be Bold for Change", Duale, Ovia & Alex-Adedipe Partner, Soibi Ovia gives her thoughts on Girl-Child Education and Women in the Legal Industry in Nigeria.
Has there been changes in women's participation in the legal industry?
There have been progressive changes in women participation in the legal industry here in Nigeria. Women are currently occupying more prominent roles in various sectors of the legal industry. These days you have women sitting in the higher echelon of the industry. For instance, we have women who are current Supreme Court Justices (the most superior court of the country); we have women in executive positions of the Nigerian Bar Association; we have more female Senior Advocates of Nigeria; we have more women making their mark as partners in top commercial law firms and also setting up law firms; we have more female law makers and we have more women occupying top legal positions in Companies.
From your experience, what are the challenges women face in this previously male-dominated industry?
In my opinion, the main challenge women face in the legal industry in Nigeria is the society and the general notion of the Nigerian culture that some jobs are better suited to the male gender. I believe that the proposed Gender Equality Bill if passed into law eventually will serve as some sort of affirmative action to address this societal imposed discrimination. The second major challenge is work life balance. Women in the industry may find it challenging to balance a successful professional career whilst running a home.
As an advocate for girl-child education, what do you think is the stumbling block for it becoming a lore in Nigeria?
Like I earlier mentioned, the major stumbling block is the Nigerian culture and tradition. In some states in Nigeria, women are seen as more suited to the role of marriage, rearing children and domestic activities. Nigeria as a country has to move beyond this backward way of thinking. I am fully in support of the “Girls not Bride” movement which is a global partnership aimed at enabling the girl child to fulfill her potential.
Do you envisage a woman president in Nigeria?
Why not? We are witnessing more female political leaders worldwide, look at the United Kingdom, Liberia, Germany, we almost witnessed a female president of the USA. At some point in our Country’s political future I hope to see more women involved in the leadership of this Country. Nigerian women are generally resilient, focused, independent, intelligent, strong and decisive. I see no reason why a Nigerian woman cannot be suited to the role of the President of Nigeria in the near future.
With women now playing significant roles across sectors in Nigeria, do you think the legal industry is experiencing the same?
Yes. Although in my opinion we can have way more women doing more