Gender Dev.Viz-a-Viz Leadership Roles in Nigeria’s Banking Sector




By Precious Oham and Adebayo Adenrele


The emergence of female Managing Directors and Chief Executive Officers in the Nigeria banking sector underlines the increasing acknowledgment of women’s potential and what they can offer to the growth of the economy.

This also shows that there is a shift towards women participation and inclusivity in corporate organisations, as against the age-long archaic practice of relegating women in the scheme of things.

Suffice to say that women are gradually taking the baton of leadership from men, even though the stigma daunting the hope of their struggle is still in existence.

Also, this points to the fact that the rise of women in top-tier positions in the banking sector sends a powerful message, reaffirming the belief that women are capable of becoming leaders in all spheres of influence.

Favour Inya, a Financial Expert based in Port Harcourt said that “one of the key drivers of this trend is the growing recognition of the importance of gender diversity in the workplace. Banks such as Guaranty Trust Bank, Access Bank, and Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria have all launched initiatives aimed at promoting gender diversity and inclusion.

“For example, Guaranty Trust Bank’s “Women in Leadership” program provides training and mentorship opportunities for female employees, while Access Bank’s “W Initiative” offers financial services and support specifically tailored to women. These initiatives have helped to create a pipeline of talented female leaders who are ready to take on senior roles.

“Women are also bringing unique skills and perspectives to the banking sector, which are becoming increasingly valuable in today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing financial landscape. For instance, women are often more risk-averse and focused on long-term sustainability, which can help to mitigate against reckless decision-making and promote more stable financial practices.

“Additionally, women are often more attuned to customer needs and are driving innovation in areas such as digital banking and financial inclusion. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, is a great example of this, having led the bank’s digital transformation and introduced innovative products and services that cater to the needs of women and other underserved groups.

“Some notable examples of women who have risen to leadership positions in Nigeria’s banking sector include Yvonne Ikegwuonu, Managing Director of Renmoney; Bola Adesola, Senior Vice Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria; and Sola David-Borha, CEO of Standard Bank Africa. These women, and many others like them, are paving the way for future generations and demonstrating that women can succeed in even the most senior roles.

“The rise of women in leadership positions in Nigeria’s banking sector is a welcome trend that is set to continue in the coming years. As banks recognize the business case for gender diversity and take steps to promote women to leadership positions, we can expect to see even more talented female leaders emerging in the sector.

“This will not only benefit the banks themselves but also the wider economy and society as a whole, as women bring their unique perspectives and skills to the table. According to a report by McKinsey, companies with diverse leadership teams are more likely to outperform their less diverse peers, and this trend is likely to continue in Nigeria’s banking sector.”

According to Roqeeb Bolaji Muhammed, the increase in female leadership in Nigeria’s banking sector will create gender equity in workplace.

The Ibadan-based Aluminum Fabricator cum Writer, said the step will inspire other female genders to break the boundaries of their traditional duties.

His words, “It will create gender equity in workplace. It will inspire female genders that the famous acronym [WEEK] WOMEN EDUCATION END IN KITCHEN is just a thought that should be buried and casted away.

“The economic impact will be upgraded to some levels, because of female natures and they will serve as role models to young female children”.

Thelma Osarumen Osatohanmwen hailed the banking sector for its fairness and not leaving the wand of control completely in the hands of men.

The Content Writer maintained that banking industry is seen as male-dominated field but the new development will replenish and revive the hope of other women aspiring to be Leaders in their various endeavours.

“I think it’s applaudable. Growing up, I never heard or saw women taking leadership roles in Nigeria’s banking sector.

“It was purely a male dominated field but over time with more women emerging in top positions at the bank, it shows that the system is fair and not patriarchal.”

On the contrary, Aanuoluwapo Isaac Afolabi noted that the attainment of leadership role by women can attract woes into her family.

The Abuja-based Computer Engineer and Educationist said a woman must have paid the price of dedication, diligence and consistency in her workplace before elevating to the position but her marriage might be hanging if she keeps chasing the crown to the neglect of her family support.

“I’ll start by saying that nothing goes for nothing. Women who are going head-to-head with men in Banking Industry must have paid the price.

“The price of diligence, dedication, consistency and valour known to be exhumed by leaders.

“However, such women, if care is not taken might have their home/marriage suffer for it. They were presented with two options: family or the crown.

“In marriage, a woman is supposed to be a wife and mother to her husband first and to her children. If any woman was able to reach the lofty height, her family must have been the sacrificial lamb. Women who attained such heights were supported by their family”.

But a student, Christianah Motunrayo Ijaola said the increase in female leadership in Nigeria’s banking sector is a breakthrough that can lead to greater diversity, innovation and economic empowerment for women.

The student of Adeseun Ogundoyin Polytechnic Eruwa, (AOPE), Oyo State said” it will help in breaking the glass ceiling and encourage more women to take up leadership roles in the industry.”

Meet some Female MD/CEOs of leading Nigeria’s Largest Banks:


Dr. Adaora Umeoji – The Group Managing Director/Chief Executive of Zenith Bank.,served as the Deputy Managing Director of the bank since October 28, 2016, bringing nearly 30 years of extensive banking experience, with 26 years dedicated to Zenith Bank.

Miriam Olusanya – MD of Guarantee Trust Bank (GTBank) made history as the first female Managing Director of Guarantee Trust Bank (GTBank). With a background in Pharmacy from the University of Ibadan and an MBA focusing on finance and accounting from the University of Liverpool, she brings 26 years of banking experience and a reputation for strong leadership and financial inclusion advocacy. Miriam was announced as GTBank’s MD in July 2021, and still holds the position .

Yemisi Edun – MD of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) achieved a similar milestone as the first female MD/CEO of First City Monument Bank (FCMB). Armed with a chemistry degree from the University of Ife and a Masters in international accounting and finance from the University of Liverpool, she excels in risk management and corporate governance, contributing to FCMB’s growth and diversification. Yemisi Edun has been the MD of FCMB since July 2021.


Halima Buba – MD of SunTrust Bank stands out with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Maiduguri and an MBA from the same institution. She champions entrepreneurship and small business development through initiatives like ‘SME Flash’, recognizing their vital role in Nigeria’s economic progress. She has been serving as SunTrust’s MD since January 2021 after serving as the deputy general manager in Ecobank.


Ireti Samuel-Ogbu – MD of Citibank Nigeria leads the bank as its first female MD/CEO, having a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and Finance from Middlesex University and an MBA from the University of Bradford. With a background in international banking, she focuses on innovative financial solutions and technological advancements for enhanced customer experiences. Ireti took on the role of Citibank Nigeria MD in September 2020.


Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe – MD of Fidelity Bank took the helm of Fidelity Bank, becoming its first female MD/CEO since its inception in 1988. Armed with degrees in Law and extensive experience, she spearheads Fidelity Bank’s digital transformation, aiming to make financial services accessible to all Nigerians. She was announced as Fidelity Bank’s MD in December 2020, and she assumed her role in January 2021, and is still serving in this role.


Tomi Somefun – MD of Unity Bank leads the Bank with expertise gained from Harvard Business School and Columbia University, complementing her degree in English Language from Obafemi Awolowo University. She prioritizes rural banking and financial literacy, aiming to empower underserved communities across Nigeria. Somefun was confirmed by CBN as Unity Bank’s MD August 2015 and has served in the role ever since.


Kafilat Araoye – MD of Lotus Bank brings over 30 years of banking experience, advocating for ethical banking practices and community investment. With a degree in History and an M.Sc. in Industrial Relations & Personnel Management, she focuses on sustainable financial initiatives. Kafilat is the pioneer MD/CEO of Lotus Bank which was registered in May 2021.


Bukola Smith – MD of FSDH Merchant Bank leveraging her B.Sc. in Economics and an MBA from Alliance Manchester Business School. Her expertise in investment banking fosters FSDH’s growth, while her mentorship supports aspiring female leaders in the finance sector. She became the MD of FSDH Merchant Bank in April 2021 and still serves in this capacity.

Yetunde Bolanle Oni – MD of Union Bank recently assumed the role of MD/CEO of Union Bank in January 2024, marking a significant milestone in the bank’s leadership. With degrees in Economics and Business Administration, including executive training at Oxford University, her appointment is poised to shape Union Bank’s strategic direction.

Bolaji Agbede, CEO of Access Holdings, took over on February 13,2024 following the death of Herbert Wigwe, the company’s former GCEO.

Agbede has worked in banking operations, customer relationship management, and human resources management departments for over 27 years.

Beginning her career in 1992 as an executive trainee, she had earlier held various positions up to managerial level at Guaranty Trust Bank.

She subsequently served as CEO of JKG Limited, a business consulting firm, in 2003.

Agbede joined Access Bank in 2003 as an assistant general manager and was responsible for managing the bank’s portfolio of chemical trading companies.


Women have been extraordinary in their various endeavours, with many championing courses and showcasing their potentials for human development.

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