BY EMEKA EJERE

In furtherance of its commitment to promoting gender equality and women empowerment, leading financial services provider, Access Bank Plc is empowering women in the workplace through the Access Women Network (AWN).

AWN, one of the largest female networks in Nigeria with members across 12 African countries, is one of the three-pronged approaches the lender is using to promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

Women empowerment is a key component of Nigeria’s socio-economic growth. Little wonder the government and many other agencies are undertaking measures to further improve the situation through various policies focused on social reforms and generating employment opportunities.

With a history of taking gender equality and women empowerment seriously, Access Bank goes beyond just celebrating women on International Women’s Day, to empowering them through three-pronged approach: – Women in the workplace, Women in the marketplace, and Women in the community.

According to the bank, the network was established to support, develop, empower, promote and retain female employees in Access Bank. Among other things, AWN provides an avenue for women to network and build relationships for career advancement. It also fosters collaborative thinking for the Access woman alongside colleagues across the industry and other sectors.
In addition, it provides a platform for women to gain inspiration and learning from role models via mentorship programmes and deal well with job stressors.

Access Bank in a document said, “The product provides women with learning and development tools and techniques, insight and advice for personal development and leadership roles, recognizes amazing talents, achievements, diversity and contribution of women in business and strengthens gender diversity across sectors.”

The bank said AWN has increased its efforts to ensure that women across the Access Bank Group are actively engaged in community focused programmes, lending their skills and resources to support the less privileged over the years.

“For instance, AWN has implemented various initiatives including project ‘Make a Family Happy’, which raised funds to feed 500 families in the face of COVID-19 pandemic and Free Breast Cancer Screening for AWN Members at selected locations.

“Another initiative implemented through AWN is Zaron Virtual Experience with AWN, free online makeup training, and the ongoing partnership with Genesis House to support vulnerable young women who have been sexually abused, exploited and trafficked.

“Additionally, AWN has organised various webinars, seminars and workshops aimed at empowering women and also has the very active AWN Toastmasters Club.”

‘W’ Initiative

In 2006, Access Bank began a journey into the world of women and Banking on Women, pioneering women banking in Nigeria with the establishment of its Gender Empowerment Movement (GEM). It has since then continued to demonstrate its commitment to gender empowerment, receiving $15 million credit line from International Finance Corporation (IFC) for its Gender Empowerment Programme.
After working through the GEM to invest in women for eight years, the programme evolved into a robust plan to provide women with banking solutions that meet their diverse career and lifestyle requirements in 2014 and was named the ‘W’ Initiative.

The ‘W’ initiative remains the home of everything Access Bank has to offer women. It has also helped to solidify Access Bank’s position as the bank of choice for women in the markets and communities. In furtherance of its commitment to women economic empowerment through the ‘W’ initiative, it deployed programmes such as: W Academy, ‘W’ Community (The W Community is made up of the Young Professional, ‘W’ in Business and W & Family).

“Access Bank has been a leading advocate for women’s economic empowerment in Nigeria and this is the key motivation for the ‘W’ Initiative which caters to the women economy particularly in the areas of capacity building and creating networking opportunities for women”. Ayona Trimnell, Group Head, ‘W’ Initiative, said,

For its series of empowerment initiatives for women and the considerable impact, the bank has won numerous awards which include: Africa CEO Forum – Gender Leader Award (2019), FAW – Women Market Champion Award (2019), Women’s Choice Africa – Bank of the Year Award (2019), Nigeria Finance Innovation – Best Bank in Women Empowerment Award (2019), and Women in Marketing and Communications – Female Friendly Bank of the Year Award (2018&2019).

Other notable awards are: National Council for Women Society Nigeria – Dedication to Women Entrepreneurship Award (2018 &2019), National Women in Finance Magazine – Outstanding Banking Initiative Awards (2018), Global Banking Alliance (GBA) – Women’s Market Champion Award (2018), and CBN – Excellence in Women Economic Empowerment Award (2017, 2018& 2019).