• According to the Board Diversity Report 2020-2021, Kenya’s Board Diversity stood at 36 per cent, greater than the global average of 23.3 per cent.
• However, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, women say the gains made towards women’s economic empowerment were reduced.
Kenya has been doing fairly well in terms of the composition of women in workplaces over the years.
More and more organisations have been accommodating women and women’s leadership, especially in the boardroom.
According to the Board Diversity Report 2020-2021, Kenya’s Board Diversity stood at 36 per cent.
That is greater than the global average of board diversity which stands at 23.3 per cent.
Murithi Ndegwa, CEO and Executive Director of the Kenya Institute of Management (KMI), said they have been tracking board diversity in Kenya since 2012 when it was at 12 per cent.
Ndegwa was speaking at a forum to discuss how to promote diversity and inclusion held by New Faces, New Voices in partnership with the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) and KMI on Tuesday.
“In 2015 we were at 18 per cent, in 2017 at 21 per cent and in 2019 at 23 per cent,” he said.
However, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, women say the gains made towards women’s economic empowerment were reduced.
Kenya Private Sector Alliance CEO Carole Kariuki said that the impact of the pandemic has been so massive that organisations are still recovering, and so are women.
“The pandemic saw a great number of people lose jobs, experience salary cuts and not to mention the burden of care that women took on when everyone had to stay home,” she said.
Kariuki said that the economic empowerment women had before the pandemic needs to be brought back.
Women leaders from various sectors joined in on the discussion giving their views on what can be done to bring back diversity and inclusion.
Commitment and intention by organisations were found to be the best approaches towards achieving this.
Mbithe Muema, Chief Business Officer at NSE said there is little enforcement of gender policies or quotas set by organisations.
She said that although such moves towards gender mainstreaming are welcome, making sure they are implemented is where organisations fail.
Last year, KEPSA launched a Gender Mainstreaming Policy for the Private Sector and encouraged companies to implement it.
Part of mainstreaming requires funding which Muema said, is a commitment that companies should implement.
“The most we can do in terms of enforcement and implementation is like what we have done at the NSE where we encourage companies that wish to be listed to have a 30 per cent composition of women on its boards,” she said.
Zuhura Ogada, the Gender-based Violence and Mental Health sub-sector Lead at KEPSA said that diversity should be done not just for a show but for a company’s business case.
She said that some of the top organisations listed by the NSE have a good percentage of women on their boards.
In 2019, Equileap did a special report on Gender Equality in Kenya, looking at the 61 NSE listed companies.
The top five listed companies were ranked through Equileap’s Gender equality tool which focused on gender equality in leadership and workforce, pays, policies and accountability.
Standard Chartered, Scan Group and Safaricom were tied at first place with a ranking of 63 per cent of diversity and equality.
“They were followed by then Barclay bank at 61 per cent, Kenya Airways at 50 per cent, Kenya Re and Ken Gen at 47 per cent, Stanbic Holding at 45 per cent and KCB and East African Breweries at 44 per cent,” the report found.
Today, East African Breweries Limited has the highest number of women on its board among the companies ranked by Equileap.
It has seven women on its board out of 18 board members, the Executive Director also being a woman.
Kenya Airways has four women on its 16 person-board, as well as Ken Gen, Kenya Power and Lighting Company has three women on its board out of 12, including the CEO.
Kenya Reinsurance also has four women on its board out of 12, Safaricom has two women on its board out of 10 and Equity Group has four out of nine.
Muema also suggested that organisations take inclusion beyond the boardroom and across all levels including economic, social and cultural.
“One of the biggest scourges facing women at the moment is Gender-based violence. We need to look into how their social environment affects their capacity to participate, that is what inclusion is about,” she said.
She said the NSE is looking to get research insights into the impact of Gender-based violence on corporate operations, similar to research done by the Johannesburg Securities Exchange.
Ogada added that the focus on gender-based violence is often on the sexual aspect but it can be emotional or psychological, especially at the workplace and that needs to be looked into.
New Faces, New Voices Chairperson Caroline Armstrong said that the work needs to be done not just by corporates but by women as well.
She said it is not enough to be part of a board but participating in board decisions is what is key.
Being invited to the party, she said, is good but being invited to dance at the party is what counts.
“Once you are included, do the work. Speak up and take your place because they did not do you a favour by including you, your credentials spoke for you,” she said.