Corporate leaders in Kenya have decried the 23 percent overall representation of women on boards, saying the level “is too little in the wake of highly disruptive business environment demanding visionary boards.”
Corporates would cushion themselves from economic crunch if they embraced gender diversity in composition of their boards argued Dr Herta von Steigel, chairperson of Women Corporate Directors-Kenya Chapter (WCD-Kenya).
“Just because you have been in existence for 150 years doesn’t mean anything these days. The speed of disruption in this world of data and technology is so fast and women are great in providing leadership on the future of corporates,” she told Business Daily.
Between May 2013 and November 2017, Dr Herta chaired CHAPS Clearing Company, a London based wholesale clearer of sterling payments worth more than £75 trillion per annum. She oversaw the successful sale of the company to Bank of England.
Her proposal is for the government to enact a legislative framework enforcing a quota system on boards.
She said recognising the male champions, mentoring the women to take up the executive leadership and ensuring a merit-based search for chairs and members of the board would lead up to Kenyan corporates having effective gender equal boards.
“It is important that we recognise men supportive of women taking up leadership roles and encouraging them to be the champions pushing for more women directors and chairpersons,” she noted.
Mr Kariuki Ngari, Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank-Kenya, said establishing an equally representative workforce requires a deliberate action.
This year, the bank was ranked the leading out of the 60 firms listed at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) in having a gender equal workforce with a 63 per cent score.
The analysis on gender equality at the workplace was done by NSE, Equileap and New Faces New Voices
The financial institution stood out from the rest due to its policies on creating a supportive work environment for new mothers, for instance, a 20-weeks paid leave for primary carers instead of the statutory 14-weeks. “Giving women a six-month fully paid leave should be considered as an investment and not a cost,” he says.
The firm’s board has a 45 per cent representation of women with the CEO noting of the steady progress made to ensure women take up the executive roles.