Women comprise of more than half of Africa’s population and their contribution to the economy is extensive. However, they form 30-70 percent of people living below $2 in the continent. Only 12.7 percent of the board composition in Africa consists of women. This is 4.6 percent lower than the women representation on the boards of the largest companies in world like Proctor & Gamble Company and Avon Product Inc. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), Kenya has the highest representation of women sitting on boards at 19.8%. Still this is way below the third gender rule stipulated in the Kenya Constitution of 2010.
According to McKinsey study, women in business continue to face the glass ceiling barrier for senior leadership positions. For example, East African Breweries Limited (EABL) is the leading organization with five women out of 11 board directors, followed by Kenya Power with three women. This shows that more needs to be done to unlock the potential of women by removing barriers to women leadership.
Gender equality is a global issue and therefore needs global solutions. Mainstreaming gender equality (SDG5) in businesses provides solutions to development challenges. For instance, SDG2 (no hunger) cannot be achieved unless women get equal opportunities and access to land, jobs, resources and technology.
Companies can help bring about positive change by promoting diversity in their offices and also implementing supportive maternity packages which will spur equality in the office. They can also help in achieving the SDG5 through the third gender rule as stipulated in the Kenyan Constitution. This will keep business in the frontline in meeting the targets of SDGs globally.
Gender equality is not only a social and moral imperative but also an economic need. Business hold a key to providing solutions to gender equality issues through incorporating SDG5 in their business strategies.
By Linda Fatuma