When I read this article on The East African News Website I really started to wonder if gender equality is ever going to happen. This is a serious point, I’m not losing hope I am honestly just being realistic.
This is an international phenomenon but I will just focus on Africa in this post.
The article focuses on The African Development Bank’s report, entitled “Where are the Women? Inclusive Boardrooms in Africa’s Top-Listed Companies”. Here is a summary of the report:
- About 32.9 per cent of African companies in the survey have no women on their boards, 33.6 per cent have only one woman on their boards, resulting in two-thirds of companies with minimal female presence at best. Just 18.9 per cent have two women on their boards
- The majority of African companies have at least 1 woman board director. However, about one-third (32.9 per cent) have 0 women on board, and another one-third only have one female director (33.6 per cent), so the majority of African companies have minimal women’s presence on boards.
- The companies with the highest percentage of women on boards are East Africa Breweries of Kenya (45.5 per cent), followed by two South African firms, Impala Platinum Holdings (38.5 per cent) and Woolworths Holdings (30.8 per cent).
- The percentage of women board directors in large-cap listed companies (which account for 30 per cent of companies) is 14.4 per cent, higher than mid- or small-caps, keeping in line with global patterns.
These figures are disturbing particularly given the level of business-minded women are on the continent:
“In sub-Saharan Africa, women are particularly active as entrepreneurs. However, they are disproportionately self-employed. Women make up 40 percent of the region’s nonagricultural labor force, but account for nearly 50 percent of the self-employed.” – The IMF
Obviously that statistic focuses on self-employment which I am very aware is different from corporate leadership but it reflects the fact that women have the ability and the appetite to assert economic change.
So why aren’t there more women on the boards of African corporations?
In my view it is the fact that those in power are not making a paradigm shift, they are not changing their mindsets and thus progress is slow.
When Baroness Amos tweeted that the number of women in senior positions had fallen in an organisation as influential as the world bank I was shocked but not surprised.
We need to understand who is really setting the agenda in terms of diversity and gender equality. If the boardrooms are still full of men who believe that they know what’s best then little or nothing will change.
The Glasshammer shared a superb article on the fact that the White Men in power need to be included in this conversation: “No business strategy, including D&I, will deliver optimal results when many with position power (white men, in this discussion) disconnect from the strategy.”
Unless these men start to accept the invitations to change things and I mean genuinely change things not just talk about changing things then there will be little or no progress.
We keep setting up gender equality forums, organisations and online platforms as if those in power are paying attention. But are they? We keep talking about gender equality and diversity as if those in the top boardrooms in African and across the world, are genuinely ready for change. In my opinion I do not think that they are ready. I might be wrong. In fact I would love for someone to prove me wrong.
What are your thoughts?
Is change on the way?