Kenya has the highest number of women serving on company boards in Africa at 19.8 percent, above the global average of 15 percent, according to a report by the International Finance Corporation.
It is followed by South Africa and Botswana at 17.4 percent and 16.9 percent respectively. Morocco and Cote D’Ivoire have the least number at 5.9 and 5.1 percent respectively.
IFC East Africa program Lead Stefan Handoyo credits the high number of Kenyan women board members to pro-women company policies, advanced education levels and fluency in English.
“There are much more benefits to having a boardroom that enjoys gender diversity. For example, companies whose boardrooms include women report on having improved financial performance and shareholder value, increased customer and employee value and a rising investor confidence,” Handoyo said.
Women are also likely to be paid 10 to 30 percent less than men on similar jobs globally and are 30 percent less likely to be rehired following a financial misconduct.
A 2015 Study conducted by Institute of Directors (Kenya) highlighted the composition of women on boards. For professional associations board, women constitute 26 percent, insurance companies (15%); microfinance institutions (26%), while at 12 percent, banks had the lowest women representation.
State-owned enterprises outperformed the private sector at 26% women representation largely owing to the constitutional requirement.
Duncan Watta, Chairman IOD (K) noted the IOD Bill, passed by Parliament in February 2017 and awaiting presidential assent, addresses the importance of qualifications for board membership by drawing on an array of skills, experience and continuous training.
“While a lot has been done on the regulatory front, the IOD Bill will help to ensure that Kenyan Directors are equipped with the requisite skills to take up director responsibilities in both the public and private sector,” says Watta.
“The Bill will also help to increase the talent pool of qualified women. Qualified women, currently make up 30 percent of IOD’s membership, the number is too low.”
But the perception of sacrificing family and social life at the expense of breaking the boardroom glass door remains one of the impediments for most women in the corporate world.
According to Handoyo, an attempt to strike the balance for many women has left some areas of their lives unfulfilled.
“Women remain to be anchor at home. Further, a society without mothers is basically dehumanized. It is therefore up to women to strive to achieve that which means most to them.”