Source: Nation Africa

Kenya has outperformed the global average of female board directors after witnessing significant progress in board diversity and inclusion in the last nine years, a new report shows.

According to the 2021 Board Diversity and Inclusion Survey report released in Nairobi last week, Kenya’s gender diversity in the boardroom now stands at 36 per cent, a significant growth from 21 per cent in 2017.

Currently, the global average of women holding board positions stands at 23.3 per cent up from 20.4 per cent in 2018.

The report undertaken by the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) in partnership with Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), New Faces New Voices (NFNV) and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) observes that women constitute 21 per cent of the appointed board chairpersons, while the global average is three per cent.

Female representation in C-suite roles in Kenya constitutes 37 per cent compared to 21 per cent globally, with the average age of Kenyan board members now standing at 47.6 years down from 55.8 years in 2017.

A 2015 report by the Africa Development Bank showed that Kenya had the highest percentage of women in boards in Africa at 19.8 per cent, followed by Ghana (17.7 per cent) and South Africa (17.4 per cent).

The 2017 Board Diversity and Inclusion Survey by the KIM and the NSE placed the number at 21 per cent up from 12 per cent in 2012.

The report reveals that gender and age are critical components in driving organisational performance, decision-making and productivity.

Education level and nationality the report says, influence organisational performance to some extent with professional, ethnic, and religion also having an effect on organisational performance, board decision-making process and productivity.

Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programs Cabinet Secretary Prof Margaret Kobia, who was the chief guest at the launch, noted that the vigour with which data was collected and analysed yields new insights on the impact of diversity and how to make it work.

“We all stand to learn from the authors’ methodology and findings. At a minimum, future sustainability and financial success demand representation, equity and inclusion,” said Prof Kobia.

Dr Muriithi Ndegwa the Chief Executive Officer at KIM said his organisation recognizes that diversity and inclusion are essential components of a company’s leadership and governance.

“As champions of best practice in governance and management, KIM has made substantial progress over the years; and now we are intensifying our efforts to create a more inclusive, diverse and supportive community,” he said.

NSE Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Odundo, observed that diversity in the corporate world is a true developmental issue, which needs to be embraced in Kenya.

“The NSE is playing its part by continuously supporting research on gender equality matters such as this board diversity report, which we believe will bring out real issues that need to be addressed to attain gender equality in our market,” Mr Odundo said.

To address some of the barriers that limit optimisation of board diversity and inclusion, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) CEO Carole Kariuki said they are in the final stages of developing a ‘policy framework for gender mainstreaming in the private sector’ to ensure inclusivity at corporate leadership and the workforce.

Ms Kariuki also revealed that Kepsa is undertaking a gender-based violence (GBV) advocacy program in the private sector to create an enabling environment for its elimination, scaling up evidence-driven prevention programs and accessible services for survivors through private sector intervention to complement government efforts.

The initiative is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and championed by the Kepsa GBV and mental health sub-sector board.

Kepsa Gender and SMEs Director Eva Muraya, noted they are confident the study will strengthen diversity and inclusion in public and private institutions.

New Faces New Voices interim chair Makena Mworia, observed that more still needs to be done to achieve parity even as Kenya celebrates the progress made in gender diversity in boardrooms.

“We, therefore, urge greater diversity and transparency when selecting women for key positions and more youthful representation, which is reflective of our young demographic,” she said.

Despite the marked increase in representation of women in senior leadership and C-suite positions', the report observes that the journey to parity is still long.

The study aims to provide insights into best practices to drive parity by the year 2030, as enshrined in the social pillar of the Vision 2030 blueprint.

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