In the past decade, the representation of women in Kenyan boardrooms and executive suites has trebled, but much has to be done if parity is to be achieved.
Board diversity and inclusion has risen from 12 percent in 2012 to 36 percent this year, a survey carried out by Kenya Institute of Management (KIM), Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) and New Faces New Voices (NFNV) shows.
In the C-suites, the percentage of women stands at 37 percent, up from 26 percent in 2017 and well ahead of the global average of 21 percent.
For instance, Kenya’s two listed energy utilities—KenGen and Kenya Power— both have female chief executives, with Kenya Power also having a female board chair.
Old prejudices remain, however, keeping a large number of deserving women out of their rightful place in the executive offices and boardrooms.
This is despite convergence in academic and competency levels between the two genders.
“Although there is plenty of progress in gender diversity and inclusion, unfortunately, it has remained challenging to break down roadblocks of age bias and prejudice in board recruitment,” read the survey report.
“This can be attributed to negative bias, unconscious or otherwise; a lack of opportunity for employers to access key talent and skills; inadequate retraining programmes and retention; or policy support requirements.”
The survey polled 193 firms, consisting of 112 private firms which are Kepsa members, 41 NSE listed firms and 40 other non-listed firms.
On the bright side, companies are taking concrete steps to address the gender imbalance in boardrooms, which will likely improve Kenya’s leading position in Africa in gender inclusivity.
According to the report’s findings, 97 percent of the polled companies were encouraging employees of diverse backgrounds to apply for board positions, while 85 percent had diversity and inclusion policy statements.
A similar number (85 percent) were providing training programs aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion to the rest of the organisation.