By Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Promoting gender equality at the workplace is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. A growing body of evidence shows that utilizing the skills and talent of both men and women is beneficial for enterprises and for society in general.
According to a 2015 International Labour Organisation (ILO) global report entitled, ‘Women in Business and Management: Gaining Momentum’ East Africa is lagging behind several other regions in giving women empowerment for opportunities in business and management.
Why more women should be allowed in business and management
“To participate effectively in an increasingly competitive world, countries will need to harness their resources efficiently by improving opportunities for all and allocating based on skill instead of gender. Gender inequality – whether in endowments, economic opportunities, or agency – reduces a country’s ability to compete in this increasingly globalized economic environment” World Bank, 2011.
Women in management
Over the past decade, women have been filling the ranks of management in companies, public institutions and organizations. Their numbers at lower and middle management are often equal to or higher than men. At senior management level, women have also increased their share of positions.
How does East Africa fare in women empowerment?
According to the report, some regions have made gains in the gender equality equation, but others including East Africa are way behind.
Data obtained from 128 countries up to 2012 shows how some East African countries are fair to women and others are still not engaging women in productive positions in various organizations and sectors.
According to ILO Statistical Database, employment by occupation: managers, June 2014, Rwanda is leading in East Africa in the 42nd world position with a 34% of women being in management positions while Uganda is second at the 83rd world position with 20% of women in management position.
According to the World Bank enterprise Surveys 2014, the percentage of Firms with a Female top Manager in East Africa stands as follows: Rwanda is again leading with 19.1%, followed by Uganda with 15.3%, Tanzania 14.3% and Kenya 13.4%. Burundi did not have figures.
Women on boards
In Kenya, women hold 44, or 9.5 per cent, of the 462 board seats of the 55 companies listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). Twenty-three of the companies – less than half – have women directors, and those with female board members are majority-owned by multinationals.
A document of the Gender Monitoring Office in Rwanda “Gender Baseline and key indicators in four sectors: Decision Making, Agriculture, Infrastructure, and Private Sector, 2011” indicates that women were 12.5 per cent of private sector company board members. The rest of the countries this kind of data was not available.
Women in business
In many countries, women’s opportunities to participate in business is linked to the fact that a good number of enterprises are family owned.
For the latest years for which data were available, the proportion of women who were employers in Africa ranged from a high of 46 per cent in Liberia, followed by 36 per cent in Botswana and Namibia and 34 per cent in Rwanda, to a low of 12 per cent in Mauritius and 14 per cent in Ethiopia.
Women as employers
For the latest years for which data were available, the proportion of women who were employers in Africa ranged from a high of 46 per cent in Liberia, followed by 36 per cent in Botswana and Namibia and 34 per cent in Rwanda, to a low of 12 per cent in Mauritius and 14 per cent in Ethiopia. The average for the 18 countries in Africa for which data were available was 23 per cent. With Tanzania at 25 and Uganda at 22.
Share of women as own-account or self-employed workers
For the latest years for which data were available, the proportion of women who were own-account workers in East Africa, Rwanda and Uganda are leading in with a tie of 55 percent followed by Tanzania at 51 percent.
Women’s access to finance
In Uganda, women own about 39 per cent of businesses with registered premises, yet they receive only nine per cent of commercial credit. These numbers reveal a familiar story about women’s lack of access to finance. A major barrier facing businesswomen in Uganda is their limited ownership of land, which is traditionally required as loan collateral.
W omen in decision-making in the public sector
In the public sector in Kenya, 0.5 per cent of women employees are in top management positions compared to 2 per cent of men. In 35 ministries, women hold 1.3 per cent of senior management positions in state corporations, and women are 10.2 per cent of top management of local government, including heads of department.
Women in parliaments
According to May 2014 Inter-Parliamentary Union figures, women make up 21.9 per cent of parliamentarians on a global average of both houses combined. Six countries had women speakers of the lower or single house – Botswana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
In the African region, Kenya’s 2010 constitution provides that the state take legislative and other measures to ensure that no more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be comprised of one gender.
In Rwanda, of the 80 members of the chamber of deputies, 53 are directly elected and 27 indirectly elected. Of the indirectly elected members, 24 must be women elected by electoral colleges from each Province and the City of Kigali. In the Senate, 30 per cent of the 26 members must be women.
Barriers to women’s leadership
In many countries, there is at least one, if not two, generations of women who are highly educated, trained and in the workforce since graduating. Yet, the figures, as shown in this report, indicate that they have not been able to break through the glass ceilings and walls in significant numbers to occupy top management jobs and board positions as well as lead their nations’ largest businesses.
Today, it seems that the business world may be on the cusp of change, as more women are being appointed as CEOs and taking more board seats. The enormous talent pool women represent today is remarkable, as they overtake men in field after field and level of education.
Initiatives to advance women in business and management
In Rwanda, the private sector has helped women entrepreneurs establish their own chamber by providing them with an office and staff as well as financial and technical support. Activities include mentorship programmes, with successful women entrepreneurs mentoring other women moving into the formal sector; capacity building and training of women entrepreneurs on entrepreneurship, business management, business plan design, credit management, the use of ICT for e-commerce, marketing, and sector specific training such as modern agro-processing techniques, as well as business development services and a Business Plan Competition.
While in Uganda, the Girl Entrepreneurship Program (GEP) is an initiative to create awareness about business and entrepreneurship in secondary schools, tertiary institutions and universities. Successful businesswomen entrepreneurs visit these institutions and share their experiences to inspire young women.
Partners in this programme are the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA- U), the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL), the Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET), the Africa Women’s Economic Policy Network (AWEPON) and the Makerere University Kampala, Makerere Business School, Kyambogo University and Mukono University.
Women organizing at national level
In Kenya, the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs’ Associations (FEWA) is an umbrella body that seeks to harmonize and strengthen activities by the different women entrepreneurs associations.
In Tanzania, the Tanzania Women Chamber of Commerce was established in 2006 as an umbrella organization and has grown into a formal structure as an apex organization of businesswomen. The Chamber unites sectoral businesswomen associations, companies and individuals, who have agreed to form a united front to advocate and network for the well-being of their businesses and prosperity of women entrepreneurs.
In Uganda, the Women Entrepreneurs’ Association aims to address gender disparities by enhancing the economic status of women through business diagnostics, capacity building, resource mobilization, institutional development, networking and advocacy.