Women in top jobs still missing in Kenya's corporates

Female executives have blamed the ‘old-boys syndrome' in denying more women opportunity to run public and private institutions.

A breakfast meeting at Nairobi's Serena Hotel to commemorate the International Women’s Day heard that male dominated boards and public entities openly appointed women as a sign of tokenism in disregard to laid down criteria of seeking competent women to fill in the positions.

It was also noted that negative reports about women in the media had blurred accomplishments made by many female executives in the public and private sectors.

Kellen Kariuki, the Unclaimed Assets Financial Authority chief executive, said the old-boys networks as well as some professions that are skewed towards hiring women like nursing, secretarial work, among others have largely contributed to demeaning women who at times earned less than men in similar professions.

Madren Oluoch-Olunya, a certified public secretary partner at Azali called on women to seek media support so as to repaint the woman’s contribution at the business level and to influence policies at companies they work for.

Noting that Kenyan laws supported affirmative action, Ms Olunya said corporates must be forced to implement the same.

Together with Ms Kariuki, they observed that Kenya had made commendable strides on the political front for reserving positions at all levels for women.

Duncan Watta, the chairman of the Institute of Directors Kenya (IoD), that had convened the meeting, said they would soon launch a women’s chapter that will spearhead training of highly competent women to prepare for directorship positions in blue chip companies.

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The Capital Markets Authority acting chief executive Paul Muthaura said the regulator has made it mandatory for all listed companies to report at their annual general meetings the number of women in the boards. He called on the IoD to lead by example in enforcing the regulations requiring firms to have women in their boards.

''The new Code that was published on Friday places emphasis on triple bottom line reporting as well as on proper disclosure on diversity of board representation,'' Mr Muthaura said.

Of the fifty seven publicly listed companies with 467 directors, only 54 directors are women with 23 firms having no women directors on their board.

There are only two women chief financial officers in the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firms and another two serving as chief executives.

Ernst & Young East and Central Africa regional leader, advisory services Celestine Munda urged women in power to take it upon themselves to drive the gender agenda saying time had come for them to form networks that enhance their inclusion.