When former US President Barack Obama visited Kenya in 2015, one of the highlights was a speech he made at Kasarani Stadium where he said “Imagine if you have a team and you do not let half the team play…that makes no sense.”His statement was in relation to embracing gender equality across all sectors and I agree with him. Globally, the debate on gender equality is one that has been with us for decades now and only a few countries such as Iceland, Norway, Finland, Rwanda and Sweden have been able to lower the gender gap.And although the debate is heavy on the public sector, as businesses, we should ask ourselves what we are doing to enhance two thirds gender rule within our organisations.
According to the Women in Business report 2018, the number of women in senior management globally rose from 66 percent in 2017 to 78 percent.
The Kenya Institute of Management Leadership and Diversity research report of 2017 showed that 21 percent of women in Kenya hold senior roles in the corporate world up from 12 percent five years ago.
This shows that although we are making steady strides in both the public and private sectors, huge gaps and disparities still exist. We, however, cannot underestimate the socio-cultural attitudes that women have had to overcome to make the gains that we celebrate today. It has taken decades of advocacy to make women empowerment close to a reality in Kenya.
Socio-cultural barriers such as access to education that inhibited women are being relaxed or abandoned altogether. More and more women are now educated and possess the requisite qualifications and abilities to compete for their place in the job market
The difficulty in achieving a 50-50 ratio however is a multi-dimensional issue and one that affects technology companies such as Safaricom disproportionately.
The lack of women in senior positions is an issue that starts at tertiary-level educational institutions, which find fewer women applying to study technology related subjects and even earlier at school.
The Sustainable Development Goals have raised the bar of what is expected of the private sector on the road to a sustainable future. It is no longer business as usual.
As businesses, we must ensure that we leave no one behind, which is the pledge that was made by UN member states following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. Enhancing gender equality in all roles including senior management in an organisation is a step towards ensuring we leave no one behind.
In the latest Sustainable Business Report, Safaricom reported that it had 32 percent women in senior management. Our target is to make this a 50-50 ratio by 2020. We believe we can reach this through partnerships with tertiary institutions to raise awareness of potential career options among young female students.
We are also taking deliberate measures to fast-track careers of women who work with us by offering support and mentorship.
The writer is Chief Customer Officer, Safaricom.