Personal Finance

Employers have to get diversity question right

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South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee (left) and Nigerian former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: One of them will be the next WTO chief. PHOTO | AFP

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Summary

  • Women in Kenya have been deemed to be disadvantaged when it comes to political and economic leadership.
  • The bold advisory by the Chief Justice and the litigation that followed, make for an interesting read when it comes to Kenyan jurisprudence on gender and diversity.
  • Article 27 of the Constitution states that women and men should have equal access to opportunities in all spheres.

This month, Kenya’s Chief Justice David Maraga issued an advisory to the President on implementation of two-thirds gender rule, sparking a heated debate on equality.

Women in Kenya have been deemed to be disadvantaged when it comes to political and economic leadership. The bold advisory by the Chief Justice and the litigation that followed, make for an interesting read when it comes to Kenyan jurisprudence on gender and diversity.

Article 27 of the Constitution states that women and men should have equal access to opportunities in all spheres.

It may be worthwhile, therefore, to consider if your business embraces diversity and gender inclusivity due to the advantages that come with this advantage.

There are many global developments when it comes to women in leadership.

WTO CHIEF

The next head of the World Trade Organisation is going to be a woman for the first time. The top position is a two-horse race between two women, namely Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and Yoo Myung-hee.

The WTO head plays a vital role in shaping international trade.

Global politics is also going to be impacted positively in favour of women if the Democrats win the US election which is just weeks away.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s running mate is a woman, Kamala Harris.

What do Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Yoo Nyung and Kamala Harris have in common? Other than being qualified for the jobs they are seeking, they are all women of colour and two of them are from Africa and Asia.

Boards and organisations are increasingly shifting to allow for greater diversity, research having shown the many benefits of such inclusivity.

Global leadership positions that had been majority male from First World, countries have shifted rapidly to allow for inclusivity. We are witnessing a shift in those positions to favour more women from Third World countries.

BEYOND GENDER

Diversity is not just about gender. It includes diversity on issues such as age, race, skill set, nationality and tribe.

It is not uncommon to have very young and qualified persons taking up leadership positions.

In 2017, Kenya elected its youngest MP, a 23-year old. It is increasingly becoming common to have different skill sets represented on a board.

The biggest advantages of having a diversified board is that it allows access to different perspectives.

A young leader would inject a fresh perspective and enable the organisation to keep up with innovation. An older leader would inject the wisdom and experience that a young leader does not have. When they work together, it enables the board to make better decisions.

Other than providing richness in decision making, a diversified board attracts investors, especially ethical investors who believe that gender inclusivity is the right thing to do.

Professor Thomas Lys believes that investors value gender diversity. Research shows that a positive diversity announcement is correlated to stock value.

A diversified business carries less discrimination risk lawsuits than one that is not. What is going on in Kenya’s Parliament serves to demonstrate the litigation risk that may arise from lack of diversity.

A good place is to start is a simple audit using parameters such as age, sex, tribe, and nationality. If the audit is skewed to one side, action should be taken to create a balance.

Have in place policies like recruitment, diversity and promotion that consider some of these factors.

Discrimination in the workplace ought to be discouraged. As part of diversity, procure from diversified sources, considering age, gender, tribe and national diversity.