Kenya's workplace gender parity gap growing wider

A woman works in an office. FILE PHOTO | NMG

What you need to know:

  • The country has this year performed worse in various categories of the Index, including economic participation and education attainment.

Earlier this week, “Fortune Magazine” announced that the number of women running America’s largest corporations had hit its highest.

This is a milestone for women in corporate but the number still remains quite small at 7.4 percent. Thirty-seven of this year’s Fortune 500 are led by female CEOs.

Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Economic Forum has 95 years to achieving gender parity.

Kenya, out of 153 nations, ranks 109 on the Global Gender Gap index 2020, representing a drop of 33 positions compared to that reported in 2018.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya sits at position 20, lagging behind fellow East African nations Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Rwanda tops the SSA region, while Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia are 10, 11 and 13 respectively.

Compared to 2006, Kenya in 2020 has performed worse in the various categories of Gender Gap Index including economic participation opportunity and education attainment. There has however been an improvement in health and survival as well as political empowerment.

The report further indicates that of the legislators, senior officials and managers in Kenya, only 24.8 percent are female. This is despite a near equal literacy level between males and females in the country.

In terms of representation in parliament, the Gender Gap Index shows that Kenya has a female representation of only 21.4 percent. In ministerial positions, the number is only marginally higher at 25 percent with no head of state being female as yet.

In the business front, the situation is similar. Only 13.2 percent of firms have a majority female ownership and only 18.1 percent of the firms in Kenya have women in top management. There is a higher number of women employed part time than men with this being 44.25 percent and 28.9 percent of the labour force respectively.

The Mckinsey Report, dubbed “The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Africa”, indicates that parity in Kenya is extremely high in the workforce with only 18 percent of leadership posts held by women and 45 percent of the workforce engaged in unpaid care work. This is despite a labour workforce participation of 92 percent.

“Only a relatively small number of economies— namely Botswana, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa—have made headway, inflating the average score. At the current rate of progress towards parity, it would take 20 years to achieve equality on boards and 118 years on executive committees,” says the McKinsey report.

The McKinsey report also indicates that Africa is below the global average on ensuring that women are adequately enabled to capture economic opportunities. “For instance, the share of women among loan contractors dropped from 42 percent to 36 percent in Kenya and from 49 percent to 43 percent in Tanzania.”

“Digital inclusion. The internet—and specifically, the internet delivered via mobile phone— has become a powerful tool for women and men particularly in emerging economies that do not have the advanced physical (including transportation) infrastructure of their more advanced counterparts.”

In Kenya, women lag behind in the use of internet and mobile phones. The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2020 by GSMA shows that only one in every three internet users in Kenya is a woman, giving a gender gap of 34 percent.

The limited access to mobile technology has been cited as limiting access to employment opportunities, hampering communication and access to financial services.

Both reports by McKinsey and GSMA confirm the importance of internet and access to mobile phones on financial and economic inclusion.

“Mobile-based internet can be used to receive and make payments, receive microcredit, and simply connect. For women, digital technologies can save time, and help to relieve the double burden of unpaid work. Digital technologies can unleash new opportunities to set up small businesses at far lower cost than conventional operations, including access to e-commerce.” Says The Power of Parity Report.

“The affordability of devices is the biggest factor, but women in particular are also hindered by low digital literacy and skills that need to be addressed even if the prices of devices come down. There are also cultural barriers.”

The report highlights that there have been deliberate measures put in place to encompass more women, creating greater inclusion. In Kenya, Safaricom signed the GSMA Connected Women Commitment to increase the share of women in its mobile money and internet customer base. Safaricom partnered with organisations including Google to provide affordable phones, furnished relevant content on its phones, and developed “how to” guides to reduce knowledge gaps.”

The result of this has been an increase in inclusion with Kenya at 0.95, one of the highest in Africa.

In Kenya’s 61 listed firms on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, the average score on gender equality is 26 percent according to the Equileap Kenya Report 2019.

On boards, women account for an average 23 percent, a marginal increase from 2017.

In the executive offices, “women account for 22 percent of the executive officers. Seven companies (12 percent) have a female CEO.” This is a higher percentage compared to six percent of the FTSE 100 and 7.4 percent in the Fortune 500.

The Equileap report further indicates that globally, women still get paid 23 percent less than men and at the current rate of change parity is unlikely to be achieved before 2069. In Kenya, women get paid 32 percent less than men.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.