Personal Finance

Do more to end discrimination of women at work


Guest follow presentations during a women’s conference on Human Rights and Security at Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort, Mombasa in March. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

There are a lot of opportunities for women in business due to a number of legal reforms undertaken by the current regime since it took over power in 2013.

Their rights (women) have been made a priority and hopefully this trend will be enhanced when there is a change of guard in about four years.

Women rights began receiving a lot of global attention with the signing of a number of treaties including the UN Convention Eliminating Discrimination Against Women. Most of the treaties focused on elimination of violence against women and girls. However, women rights do not only have to do with elimination of violence, it also includes prevention from discrimination, especially in the workplace.

Some of the areas that stick out include discrimination of earnings and even promotion. In some places it is the type of workplace environment that is discriminative.

In others, it is the perception that women are “too soft” to handle certain tasks.

It has been reported in several leading surveys that women do not earn the same as their male colleagues for the same tasks and position. I do not know if this is true or not, however, women rights activist ought to begin some activism to push for an end to discrimination in the workplace.

This right is already catered for in the Constitution and it protects both genders.

The sustainable development goals recognise gender equality as paramount and recently the Maputo Protocol adopted by the African Union in 2003 upheld the rights of women. Perhaps the changing global dispensation towards women could be a motivating factor in the current changes in Kenya that favour women.

The Constitution has some provisions on women rights and at the fore of these is the famous two-thirds rule in leadership positions. While some have interpreted it as at least 33 per cent of leadership position should go to women, the law says that no more than two thirds of leadership positions should be held by one gender. Therefore this provision recognises the rights of both men and women in representation in government.

Procurement laws require that at least 30 per cent of all tendering opportunities in State agencies be done by either youth, women or the disabled. From the female enterprise owners I have interviewed , the rule is being implemented. It is now easier for women to access financing through various public and privately owned financing agencies that specialise in funding women owned businesses.

Globally the role of women has increased due to changing workplace dynamics. One is that soft and emotional intelligence skills are becoming increasingly appreciated. It is argued that women leaders have the soft skills and are able to fill the gaps. This practise is beginning to pick up in Kenya.

There is also a lot of increased board diversity in today’s corporates. Corporate governance experts argue that a diversified board is the best and this is the benchmark globally. Boards that comprise youth, women, and different professionals and so on, are able to make the best decisions.

Some leading women corporate leaders globally include Maya Barra ( General Motors) and Indra Nooyi ( Pepsi). In Kenya a lot of women CEOs and managing directors have been credited with turning around their companies.

The trend that is increasingly taking shape in Kenya is that we have many more women being appointed into leadership positions.