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Society

Funding women key to growth of society

Equity Bank Group company secretary Mary Wamae
Equity Bank Group company secretary Mary Wamae. PHOTO | COURTESY 

What's the status of women in employment in multi-national organisations?

In all parts of the world, the urgency of raising women’s voices and profiles is making strides as we all work towards creating a more equitable world. While we are not there yet in terms of gender parity, things have significantly improved in terms of increasing female employees at the workplace, addressing the pay gap between genders, leave days among other issues. At Equity we are a Group that reaches across several borders, with different cultures and experiences. Women play a pivotal leadership role within our corporate and philanthropic work and which has had tremendous impact at the workplace and within the society.

Please give in detail measures taken to improve women's well-being at the workplace

Obviously, women make significant contributions to businesses, at the workplace as employees and at the family level. Despite this, they remain disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and they often end up in insecure low wage jobs sometimes which is informed by society and culture. Equity’s commitment to gender equality is deeply rooted in our culture and our philosophies. We have made policies on diversity, speak-up and such others that allow issues affecting women in the workplace to ventilate their views. In addition, we have set up an elaborate system where complaints can be made where necessary. We continue to research and invest in ways and means of improving the working environment for a harmonious coexistence between the genders. A program aimed at improving the strategic development of women in order to harness and maximise gender diversity in the Group is on course.

In an economy where MSMEs are the largest creators of employment, women run businesses are key towards job creation and economic growth. As of 2019, nearly Sh200 Billion had been disbursed to women entrepreneurs through the Equity Fanikisha Product offering (that targets women specifically).Equity signed up for the Young Africa Works Program which seeks to extend affordable loans to over 600,000 entrepreneurs, especially women to scale up their business and create more jobs. Since 2010, Equity Group Foundation’s Financial Literacy Program has supported 1.98 million women and youth with financial advice, mentorship and entrepreneurship training. Equity as a business and through its Foundation is focused on empowering women. Equity has always believed that if you support women you can transform a community.

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What are the challenges faced by women in their careers?

A well known fact in the world is that women are still being challenged in the careers on the way to the top. Some of the challenges, include lack of support and skills-based training; leadership program that delivers assistance and tools; and lack of inspiration and mentorship to equip women to realise their full potential. Some women also find balancing marital/family demands and work responsibilities a big challenge.

Lastly what can you celebrate as the gains of being a female in a leading organisation?

Equity recognises that diversity makes the company more innovative and transparent. I am proud of the fact that the company stands behind the idea that women are equally capable and talented as their male counterparts in the workplace. My serving on the board is testament of this fact. The ratio of women to men in the Equity workforce is 45 percent:55 percent, which is very close to the goal of achieving 50:50 balance. We have several women leaders serving at the Board and at the Executive Management. The increase at all other managerial levels is also happening through merit and they have proved they are capable. I believe that this will give Equity a more competitive advantage at a critical time of growth and expansion.

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