Experts say gender diversity growing at a slow pace in Africa

22 Mar 2017, 12:00 am
Financial Nigeria

Summary

The panelists said women have had little, albeit increasing, access to power and strategic decision-making.  

Ibukun Awosika, Chairman, Board of Directors, First Bank of Nigeria, and other panelists at the Africa CEO Forum

Tonye Cole, CEO of Sahara Group; Madeleine Berre, Gabon's Minister of Trade and Industry; Ibukun Awosika, Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Limited; Jennifer Blanke, Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development at the African Development Bank; and other women at a special session on Women in Business in Africa during the just-concluded Africa CEO Forum said gender diversity is growing on the continent, albeit slowly.

In a statement released on Tuesday by the Forum, the high-level panelists said gender diversity in Africa is growing at an annual rate of 20%. They said although women make up over half of Africa's growing population, they have had little, albeit increasing, access to power and strategic decision-making.   

The panelists said balancing professional and personal life is one of the main barriers women face when it comes to climbing the professional ladder. They called this the double burden syndrome.

The Africa CEO Forum, in partnership with McKinsey & Company, launched the African Women in Business initiative at the conference, which held in Geneva on March 20-21. The goal of the initiative is to contribute to the implementation of concrete solutions for the improvement of gender diversity. According to the McKinsey & Company’s Women Matter Africa report, there is a positive correlation between the proportion of female board members and improved financial corporate performance, whether in the private or public sector. The report outlines the continent's progress in terms of women's representation.

Tonye Cole, CEO of Sahara Group and the only male on the panel, highlighted the differences in male and female leadership styles. He explained that women are more balanced and weigh their options before making decisions. He added that unlike men, women are not driven by profit.

As part of solutions to barriers women face in climbing the corporate ladder, and how to tackle the gender gaps, Rosemary Yeboah, Executive Director and Group Corporate Banking Head at Ecobank, challenged companies to "create policies that will help the women to move up in their companies."

Madeleine Berre traced the problem back to the values instilled in young African women at a tender age, stressing that "what needs to change is how young girls are raised."

A public-private working group was organised on the second day of the Forum to share policies and get participants to commit to an action plan to promote gender diversity in the workplace. Recommendations and solutions discussed during the meeting will be communicated separately by the Forum.


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