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The Kenya Forum | Gender equality in Kenya's corporate sector - The Kenya Forum

March 19, 2024

Summary

Entrenched cultural norms and systemic barriers hinder women’s advancement, leading to disparities in leadership positions and pay.

More by Winnie Kabintie

Gender equality in Kenya’s corporate sector

Gender equality in Kenya’s corporate sector

The Gender Wage Gap continues to hamper the economic participation of women Image Courtesy

The road to gender equality in Kenya’s corporate sector is marked by both progress and persistent challenges. While initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion have been implemented, entrenched cultural norms and systemic barriers continue to hinder women’s advancement, leading to disparities in leadership positions and pay.

Representation in Leadership Roles

According to recent statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, women make up a substantial portion of the workforce in Kenya, yet, they remain underrepresented in leadership roles within the corporate sector. This underrepresentation is evident in boardrooms and executive positions, where men still dominate. Women occupy only about 21% of board seats in listed companies, signalling a gap that needs urgent attention.

Gender Pay Gap

Like in many other countries, Kenya faces a gender pay gap where women typically earn less than men for similar work. This gap persists across various industries and levels of employment, contributing to economic disparities between genders.

Persistent  Challenges in gender equality in Kenya’s corporate sector

Several challenges hinder the advancement of gender equality in Kenya’s corporate sector. Deep-rooted cultural norms and stereotypes often limit women’s access to leadership positions. Additionally, workplace discrimination and unconscious biases continue to impede the career progression of women professionals.

Dr. Njeri Wamae, a gender equality advocate and researcher at the University of Nairobi, acknowledges the progress made but emphasizes the persistent challenges: “There have been commendable efforts to address gender disparities in the corporate sector, with initiatives such as gender quotas and diversity programs. However, the pace of change remains slow, and deep-rooted cultural and systemic barriers continue to hinder women’s advancement.”

One of the primary obstacles cited is the entrenched patriarchal culture within many corporate environments, which often perpetuates gender stereotypes and biases. This culture can manifest in various forms, including unconscious bias in recruitment and promotion processes, unequal access to opportunities for career development, and a lack of support for work-life balance initiatives.

Despite these challenges, there are success stories that highlight the potential for change. Companies that prioritize gender equality and diversity have shown positive outcomes, including improved financial performance, enhanced innovation, and higher employee satisfaction.

Legal Framework  to advance gender equality in Kenya’s corporate sector

Ongoing efforts from both the government and private sector organizations, along with continued advocacy and awareness-raising are helping to further progress in this area.

The government has made efforts to address gender inequality through legal frameworks and policies. The country’s constitution guarantees equal rights and opportunities for all individuals, regardless of gender. Additionally, there are laws and policies aimed at promoting gender equality in the workplace, such as the Employment Act and the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

Corporate Initiatives: Some corporations in Kenya have implemented initiatives to promote gender diversity and inclusion within their organizations. These initiatives may include gender-sensitive recruitment and promotion practices, mentorship programs for women, and training on gender equality and unconscious bias.

Such organizations have recorded that indeed gender diversity in the workplace brings about different perspectives and ideas to the table, leading to better decision-making and innovation.

There is still more to be done in the journey toward gender equality in the corporate sector. Policy interventions, such as gender-sensitive legislation and incentives for companies to promote diversity, are essential to drive systemic change.

Dr. Wamae underscores the need for concerted action: “Achieving gender equality in the corporate sector requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both institutional barriers and societal norms. All stakeholders must work together to create an enabling environment where women have equal opportunities to thrive and succeed.

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