“Anything a man can do, a woman can do and even better”! This was the statement my daughter made in response to a debate they had in class about whether or not men and women had similar abilities. Whereas, my daughter’s answer is not entirely true it holds lots of truth. I was taken aback by my daughter’s statement since I do not recall a time when I trained her to defend her rights as a woman. What made a 9 year old be conscious to defend her place and her abilities? Could it be that Simone de Beauvoir’s assertion that “this has always been a man’s world, and none of the reasons that have been offered in explanation have seemed adequate” still holds true.
We recently celebrated International Women’s Day (March 8); it is a day when globally we celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements. It is on the same day that calls are made for more action on gender parity. This day has been celebrated since 1909. Despite the strides globally
made, women remain underrepresented in key leadership positions. In Kenya, women represent 52% of the total population and therefore have a significant contribution to make to the development of the nation and continent. However, the disparity challenge remains.
Women in most countries earn on average only 60 to 75 per cent of men’s wages. In Kenya, despite the constitutional provision on gender representation, a study found that state corporation boards had 20% women, public listed companies had 12% with only one chaired by a woman. As at 2013, Political representation of Kenyan women stood at 15 percent compared to Rwanda’s 56 percent, South Africa’s 42 percent, Tanzania’s 36 percent and Uganda’s 35 percent. In the UN member states gathering, only 21 out of 193 are women heads of states or government. Meanwhile, women bear the brunt of poverty and war, and especially in Africa. As Roxane Wilber, a senior researcher and writer at the Institute for Inclusive Security, wrote in 2011, “The cost of women’s exclusion isn’t just women’s exclusion — it’s ineffective governance. Poverty, lack of education, poor health, institutionalized inequality, gender-based violence, social unrest: the problems women face are the problems society faces. […]”
But why should the ‘other half’ be included on the leadership table?
- We live in a service and information age, where open communication and social intelligence are critical competencies. For the most part these competencies are more natural to women. Women thrive by having conversations and are more intuitive in their interactions. Having more women leaders in the corporate, means tapping into an already existing natural resource.
- Millennials or Generation Y (those born between early 1980’s and 2000) are rapidly taking over workplaces and other social spaces like churches. Millennials are more concerned about communication and community. This is reflected in the many social network platforms that one millennial can belong to and actively contribute in. Women are naturals at communication and desiring to create community. Having more women in the workplace and according them leadership opportunities means that this natural ability is mined right where it is most useful – with the millennials.
- Gender diversity on boards brings about greater stability to organizations and greater returns on financial, human capital and customer service. Having women on boards provides a voice and better understanding of the market, the client and in the end better decisions are made that provide a higher return on investment.
- Women leaders tend to be more equitable and concerned with the community as a whole. Elected female candidates make a difference in the causes that they support, the bills they propose and and support as well as the decisions they make. They tend to make more equitable laws, social programs and budgets that directly impacts women and children. Additionally, they make decisions that uplift not only women and children but the whole community. Issues of water, income generation, health and education are society’s concerns and not just women.
The world today is more complex and rapidly changing and only the best leaders will do. It is time to choose leaders from the ‘whole’, it is time to bring in the ‘missing half’ – the women.
About the Author
Truphie is a passionate leader and believes that Africa has what it takes to grow to greater heights. This is possible with sustainable leadership. Where leaders do all it takes to transform their societies today without compromising tomorrow’s chances, plus they include the other half – women! Truphie is committed to people development and creating great organizations and societies where both men and women are at the core. She lives in Nairobi and is married to Daudi and they have 3 children.