Recognised as SDG 5 by the UN, gender equality remains pivotal in addressing societal challenges like poverty, inequality, discrimination as well as broad economic issues. From Equileap, a leading organization providing insight on gender equality in the corporate sector, the average gender equality score across Kenyan companies is 26% outperforming global counterparts in certain areas and across different sectors.
Nonetheless, this score highlights that there’s room for improvement and transparency if Kenyan companies are to catch up to top-performing companies which rank at 61% or above. Diageo is the top-performing company globally with a gender equality score of 74% while in Kenya, the best performing company is Standard Chartered Bank with a gender equality score of 63%.
Evidently, companies with multinational ties including Barclays Bank of Kenya – 61% and WPP – 63% respectively, performed well since they have group-wide policies that promote gender equality. However, Kenyan corporates like Safaricom, East African Breweries, Limuru Tea, and British American Tobacco Kenya, gave a strong performance in different respective areas.
Safaricom ranked best for workplace policies for reasons that include
- Offering flexible working arrangements, both in terms of location and hours. Other companies in Kenya offering flexible working arrangements include Standard Chartered Bank Kenya, WPP Scangroup and Barclays Bank of Kenya.
- It is a signatory to the UN Women Empowerment Programme, thus committing to empowering women
- Like EABL, it has policies that promote gender equality.
- Safaricom provides 16 weeks of paid paternal leave for primary carer givers, offering more than the stipulated 12 weeks as per Kenya’s current legislation. East African Breweries is best in class for primary-carer leave with maternity leave of 26 weeks.
- Safaricom has five female-focused CSR programmes including internal women in leadership programme (intended to increase the number of female leaders) and external women in business initiative, that provides mentorship for women-owned businesses.
- Recognising that in Kenya, as globally women occupy the majority of low paid jobs thus are disproportionately affected by poverty, Safaricom alongside Barclays Bank of Kenya and Standard Chartered Bank Kenya, guarantee its employees a living wage.
A living wage is a level of pay that is sufficient to meet a person’s basic needs in a given place of residence. Provision of a living wage by employers could alleviate the level of poverty among employees in low paid positions thus promoting inclusivity and fairness.
There’s a correlation between the gender equality score and the strategies/policies a company has put in place, to protect the principles of fairness, dignity, diversity and respect for all workers.
Kenya outranking countries like USA, Japan and Hong Kong shows tremendous milestones in terms of promoting gender equality in the workplace and across various male-dominated sectors like Finance. The top-performing sector is communication with an average score of 34% and slightly outperforming global average for the sector which is at 30%.
Kenya is also a leader in championing for women empowerment with six companies have signed the UN Women Empowerment Principles more than double the 4% average for global data set.
Speaking during the release of the Equileap report which happened in Nairobi, Geoffrey Odundo, Chief Executive, Nairobi Securities Exchange said that, “Addressing gender equality will unlock trillions of dollars of currently unrealized economic value across the globe.”
With that in mind, it is high time Kenyan companies work to address some of the major gender equality issues, for the Kenyan market to attain gender equality. As realised by the Equileap report, some of these issues include;
- Gender pay gap disparity
The issue of gender pay disparity is a menace that cuts across different sectors and different level of working positions both locally and globally. On average, globally women are still paid 23% less than men and they majorly occupy low paid positions. In Kenya, women are on average paid 32% less than men. From these numbers, and considering the current rate of change, Equileap posits that pay parity is unlikely to be achieved before 2069.
However, strides can be made by diminishing the culture of secrecy when it comes to wages and salary for both women and men. Perhaps a salary calculator or a pay bracket for each role should be published instead of asking candidates what amount they were paid in their previous workplaces.
It should be noted that at present no Kenyan company has published any information on differences between the salaries of male and female employees. Similarly, no company has yet to publish strategies to address any pay gap compared to 12% of companies, globally, who have done so.
2. Inclusivity across all levels
Currently as per the Equileab scorecard, from the 60 companies listed on the National Security Exchange (NSE) only seven companies in Kenya have a female CEO. Among these seven that is DTB Kenya, Eveready East Africa, KenGen, Limuru Tea, Boc Kenya, British American Tobacco Kenya and STANLIB Fahari I-REIT, it is only the latter with a female CEO as well as an all-female executive team.
Overall, no company has achieved gender balance at all four levels: board, executive, senior-management and workforce. Notably, no company has gender balance for both its board and executive team.
Research points out that companies with more diverse boards have greater returns and lower risk profiles. In the same way, increased participation of women at all levels in the workplace leads to better business performance for companies and higher growth for communities in which the companies operate.
Herein, Rita Okuthe talks about her journey to the top and Safaricom’s investment in women leadership
3. Anti-harassment policies
The average score for Kenyan companies is comparatively low. Unfortunately, many Kenyan companies have yet to explicitly condemn sexual harassment and gender violence in the workplace. Only 21 companies, 35%, publish an anti-sexual harassment policy yet this figure is in line with global averages at 42% in 2019. This shows that there’s room for improvement for companies to have a conducive working environment as well as protect the dignity of their employees.
4. Polices promoting gender equality
Equileap evaluates companies on eight policies that promote gender equality. In Kenya, only 3 companies publish all the eight policies that guarantee and make the workplace a safe place to work while ensuring that all employees feel support to reach their full potential. These companies include Safaricom, WPP Scan group and East African Breweries.
Notably, only six companies are a signatory to the WEP, a move that shows commitment to women empowerment. Of these six companies, only 2 have both anti-sexual harassment policies in place as well as supplier diversity policies. That is East African Breweries and Safaricom.
At present no company has undertaken a gender audit.
5. CSR programmes
In total, 22 companies have one or more female-focused CSR programme. Only eight companies have at least one CSR programme supporting female health. These range from the introduction of lactation rooms for employees to funding reconstructive surgeries. Standard Chartered Kenya remains with the most female-focused CSR programmes (7), Safaricom and WPP Scan group (5). The financial sector leads (12) while the energy sector records the least number of companies (1) offering at least one CSR programme.
The Equileap report does not only show a comparison between companies and sectors against the global dataset, but it also highlights areas where great transparency is needed in order for companies and specific sectors to attain economic goals.
Forecasts over the next 20 years anticipate dramatic, growth of the proportion of women in the formal economy. But for this to happen the aforementioned existing challenges will have to be addressed.
Speaking of gender equality at the workplace here are reasons why your business is better off with more female employees.