Kenya leads Africa on gender inclusivity in boardrooms

A wide gender gap persists in Kenyan board rooms, with women representation in listed companies’ boardroom at only 21 per cent.

This is below the constitutional requirement of one third, and compares poorly with the best practice markets like Norway and Finland that are about to achieved 50-50 gender representation.

The 2017 board diversity and inclusion report released yesterday by the Kenya Institute of Management however show that the country has improved from 12 and 18 per cent in 2012 and 2015 respectively.

The report shows that Kenya is leading the continent which has an average of 13 per cent women representation in boardrooms.

The study further revealed only four of the 52 listed companies sampled had female chairpersons, a 7.7 per cent representation. This however compares better than the global average of 3.9 per cent and the continental average of 7.5 per cent.

The low women representation may be hindering performance by companies, with the study showing that having at least 25 per cent female board members had a positive influence on financial performance with a compounded annual growth rate of assets and revenues.

In addition to gender, the report which was carried out in partnership with the Nairobi Securities Exchange, New Faces New Voices and Barclays bank of Kenya also captures other parameters of diversity such as age, education, profession and nationality.

Average Kenyan board membership stands at 55.8 per cent with 52.5 per cent being between 45 and 49 years old. Here, the country is scoring better than the global average of 60.6 years.

On academic qualifications, the study revealed that women need more qualifications than men to sit in corporate boards. Generally, 48 per cent of board members have a degree while 38 per cent have post graduate diplomas.

The study however shows that 54 per cent of female board members have a post graduate degree compared to 43 per cent of male board members. On the flip side, only one per cent of women have a diploma, compared to six per cent of men.

The findings, which have been collected over a period of two years, come in the wake of increasing pressure on corporate organisations from regulators and key stakeholders to embrace diversity and inclusion in their boards and leadership teams.

Finance and business-based professions continue to dominate boardrooms with accountants, auditors, bankers and investment sector professionals occupying 40 per cent of the slots. Science, technology and mathematics based careers had less than 10 per cent representation.