A recent study by the Kenya Institute of Management showed nearly half of the listed companies in the Nairobi securities Exchange so not have women in their board.
Anne Mutahi, the chair of the Standard Chartered Kenya board, is the first woman to hold such a position in a multi-national company and the fourth of the 62 listed firms in the Nairobi securities Exchange.
“We’re actually in the minority. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done to get women on boards. What it requires is an appreciation by our male counterparts that women do have a very valuable input on their boards in terms of perspective, in terms of representing 50 per cent of the population that a lot of these companies purport to serve,” Mutahi told CNBC Africa.
“There’s a very important aspect to serve, we’re not there yet and I think a lot more work needs to be done. For the ones who are there, it’s a starting point, it helps to give permission to other institutions and to other women to aspire to actually be on these boards.”
Accrording to Mutahi, boards need to be fairly compositional and proportional in terms of presentation.
A number of highly-qualified women tend to remain in the middle-management positions, with only a few able to upscale themselves into higher positions.
According to a 2012 report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Kenya had only 10 women in parliament, Nigeria had seven and Papua New Guinea and Belize had three. Samoa was at the lowest, with a record of two women in parliament.
Countries that had a significant number of women in parliament included South Africa, with 44 women in parliament, Mozambique with 39 and Seychelles with 44. Uganda had 35 and Lesotho had 27.
Affirmative Action policy in Kenya and elsewhere has received significant criticism and praise, with critics questioning whether women should be employed based on their gender rather than their expertise and qualifications.
“I think people sometimes misunderstand Affirmative Action, and they look at it negatively because they assume that you were chosen because you didn’t have the skills. In Kenya, we are very well educated and what you find is that when we talk about Affirmative Action, you’re looking at it from the point of the qualifications. You’re then choosing a woman based on the fact that you can see that you need a different perspective,” said Mutahi.