African women's representation in the private and public sectors have improved to the point of sometimes even exceeding some global averages, this is based on a McKinsey & Company report released on the back of South Africa's Women's Month.
However having said this, the report still shows that men and women are far from achieving equality.
The data tallied from over 200 African companies and interviews with 35 women leaders hows the regional dynamics in gender diversity in leadership on the continent.
McKinsey & Company found that companies with more gender diverse boards tend to perform better financially - earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) margin of top quartile companies in terms of gender diversity is 20 per cent higher than industry average.
A company with at least a quarter amount of women on their board were on average 20 per cent higher than the industry average.
“Research supports this view. Companies with a greater number of women in leadership positions tend to manage risk better – they are less likely to overpay when they make acquisitions, for example,” the report cites.
Unlike the global average, Africa has more women as CEOs or executive positions in the private sector, but women remain under-represented at the lower levels of the corporate ladder and in the public sector, Africa has more women in parliamentary roles than the global average - but in order to find gender equality the rate needs to double on the continent.
One of the most interesting findings of the report is that despite the number of women leaders increasing in both the private and public sectors, it does not mean they necessarily have more power or influence.
McKinsey & Company found that women continue to face three major obstacles once in a senior leadership role:
- Gender issues are not taken seriously enough - In Africa, only one in three CEOs have gender diversity on his or her agenda.
- The barriers women face in the workplace are poorly understood - Organisations do not share women leaders’ views of the impediments to their success.
- Programmes to redress the gender balance do not tackle the right issues - Lack of understanding of the reasons for women’s under-representation means efforts to tackle it can miss their target.
But of those who found success, this is how they (women across South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Gabon, Senegal, and Morocco) said they did it.
- Robust work ethic.
- Persistence in achieving goals and willingness to take risks.
- Resilience in the face of adversity.
- Commitment to professional development.
- Proactively seek career opportunities and ways to improve as a professional.
- Mentors, sponsors and peer networks.