As the world marked the International Women’s Day this week under the theme “Press For Progress”, with a call to close the gender parity gap, corporate Kenya committed to gender-equality goals.
Among the companies that launched initiatives to mark the day is Safaricom, which unveiled a plan to empower women in business to do more and grow their business.
Safaricom committed to work more with women-owned enterprises and increase the value of business sourced from them to 10 per cent in the next three years. Currently, it is less than five per cent.
“We want to empower women, together with other special interest groups, to increase their participation in our procurement to 10 per cent by 2020,” said Mr Joe Ogutu, Safaricom’s Director Strategy told Sunday Nation.
To succeed in getting the women-owned enterprises increase their participation in procurement to 10 per cent, Safaricom has taken a deliberate step in awarding such businesses work in areas that are capital intensive such as building of base stations, laying fibre and other work related to infrastructure expansion.
Safaricom has been spending more than Sh32 billion annually to expand its infrastructure.
One such organisation is Fireside Communications, which has built its work force from 10 to 127 in three years.
“When we started, we were only offering connectivity solutions to Safaricom’s small enterprise customers. We have recently been awarded a tender for the provision of fiber to the home rollout which includes design and layout, among others,” Fireside group chief executive Rebecca Wanjiku said.
“This has given us an opportunity to improve our management and grow the business; to be more competitive and stay winning,” she added.
Beyond income, Ms Wanjiku says the award has also opened other doors for her business.
“Doing business with Safaricom has improved market perception about Fireside, allowing us easy access to other services. Banks that would not even talk to us are now approaching and offering us financial facilities with minimal farce. We have also been able to attract and retain some of the best brains in the market,” Ms Wanjiku added.
Fireside has also increased the number of women in its engineering programme from eight to 12, with a target of 20 by next month.
“This programme targets women in diploma, certificate courses in engineering and in some cases, those with high school certificates, but with the right attitude”, said Ms Wanjiku.
She added that while studies show that gender parity is far from being a reality, companies like Safaricom and Fireside are examples of how the private sector can take the lead in helping accelerate gender equality.
The push for gender parity in procurement follows a successful campaign in bridging the gap at the workplace. Safaricom indicates that 51 per cent of its total workforce are women. The fight is now shifting to the top positions.
“While we have made great strides as a business in terms of our overall gender parity, women are still relatively underrepresented at senior management levels. It is an issue that we are determined to address,” said Mr Ogutu.
According to a new report released by WomenRising2030, an initiative launched by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, women’s leadership in business is critical to driving significant economic opportunities and driving better performance, as well as broader, long-term benefits for society and the environment.
The ‘Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals’ report , argues that, gender equality in the workplace can help unlock more than US$12 trillion in new market value linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The report identifies six leadership competencies critical to successfully developing business opportunities in line with the Global Goals: long-term thinking, innovation, collaboration, transparency, environmental management, and social inclusiveness.