Gender parity still a mirage in listed firms’ boardrooms

Tuesday December 05 2017

There is only one woman for every four men in Kenyan boardrooms with a similar number for every 12 chairpersons presiding over boards in spite of concerted efforts to close the gap.

A survey by the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM), whose report was released this year, showed that gender diversity was still a mirage in the highest echelons of listed companies and government organisations in Kenya.

Compared to their male counterparts, women in listed companies’ boardrooms in Kenya make just 21 per cent in 2017 up from 14 per cent in 2012 and 18 per cent in 2015, according to KIM2017 Research Report on Diversity and Inclusion.

The picture is even bleaker when it comes to board chair positions by gender, with positions heavily skewed towards men. Women chairpersons stand at 7.7 per cent — meaning only four companies out of the 52 surveyed had female chairpersons. This is to say that, for every 12 chairpersons in Kenya, only one is a woman. 

Interestingly, the public sector is doing slightly better than the private sector, but purely because of the constitutional requirements.



“The society is yet to fully embrace gender diversity but we are moving in the right direction,” said Ms Catherine Musakali, the chairperson and founder of Women On Boards Network. “As a country we have made strides but there is more to be done.

READ: Centre calls for gender balance at county jobs

“We need to create awareness about women on boards and celebrate women who have been the pioneers. There’s a need to make gender diversity a top board and CEO priority.”

She said legislation, especially the two-thirds gender rule, had seen to it that government institutions, particularly, have increased the number of women in their boards.

Women representation in senior management was a quarter, meaning there is one woman for every three men in the top managerial teams. Actually, the survey found that four organisations out of the 44 studied had no single woman in the team.


Yet, comparing the board members’ qualifications, the findings say, women tend to be more educated than men. Some 54 per cent of them had a master’s degree level education and above compared to 43 per cent men. Only 1 per cent of women had diplomas and below, compared to 6 per cent men.

The researchers conclude that women are required to have higher qualification to sit on a board compared to men.

But although Kenya compares poorly with best practice markets such as Norway and Finland, the growth towards parity is remarkable, with representation going up by 50 per cent in less than five years (2012 to 2017).


And, put side by side, Kenya is said to be doing better than many developed countries. It is actually a trailblazer, outshining the global average of 4 per cent and also other advanced markets such as the US, Canada and Europe that are struggling to make a dent.

In fact, most of the world is far from reaching gender parity. No market among those surveyed or compared with Kenya had achieved a 50:50 gender balance in the boardroom.