The percentage of women in high-level leadership roles among the top Kenyan companies and in the government is still dramatically lower than that of men. The past few decades have brought vast improvement for women leaders. For the first time in Kenya, women were elected to serve as governors — three.
Despite these achievements, girls and women continue to be subject to hostility and discrimination. Still, a lot is being said about why more women don’t become leaders. And what our society needs to change in order to produce more female leaders.
Significant obstacles remain for women seeking elective office. Cultural, economic and political factors discourage women from participating in the electoral process. They include inadequate support from political parties and lack of financial resources, as well as gender stereotyping and patriarchal structures in society.
Kenya has qualified women who deserve legitimate shots at leadership roles. However, they need more support from their families, communities, civil society and the government, especially from female leaders.
As a woman in public life, violent threats take on another sickening dimension. They are far too common. A woman in public view may expect to receive them almost daily.
This demonstrates that even educated, successful female role models in positions of power are experiencing sexism from their peers and communities. This prevents many women from pursuing high-profile roles.
The lack of role models and potential for discrimination and harassment are powerful disincentives for young girls considering careers in male-dominated fields, or in leadership roles.
If young women are seeing the unequal opportunities that reinforce social norms about the roles of men and women throughout their childhoods, it’s easy to see why we don’t have more women in leadership.
Imagine a young girl. She is smart. Ambitious. She believes in herself and her abilities. From a young age, she has the desire to lead — to inspire others to greatness, to surpass expectations, to improve the world. Yet lack of mentorship and connections impede her.
There are many women role models. They have taken corporations, governments, academic institutions and other organisations to great heights. They have shown other women the possibilities and the power they hold. Yet, for all their feats, they represent too small a percentage of women.
Implementing leadership programmes by stakeholders such as the government and civil society that develop, connect, mentor and educate young potential women leaders may be key to helping more women to advance.
For example, they can develop all-woman reality TV shows that seek to portray to a national audience the capacity and ability of women to lead effectively. Through a series of tasks and challenges, contestants can be required to display their leadership capacity and ability.
Women leadership is key to growth and development. Kenya needs more women in leadership roles.
Ms Shibanda, founder and director of Her Story She Matters Foundation, is program coordinator for leadership and governance, My leader Kenya. [email protected]