Kenya Breweries Managing Director Jane Karuku www.businesstoday.co.ke
Kenya Breweries Managing Director Jane Karuku says businesses need to be decisively progressive on gender balance if they expect to reap the benefits of a more balanced approach. [ Photo / Twitter ]

East African Breweries Limited is looking to achieve a 50:50 gender balance by 2025 and to enable the creative agencies and production partners it works with to meet the same target.

Kenya Breweries Managing Director Jane Karuku says whereas there is increased understanding and acknowledgement of gender issues in the region, businesses need to be decisively progressive if they expect to reap the benefits of a more balanced approach.

She said corporate organizations need to be deliberate about driving gender diversity in the workplace to nurture more progressive roles for women, an agenda for many companies and brands across Africa.

 “Women are increasingly overcoming societal barriers, but we must continue having genuine conversations about everything we do at work, and other facets of our lives, with greater boldness to challenging the status quo,” says Mrs Karuku, who sits on the EABL board.

At EABL, she said continued focus on diversity and inclusion unlocks huge advantage for the business and creates the conditions for every employee to be at their very best.

Speaking in an online panel on Progressive Gender Portrayal in marketing, Mrs Karuku said the listed company is pursuing gender diversity from the top, with 37% of the company’s board members and 38% of the Group’s executives comprising women, from an average of 20% about a decade ago.

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EABL recently appointed Ory Okolloh, a renowned leader in corporate and non-profit circles, as a non-executive director to the board. The company has also rolled out an internship programme to get more female graduates from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degree programmes.

Mrs Karuku said the company’s graduate programmes and mid-career development programmes ensure equal intake of women and men and to attract, retain and grow the best talent.

Gender and advertising

The panel discussed the role of advertising in shaping culture, the historic misrepresentation of women in advertising as well as strategies and partnerships to support more progressive gender portrayal in content.

The panel included Agnes Gathaiya, Google’s Country Director in charge of East Africa, Grainne Wafer, Global Brand Director for Guinness and Graham Villiers-Tuthill, EABL’s Marketing and Innovations Director. Serengeti Breweries Limited (SBL) Managing Director Mark Ocitti and Megha Dutta, an executive creative director at JWT, a local advertising firm, were also on the panel.

One of the biggest advertisers in East Africa, EABL is pioneering ways in which the marketing fraternity can show more “progressive” portrayals of people in their marketing communication, with a growing body of research indicating more industries are failing to show women in forward-looking roles.

See Also >> Companies With Most Gender Balanced Boards in Kenya

Mr Villiers-Tuthill said: “Brands that want to get gender right must start by being bold, by consciously considering gender issues and challenging the status quo. As corporates and marketers, we must then acknowledge and embrace gender differences by recognising outdated, over-simplistic targeting assumptions that reinforce old decision-making paradigms.”

Mark Ocitti, the SBL MD, said that while there is no direct connection between the progressive portrayal of women and a company’s financial or stock fortunes, a brand’s authenticity is bound to be noticed over time. “Across the region, the consumer is more exposed – and more so the contemporary woman: they have seen what other global brands are doing, they are more aware than they were two decades ago,” said Ocitti.

a brand’s authenticity is bound to be noticed over time.

The progressive drive to counter gender diversity is part of the challenges identified in a recent study by Kantar, demonstrating that a majority of Kenyans are skeptical about the capacity of women to lead in government.

Kantar’s Reykjavík Index for Leadership shows that perceptions on leadership differ deeply: while 50% of Kenyan women would be comfortable with a woman as head of government, only 30% of men hold the same view. Slightly more than half of the women hold the same views about a woman leading a national company, while 42% of men would trust a woman in this role. 

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