New Faces New Voices Kenya Chair Caroline Armstrong & Graça Machel Trust CEO Melizsa Mugyenyi during the Women’s Economic Participation, Leadership Diversity & Inclusion forum held in Nairobi to deliberate on promoting gender diversity and inclusion. [ PHOTO / Tim-Sky Media ]

The 2021 Kenya Institute of Management Board Diversity and Inclusion Report indicates a significant improvement from 18% in 2015 to 36% in 2021. Indeed, the composition of company boards in Kenya is becoming more diversified as more women take up board roles.

However, with only eight years left to the deadline of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, there is still a lot that needs to be done to achieve full diversity and inclusion in different sectors.

New Faces New Voices (NFNV) Kenya recently held a consultative forum to discuss the gains made in gender equality, diversity, and inclusion and how to further advance leadership diversity and inclusion across various sectors in Kenya. The Women Economic Participation, Leadership Diversity and Inclusion Forum which brought together women leaders from various sectors found that the best approaches towards advancing diversity and inclusion were through commitment and intention by organisations and the women who hold board positions.

Speaking during the forum, NFNV Kenya Chair Caroline Armstrong-Ogwapit said the work is not yet done and women in board positions have a lot to do. “Once you are included, do the work. Speak up and take your place because they did not do you a favour by including you; your credentials spoke for you. It is not enough to be part of a board but participating in board decisions is what is key,” she said.

Increased participation of women at all levels in the workplace has proven to lead to better business performance for companies and higher growth for the communities in which the companies operate.

Nairobi Securities Exchange Chief Business Officer Mbithe Muema, during one of the panel discussions on the business case for investment and commitment to women’s economic empowerment, emphasised that although gender mainstreaming is being rallied, the main failure is that very little enforcement of gender policies or quotas are being set by organisations.

She reiterated that part of gender mainstreaming requires funding which is a commitment companies should implement. “The most we can do in terms of enforcement and implementation is like what we have done at the NSE where we encourage companies that wish to be listed to have a 30% composition of women on their boards,” she said.

Susan Maingi of Women Corporate Directors said women are now more empowered and aware of their needs and the role they play in representing other women on the boards they sit. It is therefore important that they speak up and on behalf of other women.

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“Diversity begins with an individual where the individual has to keep her voice and personal brand intact. As women we need to tap into the power of having sponsors, coaches, influencers or connectors which is often underestimated since a lot of women in board leadership positions tend to focus on being mentors alone,” she said.

New Faces New Voices Kenya has been championing the promotion of diversity and inclusion of listed companies for business growth and sustainability. Through a partnership with the Nairobi Securities Exchange, Equileap and Kenya Institute of Management to establish gender equality and women’s economic resilience in Kenyan Corporate organizations, New Faces New Voices Kenya has been reviewing the progress made by Kenyan corporate organisations towards Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Resilience since the publication of the Equileap Report in November 2019.

The report showed that women account for 23% of board members. In addition, the report showed that no company achieves gender balance at all four levels: board, executive, senior management and workforce.

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