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Women locked out of banks

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Only five women are influencing key decisions in 43 commercial banks, a trend that worries government. The banking sector has only three female chief executives and two others leading their boards as chairpersons.

Government-owned banks are the worst hit, with no woman represented in top management, highlighting difficulties in implementation of the two-thirds gender rule in the sector. Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich has linked poor performance of State-owned banks to lack of female representation in senior management positions.

He said more female representation in the top positions would help improve corporate governance as he raised serious concerns over low implementation of the two-third gender rule.

Currently, there is no women representation at National Bank of Kenya, Consolidated Bank and Development bank, where government owns a majority stake.

“Problems are in these leadership positions; there should be gender mix on the boards of State-owned lenders,” said Rotich at a Women in Business forum organised by Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) in Nairobi yesterday. Out of 38,000 employees in Kenyan banks, women account for 52 per cent, according to KBA.

Central Bank of Kenya Deputy Governor Sheilla M’mbijjiwe said a patriarchal corporate culture and a sustained old boys network has locked out many women from senior positions in the sector.


Lack of opportunities for critical work experience, poor mentoring and coaching have also been highlighted among key barriers to growth of women in management and leadership positions. “Women chief executives are an endangered species in the banking sector,” said M’Mbijjiwe.

KBA chief executive Habil Olaka said while most banks have employed more women, their existence diminishes in the higher ranks from senior management and board levels.

“We are concerned with this gender mix,” he said. Less than five out of 43 banks in the country have female representation at senior management levels, according to a 2014 African Development Bank that placed female board representation at 18 per cent.

Diamond Trust Bank is headed by Nassim Devji as its chief executive officer, while Kenya Women Microfinance Bank is led by Jeniffer Riria. It is currently headed by Ann Karanja in an acting capacity after taking over from Nyambura Koigi who opted out in June 2014 after a nine-year stint.

Spire Bank, which recently rebranded from Equatorial Commercial bank after takeover by Mwalimu Sacco, and Standard Chartered are the only lenders with female board chairs—Teresa Mutegi and Ann Mutahi, respectively.

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