Local firms lag multinationals in women board numbers

Listed multinationals fared better than indigenous firms in female representation on boards as the numbers rose to a fifth of the total.

A board diversity report by the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) and the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) shows that female representation in boards has risen to 21 per cent from 18 per cent in 2015 and 12 per cent in 2012.

The representation in indigenous firms stands at 20 per cent while that of multinationals or firms with foreign ownership stands at 27 per cent.

However, the number of women heading boards remains low, with just five of the 52 (out of 62) listed companies that responded in the survey headed by a woman, similar to what it was in 2012.

“We also note that like in the boardroom, women representation in senior management was a quarter, meaning that there is one woman for every four men in the senior management teams,” said KIM chief executive officer Muriithi Ndegwa.

Listed firms’ women chairs include Standard Chartered’s #ticker:SCBK Anne Mutahi, Lucy Waithaka of Eveready East Africa #ticker:EVRD , Catherine Ngahu of Uchumi #ticker:UCHM, Isabella Ocholla-Wilson of Unga Limited #ticker:UNGA and Liberty Kenya Holdings’ #ticker:CFCI Susan Mboya-Kidero.

In Africa, the average representation on boards by women stands at 13 per cent, lagging behind Europe and Australia at 26 per cent each and North America at 20 per cent. The ratio is, however, higher than South America (eight per cent) and Asia (nine per cent).

Firms are not required by law to appoint a minimum number of women to their boards, with NSE chief executive officer Geoffrey Odundo saying that allowing firms to appoint members on a voluntary basis means that they will take on those whose skills and competencies best fit the positions.

“Legislation is an enabler, but it (the appointments) should be more of a voluntary aspect,” said Mr Odundo.

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Listed multinationals fared better than indigenous firms in female representation on boards as the numbers rose to a fifth of the total.

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