Where are the women?

ON Monday, the globe celebrated International Women’s Day, whose 2021 theme is #ChooseToChallenge.

Faith Zaba

Editor’s Memo

faith zaba

The message the organisers of International Women’s Day 2021 hope to trumpet is that change comes from challenge.

“A challenged word is an alert world,” the International Women’s day websites says.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, it is a good time to reflect on the parlous state of leadership in our country where women remain on the periphery.

It is a time to reflect on the representation of women leaders in all sectors of our society. This is in a country, where the females constitute 50,7% of the total population. There is just no commitment to advancing women. In the political sphere, just take a look at the female representation in the National Assembly and Senate, on our boards, not only in government but also in the private sector and parastatals, men continue to dominate these spaces.

Executives

According to Nedbank Zimbabwe managing director Dr Sibongile Moyo: “Within the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) stable of 17 financial institutions with 13 commercial banks, two building societies, one savings bank and one infrastructure development bank savings banks, we currently find one woman led institution.

“In the local banking industry women constitute 42,7% of bank employees with three quarters occupying non-managerial roles, and with three out of every 10 executive committee roles being held by women.  Over the last two decades there have been five women CEOs of commercial banks under the BAZ.”

These statistics are distressing. Zimbabwe is still patriarchal and it believes there are certain jobs best suited for women.

Significant strides in women’s advancement in the workplace have been made. However, research demonstrates that despite an increased presence of female employees in mid-management positions, executive positions continue to be male dominated.

Even though women comprise 47% of the global labour force, they account for a small fraction of those in leadership. A 2020 analysis by Mercer of over 1 100 organisations across the world found a “leaky pipeline” for women in leadership. Of the total employees, women accounted for 23% of executives, 29% senior managers, 37% managers, 42% professionals and 47% support staff”.

Women advance to the top of middle management but are unable to pass through the glass ceiling or labyrinth, as described by Dee-Anne Schwanke, 2013, writing on Barriers for Women to Positions of Power: How Societal and Corporate Structures, Perceptions of Leadership and Discrimination Restrict Women’s Advancement to Authority.

A lot of women in Zimbabwe have to fight to break this barrier, which is based on attitudinal or organisational bias, simply because they are women rather than because they lack the ability to handle higher level jobs.

Corporate boardrooms

According to an African Development Bank (AfDB) study a few years ago titled Where Are the Women? Inclusive Boardrooms in Africa’s Top-Listed Companies, in the 307 top African companies, women accounted for only 14% of total board membership. This translates to one woman out of every seven board members. The study also stated that one-third of the boards have no women.

Countries with the highest percentage of women board members were Kenya (19,8%), Ghana (17,7%), South Africa (17,4%), Botswana (16,9%) and Zambia (16,9%). What corporates must realise, as was stated by AfDB special envoy on gender Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi is that: “Women serving on company boards sharpen the continent’s competitive edge and make inclusive growth a reality”.

Political parties

On the political front, rallies are dominated by women but not enough get a seat at the table. In Zimbabwe, there are five female cabinet ministers, constituting less than a quarter of the cabinet posts. Out of the total of number of cabinet, deputy and provincial ministers, women also make up less than a quarter. The presidium of the main political parties, Zanu PF and MDC Alliance is made of men.

Where are women’s voices?

In the media, experts mostly quoted in news articles are men and opinion pieces are written mostly by males. Even during this Covid-19 public health crisis, the experts who are quoted are mostly male.

The media must make a deliberate decision to include women’s voices — women are also worthy newsmakers. There are many women holding decision-making positions and who are economists, financial and investment analysts and others who are experts in once male-dominated professions including the sciences, health and technology. The media needs to tap into these women and bring balance to our news pages.