By - Aderonke Ajibade
Back in the day, the male figure was seen as the head and the female the supporting character whose primary role was to assist the man.
In any group, the man automatically takes the lead role, and the woman takes the back seat. As a woman, the bulk of domestic responsibilities falls on you. The rise of the movement on gender equality questioned the many restrictions that the female was subjected to, and the movement led to the creation of more opportunities for the female in society.
However, when people see a woman holding any leading position, the most common question asked by everyone is: Can she perform her duties? Is she capable of holding such a position? When women step up to volunteer for prominent roles, she is often seen as aggressive or too career oriented and will turn off men.
Despite the challenges, an increasing proportion of women are breaking the norms. Through access to education and work opportunities, proper mentoring by both men and women, support from family, employers, supervisors, teachers and colleagues, and successful lobbying by gender activists, more women have gained the courage to take up leadership positions.
This is not any different in African countries.
Today, Africa is second after the European Union in terms of its share of female parliamentarians and ties with Latin America.
In Rwanda, the call for equality was led not by thousands of women but by one man, President Paul Kagame. In 2003, the Rwandan Constitution set a quota of 30 per cent women Parliament members which paved the way for increased women participation in politics in the country. After the 2008 elections, women made up 56 per cent of Parliament. The number increased to a record-breaking 64 per cent after the 2013 elections.
In Kenya, the constitution (Section 27(8)) recognises that the State shall take proactive measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective bodies or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender. This is to enhance women participation in leadership and national affairs that was male-dominated before the constitution.
In Ethiopia government, the new cabinet has women in the top security posts for the first time in Ethiopia’s history. Sahle-Work Zewde, last year was elected by the Ethiopian parliament as the first female president of the country. The same seem to be the case in businesses. The second edition of Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE) revealed 46.4 percent of businesses in Ghana are owned by women.
In Uganda 33.8 percent of its businesses are owned by women.The Index results show that women entrepreneurs are the mainstay of economic growth and instruments of development and financial inclusion in Africa.
Also on Wednesday, the 29th May 2019, the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa announced that women will now make up half of South Africa’s new cabinet for the first time in the country’s history. Also, Patricia de Lille, former mayor of cape town and leader of the Good political party, has been appointed the minister of public works.
Sadly, the success in female participation in leadership does not hold across the region. In the private sector, there is significant variation. East Africa has by far the largest number of women in Parliament. Southern Africa performs just above the African average of 25 per cent and North Africa just below, while West Africa has the lowest representation at 16 per cent.
Poverty, social exclusion, distance from educational facilities and poor quality education still poses a serious problem to some communities. Because girls do not have equal access to education in fields that are traditionally dominated by men such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics(STEM), the number of women with the right training and skills to get into these fields and get into the pipeline for leadership positions are much lower.
According to a report by the United Nations Statistics Division, “nearly two-thirds of the world’s 781 million illiterate adults are women”. Moreover, today, girls make up 56% of the out-of-school children population in Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, girls continue to be at a significant disadvantage as we go up from primary education (75% of girls) to secondary (38% of girls) and tertiary (6% of women).
There is much work to be done to get more women in leadership roles. We have to start at school and continue into the workforce. We have to invest in education, health and economic opportunities for girls and women. To achieve this, quality education should be accessible to girls at all levels, especially for those who are marginalised and disadvantaged. Girls should be encouraged to get into fields of STEM, finance and politics which are traditionally dominated by men.
Women should be provided with training and mentoring programs so they can get hired in roles that are dominated by men. Also, a support system for career advancement should be provided for women in rural communities. Nations and community leaders should provide adequate legal protection for girls from harmful cultural practices that become a barrier to go to school or have a career such as early marriage. Economic empowerment programs should be created to provide training and resources for women who are entrepreneurs, so they have financial independence and leadership opportunities at home and in their businesses. This can be sponsored by international organisations such as the United Nations (UN)
Female participation in leadership is essential in gender diversity in the political and business scene. The corporate world needs a mix of people to ensure that employers are responsible, that is, not deciding for women what they can or cannot handle.
According to a study by the Mckinsey & Company in 2016, “women can bring different ways of working to management teams that enhance decision making; these include Openness to new perspectives”.
Research also shows that male board members rely more on normative reasoning where the male figure prefer to make decisions based on rules, regulations, and traditional ways of doing business however women are more likely to be more open to considering new ideas and a broader set of solutions. Women are more likely to co-operate, collaborate, build consensus, and take into account the interests of multiple stakeholders. On average, women score more highly than men do on sophisticated moral reasoning tests, suggesting they are more likely to make consistently fair decisions when competing interests are at stake. Also, with more women in leadership, decision making would be more inclusive and consider multiple points of view.
To achieve this, Women need to play a proactive role in their professional development and view their participation as an investment in themselves and their community at large.
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