Happiness Zengeni and Tinashe Makichi
Women should make up at least 50 percent of the boards of companies as part of efforts to improve gender equality in the country, the Institute of Directors Zimbabwe has said. The call comes amid revelations that women representation on boards of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed companies is only around 10 percent.Despite some concrete affirmative action measures, African women are still under-represented in top decision-making roles on the continent, according to a study done by the Internal Labour Organisation Bureau for Employers’ Activities.
Speaking at the launch of the Women on Boards Zimbabwe initiative yesterday, IODZ chairperson Benson Gasura said it is worrisome that most company boards have still not embraced the idea of increasing the participation of women.
The ZSE has 64 listed companies with the total number of directors sitting at 482. Despite such a number of directors, only 50 female directors are on company boards constituting 10 percent of the total number of directors.
“IODZ believes that companies and other non-governmental organisations should take a leaf from the provisions of the Constitution that they should work towards increasing numbers of women, especially in executive and board positions.
“It is important to note that in other jurisdictions such as Australia, where they celebrated the 10th anniversary of Women on Boards, the initiative is actually bearing fruits,” said IODZ chairman Benson Gasura.
Studies by reputable global firms such as Mckinsey Consultancy have shown that gender and diversity in leadership have become important for success.
In Europe the number of women in executive positions is increasing as it is believed that women bring different and complimentary perspectives. It is also believed that there is a positive correlation between the proportion of women in executive committees and corporate performance.
“Hard facts are that there are currently fewer women on company boards and from studies done in the past, this might actually have implications on corporate performance.
“Zimbabwe is lagging behind other countries on gender and diversity on boards with implications on corporate performance. It makes perfect sense to come up with initiatives to address this undesirable situation,” said Mr Gasura.
He said the objectives behind the launch of WOBZ is to promote increased gender diversity on boards while also providing special courses aimed at preparing aspiring women for board appointment.
The WOBZ initiative will be driven through the IODZ marketing and membership department. The marketing and membership team will create a database for all women who would like to join WODZ.
The membership will be open to female directors and aspirants and WODZ will also create a page on the IODZ website for success stories.
IODZ training and development will design and facilitate training and development for WOBZ members. A pool of mentors and coaches will be available to provide service to members.