Authors: McKinsey & Company
McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm. It conducts high level analysis to evaluate an improve management practices for organizations across public, private, and social sectors.
Lohini Moodley, Tania Holt, Acha Leke and Georges Desvaux
Date of Publication: August 2016
Organization Website: https://www.mckinsey.com/
SELECTED EXCERPTS FROM THE DOCUMENT
The following excerpts come from pages: 3-4, 11, 14, 19-20, 23-24
- Research shows that companies with a greater share of women on their boards of directors and executive committees tend to perform better financially. African companies are no different; this report found that the earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) margin of those with at least a quarter share of women on their boards was on average 20 percent higher than the industry average.
- In the private sector, Africa has more women in executive committee, CEO, and board roles in companies than the average worldwide… Yet women are still under-represented at every level of the corporate ladder – non-management and middle and senior management – and fall in number the higher they climb. Only 5 percent of women make it to the very top.
Women only represent 11% of people on corporate executive boards in West Africa, compared with an average of 14% across the continent
- In government, the number of women parliamentarians has almost doubled over the past 15 years and the number of women in cabinet has grown fivefold in 35 years. Again, numbers vary considerably, this time by country and region. Southern and East Africa are ahead of the pack, but there is room for improvement even here. In global terms, Africa has more women in parliament and cabinet than the average. Credit for this growth may go in large part to targets for women’s representation set by parliaments and political parties. Representation, however, still needs to double if Africa is to achieve gender equality.
- Numbers do not equal influence. Although the number of women in leadership positions may have risen, women do not necessarily have greater power. In the private sector, more than half of senior women occupy staff roles rather than the line roles from which promotion to CEO typically comes. In the public sector, approximately half of women cabinet ministers hold social welfare portfolios, with arguably limited political influence, that do not open doors to top leadership roles. Indeed, the increase in women’s share of cabinet roles appears to come more from the creation of new social welfare portfolios than from any real redistribution of power.
Lastly, 61% of women who hold governmental cabinet positions in West Africa lead social-welfare portfolios that garner limited political influence, rather than leading ministries such as treasury, infrastructure, defense, and foreign affairs with more political influence
- Our research suggests that many African organizations do not take gender issues seriously enough, with only one in three companies in the private sector citing gender diversity as a CEO priority. Today’s women leaders have succeeded, it seems, largely through a combination of opportunity and drive rather than through a coordinated corporate effort to promote gender diversity. And organizations do not always understand the obstacles women face. For example, the women leaders we interviewed cited attitudes to women in the workplace as their number one challenge, whereas organizations gave this much less importance.
- Make gender diversity a top board and CEO priority. Senior leaders should develop and enforce a cohesive gender diversity transformation strategy, own the communication about this transformation, monitor progress and lead the change.
- Anchor gender diversity strategies in a compelling business case. Communicate the business case simply and clearly so that employees understand how to link their individual interests to the success of a gender diversity transformation program.
Senior leaders should develop and enforce a cohesive gender diversity transformation strategy, own the communication about this transformation, monitor progress and lead the change
- Confront limiting attitudes toward women in the workplace. Address unconscious bias by educating all employees and reviewing and changing processes (for example, recruitment and performance reviews) to make decision-making more objective; include men in gender diversity transformation initiatives; conduct surveys to understand what the limiting attitudes are.
- Implement a fact-based gender diversity strategy. Develop a strategy based on solid gender diversity metrics and address the root causes of lower shares of women’s representation. Metrics include pay levels of female versus male staff, women’s attrition rates and reasons for exiting, the percentage of women receiving promotions and in which roles/ functions, and organizational health metrics (such as job satisfaction, perceptions of meritocracy, work-life balance, and desire for advancement)
African Women in the Private Sector
- Women are outnumbered by men not just at the senior management and board levels but at every stage of the African corporate pipeline. Moreover, their representation diminishes as they move along that pipeline – an important consideration if today’s women in non-management positions are to rise to become tomorrow’s senior managers.
In the 55 companies in our survey, women make up 45 percent of the workforce but receive just 36 percent of promotions
- In the 55 companies in our survey, women make up 45 percent of the workforce but receive just 36 percent of promotions.
Numbers Do Not Necessarily Equal Influence
- There is a substantial pay gap between men and women holding senior positions in private sector companies – arguably another indicator of women’s lack of influence.
More than 50 percent of African women cabinet ministers are in charge of social welfare portfolios, while only 30 percent lead the ministries for treasury, infrastructure, defense, and foreign affairs – arguably departments with more political influence
- More than 50 percent of African women cabinet ministers are in charge of social welfare portfolios, while only 30 percent lead the ministries for treasury, infrastructure, defense, and foreign affairs – arguably departments with more political influence. As important as social welfare portfolios are, they do not oversee revenue-generating resources or decide how revenue should be allocated. In addition, social welfare portfolios do not tend to prepare the incumbents sufficiently for appointment to head of state or other senior political roles. It is also worth noting that the ratio of women with social welfare portfolios to other functions has not changed in the past 25 years, a period in which new social welfare portfolios have been created. This, rather than a real distribution of power, might account for the higher number of women in cabinet.
Getting Serious about Gender Diversity
- Research suggests women continue to face three big obstacles in taking on senior leadership roles in African organizations:
- Gender issues are not taken seriously enough. In Africa, only one in three CEOs has gender diversity on his or her agenda.
- The barriers women face in the workplace are poorly understood. Organizations do not share women leaders’ view of the impediments to their success.
- Programs to redress the gender balance do not tackle the right issues. Lack of understanding of the reasons for women’s under-representation means efforts to tackle it can miss their target.
- Organizations and women leaders in Africa have different views on the main barriers to more women taking on more senior positions. Organizational representatives see the “double burden” syndrome, whereby working women also have to take primary responsibility for domestic duties, as the biggest barrier to their success. Women see this as an issue too, but say the most important barrier is attitudes in the workplace that result in women being treated differently from men. Organizations give this considerably less recognition.
Our Women Matter reports have highlighted a range of unconscious biases – sometimes held by women as well as men – that are obstacles to women’s advancement. The performance evaluation bias, for example, describes how men tend to be evaluated more on their future potential, and women more on what they have achieved to date. Women also tend to be given less credit for their success than men, and to be criticized more for any failure. The resulting lack of confidence means women are less likely to put themselves up for promotion. There is also a maternal bias: motherhood triggers assumptions that women are less committed to their careers. As a result, they tend to be held to higher standards and offered fewer leadership opportunities
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