As the world came together to celebrate International Women’s Day, the role of women in achieving gender parity and equality is still work in progress.
With this year’s theme, dubbed ‘Each for Equal’, the rallying call was for each of us to create a gender-equal world by deliberately choosing to fight bias, hence broadening the horizons for women to thrive in their respective disciplines and by extension, improve the world we live in.
Despite intentions by leaders, civil society, corporates and even individuals to create and support programs and structures to achieve gender parity, the World Economic Forum 2020 Global Gender Gap Report shows that globally, only 55 percent of women (aged 15-64) are engaged in the labour market as opposed to 78 percent of men.
Therefore, there is a call for everyone to create structures to attain gender equality in boardrooms, governments, media coverage, workplaces, as well as in the provision of health and education services because collectively, we can each help to create a gender-equal world.
To realize this vision especially at the workplace, workforce strategies must ensure that women are better equipped with improved skills and training to deal with new challenges and seize the opportunities that have been brought forth especially by the digital age. This way we can then buttress the efforts of women and empower them to be towering beacons of hope in their various environments.
At Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA), we believe women are critical and integral to our company and the continent’s shared success. Therefore, we seek to empower women both internally, through the Women in Leadership Program and via community initiatives, such as the 5by20 program.
The Women in Leadership program acts a capability-building initiative to prepare women at CCBA to rise into leadership positions through training and mentorship. The Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 program aims to economically empower 5 million women across the value chain by the end of 2020, with the help of bottling partners like CCBA We are well on our way to meeting that goal. As of 2018, the program had enabled more than 3.2 million women across 92 countries, with CCBA making a significant contribution.
The vision is that, by 2020, we have helped transform the lives of millions of women and thousands of communities by using our core business model to grow and sustain small businesses and enhance livelihoods resulting in increased economic value and business capability for women, communities and our business system.
Whether donating money or our time, we take our responsibility to the communities, we call home seriously. We have also collaborated with local universities especially those offering STEM courses to empower women through job placements and internship opportunities at CCBA.
Peace of mind guarantees better productivity. To ensure this, we have a return to work policy that offers women flexible hours when they resume work after maternity leave.
A 2019 report by the McKinsey Global Institute indicated that Africa performs well overall on gender equality at work, with a higher than average labour force participation rate compared to the rest of the world. Most encouraging was that women have assumed many leadership roles in Africa. Female representation on African boards is 25 per cent (compared to the global average of 17 per cent), which is the highest share of female representation on company boards. This is commendable but does not capture the lower cadre workforce where women are still struggling to secure jobs and grow in their careers.
Investing in human capital and creating equal economic opportunities will be critical in order to attain gender equality. Further, supporting skills training, providing access to affordable healthcare and improving access to financial, digital, and legal literacy must be of significant concern. Therefore, corporates must now set clear goals for gender diversity and implement mentorship programs to achieve equality.
Koffi Annan once said, “Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”
Going forward, building more inclusive societies will be critical in the run to achieve gender equality. Corporates should champion this cause and initiate workable program internally to instill gender parity and embed it as an organizational culture.
This, therefore, behooves the government, corporates and other stakeholders to work together towards achieving gender equality thus narrowing the gender gap.
The writer is the Public Affairs and Communications Director at Coca-Cola Beverages Africa in Kenya