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Closing gender gap at work could add Sh72tr to Africa

By Dominic Omondi | October 13th 2015

Narrowing the global gender gap in the workplace between 2014 and 2025 could double women’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) growth across the world, according to a report released last week.

McKinsey & Company, an American multinational management consulting firm, notes that bridging the gender divide at the workplace could add about $12 trillion (Sh1,237 trillion) to global GDP and $700 billion (Sh72 trillion) to sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP.

The firm’s report, which mapped 15 gender equality indicators for 95 countries, found that 40 of these countries have high or extremely high levels of gender inequality on at least half of the indicators.

The indicators fall into four categories: equality at work; essential services and enablers of economic opportunity; legal protection and political voice; and physical security and autonomy.

Higher gender inequality within some countries in sub-Saharan Africa is associated with extreme poverty, political and ethnic violence, and instability, according to the report.

The gender parity score (GPS) — which measures the distance each country has travelled toward gender equality, with the highest score set at 1.00 — is lowest in South Asia (excluding India) at 0.44, and highest in North America and Oceania at 0.74.

Strong link

Using the GPS, the report established a strong link between gender equality in society, attitudes and beliefs about the role of women, and gender equality at work.

“We found virtually no countries with high gender equality in society but low gender equality at work,” stated the report.

For Kenya, with a GPS of 0.86, women’s participation in the labour force was found to be low. Figures from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicate that Kenya’s workforce is skewed in favour of men, even though women outnumber them.

In 2013, there were 14.5 million male employees against 8.1 million female ones, with men dominating almost all employment sectors except ‘human health and social activities’ and ‘services-producing activities of households for own use’.

However, this was an improvement from 2011 when the number of male employees was almost twice that of female employees.

The wage gap between male and female employees was also at a low GPS of 0.65.

As regards violence against women, the country again scored a poor GPS of 0.86, but efforts to legally protect women registered a better GPS of 0.51, according to the report.

According to McKinsey & Company, economic development enables countries to close gender gaps, but progress in four areas in particular — education, financial and digital inclusion, legal protection and unpaid care work — could help accelerate growth.

The report identified six types of interventions necessary to bridge the gender gap.

These are: financial incentives and support; technology and infrastructure; the creation of economic opportunity; capability building; advocacy and shaping attitudes; and laws, policies and regulations.

Financial inclusion

Kenya was lauded for its efforts in boosting financial incentives and support, with the Naning’oi Girls Boarding School project singled out as a good model.

The project substitutes the traditional practice of ‘booking’ girls for marriage with booking them for school instead. In this programme, the traditional dowry of livestock or gifts to the girl’s parents is given in exchange for her going to school rather than her getting married.

And as expected, Kenya was also singled out for its use of mobile banking to bring about financial inclusion.

“Mobile banking has emerged as an important means to increase financial inclusion of women (and men) in developing countries,” noted the report, giving the example of Kenya, where as many as 52 per cent of women use mobile phones to send money.

The country was also commended for enacting laws to protect women at the workplace. These include criminalising sexual harassment, including by persons in a position of authority, and putting in place minimum sentences for offenders.

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