Central bank, NSE want more women in finance

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The boardrooms and executive suites of financial institutions including commercial banks in Kenya are the least gender-diverse despite huge progress made in the last few years, the banking regulator has warned.

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor Patrick Njoroge said more women are in decision-making positions globally but much remains to be done.

CBK and the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) are consequently pushing for bank boards and management of firms to make a deliberate effort to reverse the imbalance.

"Kenya has also made remarkable progress including at the apex of the financial sector that is the Central Bank of Kenya, where Sheila Mbijjiwe is the deputy governor," Dr Njoroge said yesterday during the launch of the local chapter of 100 Women in Finance.

"But this is a marathon. For instance, of the 39 commercial banks we have only three ladies as CEOs. At the board level only three banks have lady chairpersons - a mere eight per cent."

He said the Covid-19 pandemic had compounded the gender inclusion matrix with women taking a disproportionate hit from the pandemic.

The governor cited a global study that showed it will take 132 years for the number of women employed in senior management of the the global financial sector to reach parity with men at the current pace.

"The question is how to shorten this time period," he said.

NSE Chief Executive Geoffrey Odundo echoed the call, saying there is need to address the gender imbalance.

"For many years women have got the short end of the stick when it comes to economic opportunities," he said.

Outgoing Absa Bank Kenya CEO Jeremy Awori said it does not have to take 132 years to address the gender gaps. 

The 100 Women in Finance is a global network of women who seek to build "a more diverse and gender-equitable finance industry by promoting diversity of thought, raising visibility, and empowering women to find their personal path to career success."

Members agree to support the progression of women into senior roles by setting targets to improve diversity and publicly report on their progress.

Adero Okudo, the co-chair of the  Kenyan chapter of the 100 Women in Finance, said they would accelerate efforts to address the gender gaps.