(L-R) International Centre for Research on Women, Kenya Director Cleopatra Mugenyi; Nairobi County Women Representative Esther Passaris and KAM Chair Mucai Kunyiha during the WIM Report Launch.

The representation of women in the manufacturing sector in Kenya is low. This finding was highlighted in the Women in Manufacturing Report, that was launched byKenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM). From the survey, companies in the manufacturing sector are predominantly male-owned and staffed across all its fourteen subsectors, except for the chemical and allied subsector, that accounts for 50 per cent female representation.

Three out of the 14 sectors have a female workforce of 40 per cent; these are agriculture and fresh produce, paper and board, and services and consultancy. In terms of leadership, female-led Multinational Corporations (MNCs) had 85 per cent of women in senior management, slightly higher than male-led MNCs, which stood at 83 per cent.

The study points out that success in the industry depends on having the necessary technical skills and expertise to carry out specific roles. It established that fewer young women enrol in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, which are the pipeline for their increased participation in the sector. The lack of technical skills due to the low number of young women who enrol in TVET institutions limits their opportunities to participate in the manufacturing sector fully, resulting in most falling within industry’s unskilled workforce.

Improving training courses’ relevance and linking education and skills acquisition to sector and market demands may motivate more women to enrol in the technical courses necessary for progression in the manufacturing sector.

KAM CEO, Ms Phyllis Wakiaga, notes that to increase women’s participation in industry, it is important to encourage them to train in areas that they have traditionally been exempted from, to respond to the changing needs of society and the sector.

“To make STEM more attractive to women, we need to improve the relevance of the courses by linking education and skills acquisition to market demands.  We can also raise awareness in both rural and urban areas among girls and young women to encourage them to take up technical courses and encourage female school leavers to join Technical, Vocational and Education (TVET) institutions,” said Ms Wakiaga.

She added that KAM’s TVET programme seeks to encourage more young people, and especially women, to venture into industry and that government, development partners, TVET institutions and manufacturers should be involved.

“Through our partnership with the German Development Cooperation on the Youth Employment and Vocational Training programme, we have seen increased cooperation between industry and training institutions, where manufacturers give their input on the development of technical training institutions’ (TTI) curricula. The Association also works with the TTIs to advocate for curriculum development that matches manufacturers’ present and future needs. KAM also provides a platform for TTIs to engage industry as well as give the institutions feedback on the quality of their graduates,” concluded Ms Wakiaga.