Embracing equity at C-suite level by firms will better empower women

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity across various sectors in Africa.

From corporate leadership to business and entrepreneurship and governance, more individuals and organisations are recognising the need to embrace diversity and create an environment where everyone has equal access to opportunities.

The C-suite level is one major area where this shift towards equity is very important. In the past, several people have dominated leadership roles in Africa, frequently to the exclusion of women, people of color, and members of underrepresented groups. This is rapidly changing, though, as more businesses see the advantages of having a diverse leadership team.

According to research, diverse leadership teams are more likely to encourage innovation, make wiser judgments, and boost financial performance. Organisations can access a wider range of viewpoints by embracing fairness and fostering an environment that is more inclusive, which can result in more innovative problem-solving and ultimately better business outcomes.

For instance, Coca-Cola, one of the world's largest beverage companies, continues to implement initiatives that promote equity and support women in the community and at the C-suite level.

In 2010, Coca-Cola launched the 5by20 initiative. By 2020, the goal of the action was to enable five million women entrepreneurs to become economically independent. It involved training, access to financial services, and connections to networks and mentors to help female entrepreneurs overcome barriers in the sector.

Through the 5by20 initiative, the company has been able to create opportunities for women across the African continent. For instance, in Kenya, Coca-Cola partnered with the government through the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) to provide business skills training to over 800,000 women, helping them to grow their businesses and create jobs in their communities.

In 2021, the company appointed Debra Mallowah as the Vice President of the East and Central Africa Franchise, making her the only woman of African origin currently leading franchise operations across the continent. As the leader of Coca-Cola in East Africa, Mallowah is responsible for the overall success of the business leading a diverse and multicultural team across the region.

With a wealth of experience in various industries such as fast-moving consumer goods, healthcare, manufacturing, and technology, Mallowah is a highly accomplished leader with a deep understanding of customers and markets in Sub-Sahara Africa.

Yet, diversity in the C-suite is just one aspect of the puzzle. Also, we must focus on building just communities across Africa. This entails making sure that all have equal access to coaching and mentoring, healthcare, and employment possibilities regardless of their background.

Mentorship and coaching are two key areas where we can make significant progress in creating more equitable communities. Many African women lack access to opportunities for coaching and mentoring. We can build a more equitable society where everyone has an equal chance to succeed by making educational investments.

The company is aiming to be 50 per cent led by women globally by 2030. Through its Global Women's Leadership Council (GWLC), the company aims to accelerate the development and movement of female talent into roles of increasing responsibility and influence to accomplish our aspiration to be 50 per cent led by women globally by 2030.

Similarly, we must work towards creating equitable healthcare systems that provide access to affordable and quality care for all. This means addressing systemic barriers that prevent individuals from accessing care, such as cost, transportation, and language barriers.

Creating equitable communities requires a collective effort from all. We must all do our part to ensure that every individual has access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive. This means challenging our own biases, advocating for policies that promote equity, and actively working towards creating a more inclusive society.

Embracing equity at the C-suite level and in our communities across Africa is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. By creating a more diverse and inclusive environment, we can tap into a broader range of perspectives and ideas, which can lead to better decision-making and improved financial performance.

But most importantly, creating equitable communities is essential for building a more just and prosperous Africa where everyone has an equal chance to succeed.