We are entering an exciting period in history where the world expects balance. AT the Institute of Directors Zimbabwe (IoDZ), we notice its absence and celebrate its presence. Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, gender-balanced sports coverage. Women on Boards Zimbabwe (WoBZ), a brainchild of the IoDZ, presents the case for gender diversity in leadership across organizations in Zimbabwe. The law and constitution are creating more opportunities. Women are being reached out to because of legal requirements for female representation. In a move to try and level the playing field for women, the Constitution of Zimbabwe pronounces itself clear in that the state should promote full gender balance, promote full participation of women in all spheres and sets a target of 50 percent membership not only on boards but at every level.
Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive. Collective action and shared responsibility for driving a gender-balanced corporate world is key. Various reports are widely referenced as evidence of the link between a company’s share of women in leadership position and its financial performance and organizational health. Over the last few decades, women have made great strides toward gender equality in many arenas but not on corporate boards. Introducing more women at leadership level simply introduces broader perspectives and new ways to manage problems. Diversity is key for a successful organization. It also allows companies and public entities to tap into the entire talent pool rather than deprive themselves of half of it. Diversity on a board of directors brings you a diverse perspective, which is a big asset when making decisions. I would think that a lack of diversity would be a constraint on good decision-making
It turns out that, what makes women wonderful at raising families and running a household, also makes them talented and tenacious corporate leaders. After all, women are synonymous with the word “sustain” to hold, carry, nurture, nourish and grow. And, hasn’t this always been the great strength of our women?
Numbers do not equal influence. A greater proportion of women at senior levels in business and government cannot be the only goal. The type of roles they undertake is important too if they are to have as much influence as men. In the corporate world, most women managers hold staff roles rather than the line roles that offers more exposure to decision making for a, core operations and promotion to CEO. It is a similar story in government with regard to the types of senior roles women hold. According to Mckinsey and Company report more than 50 percent of African woman cabinet ministers are in charge of social welfare portfolios, while only 30 percent lead the ministries for treasury, infrastructure, defense and foreign affairs- arguably departments with more political influence. As important as social welfare portfolios are, they do not oversee revenue generating recourses or decide how revenue should be allocated.
In addition to removing barriers and building awareness of the business case for women’s participation on the board it is suggested that it is important to not just put women on the board, but allow them to serve in leadership positions, for instance leading the board itself or key committees. Today’s women leaders have succeeded, it seems, largely through a combination of opportunity and drive rather than through a coordinated corporate effort to promote diversity. Yet unless gender diversity is at the top of the CEO’s agenda, progress towards it is likely to be slow. In order to redress the gender balance organizations should make gender diversity a top board and CEO priority and confront limiting attitudes towards women in the workplace. Women also need to play a proactive role in their professional development and view it as an investment in themselves and as such we encourage women to join the WoBZ network for continuous leadership development as well as board placements.
CYNTHIA TAPERA is a Senior Marketing Executive and Chairperson of the Marketing and Membership Committee of the IoDZ