3 Major Reasons Why Having Women in Leadership Matters

This article was originally published on Qazini.com

On April 19, 2023, Africa.com released the 2023 Definitive List of 93 Women CEOs on a live webinar, which had over 700 participants in attendance. This ranking is based on meticulous scrutiny of 2,020 firms listed on 24 African stock exchanges; 787 were selected and then further analysed to determine the performance of women-led companies spanning 17 African countries. Such a rigorously developed index, detailing a group of incredible women is evidence that women make great leaders. According to Africa.com, only 5% of African listed companies have women CEOs and these women CEOs are outperforming benchmarks by a ‘wide measure’. Now you can see one of the reasons why having women in leadership matters… 

The state of women’s leadership in Africa

study by McKinsey and Company reveals that only 5% of CEOs in Africa, 29% of senior managers, and 14% of those in board positions are women, with 44% of senior women holding line roles. Considering the time this research was done, there is undoubtedly a slight improvement but we are not there yet. Women still occupy a very low percentage in leadership and they have to prove themselves twice as much as men. What difference would it make to have more women in leadership? Below are three factors, highlighting why having women in leadership matters.

  • Increased revenue

Research shows that organisations that have women as top leaders have higher financial returns. Following Africa.com’s definitive list announcement, some of the women CEOs have generated over $10 billion—surpassing the $100 million benchmark. Kanyisa Mkhize, the CEO of Sanlam, led the company in yielding $13.6 billion last year. During her tenure as the CEO of Anglo American Platinum Group in South Africa, Natascha Viljoen played an integral role in generating returns worth $41.6 billion for the company. Last year, Anne Juuko, the CEO of Stanbic Bank Uganda, led the company into generating $267 million in revenue. These are a handful of examples, showing the great potential women have in scaling Africa’s economy.

  • Better workplace policies

The greatest enabler of gender disparities in leadership positions is the underrepresentation of women in leadership. Bridging this gap will help mitigate the unfair conditions women are subjected to. This will in return foster a diverse work environment and attract quality talent. Borrowing from two quotes featured in McKinsey’s report, “Introducing more women at leadership level simply introduces broader perspectives and new ways to manage problems. Diversity is key for a successful organisation. It also allows companies and public entities to tap into the entire talent pool rather than deprive themselves of half of it,” said a conglomerate executive and private sector representative from Morocco. A senior public sector official from Nigeria also notes, “With more women in leadership, decision-making would be more inclusive and consider multiple points of view.” Therefore, this is not a nag for representation, women are good for business. 

  • Role models for young women

Young birds are not taught to fly. They are expected to figure things out on their own once they fall from the nest. The problem with this strategy is that you have to learn on the job and there’s a high probability of repeating past mistakes. By having women in leadership positions, girls and  women who aspire to lead get to have people to look up to. Research by The Rockefeller Foundation indicates that two-thirds of women in entry-level positions shared that it matters for them to have women role models in leadership positions. These women are an inspiration and provide the influence other women need to grow their careers.

In conclusion

If we are to achieve sustainable development goals by 2030, then we need fair representation of women in decision-making processes. By 2030, there should be no ‘women in leadership’ kind of narrative. Instead, we should just have leaders because women have proven more than enough that they can and deserve to lead. Achieving gender diversity should be a priority for African senior leaders on the board. Employees should be educated on unconscious bias to avoid making biased judgements, assessments and decisions; and organisations need to implement informed gender-inclusive strategies. Congratulations to all the 93 women for making it to the Africa.com Definitive List

Check out the video summary: Africa.com The Definitive List Women CEOs