Gender bias is holding African women back – more than anywhere else in the world
Research conducted by Grant Thornton this year has revealed that women in Africa are more likely to be barred from reaching leadership positions in business by gender bias than anywhere else in the world.
The average proportion of female business leaders in Africa currently stands at just 23 percent, ranging from 27 percent in South Africa, to 21 percent in Nigeria and 19 percent in Botswana. 44 percent of female respondents from the region said gender bias was a barrier to women reaching leadership, which is the highest globally. Just 21 percent of male respondents shared this view, but this was the highest number for males also.
48 percent of South African companies said they would support the introduction of quotas for the number of women on executive boards of large listed companies, which is actually a decrease from 52 percent in 2014 and from 60 percent in 2013.
The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill was withdrawn last year for further consultation. One of its key provisions is that 50 percent of all decision-making positions must go to women in "designated public bodies and designated private bodies.” This decision received the backing of many South African businesses.
South African businesses face the challenge of having a large gender gap to fill, with added potential pressure imposed by government deadlines for compliance; the perception in South Africa is that, where they have been used, quotas have failed.
One of the major problems for women is that quota systems can imply that women are not in senior positions on their own merit, but simply to meet quota requirements. It is obviously a very contentious issue for all parties involved but, whatever the decision, businesses need to work to ensure that the gender gap is closed.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report does much to highlight the fact that having wide gender gaps can be extremely costly for any economy; which is why African nations in particular should take heed.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.