We need more women in top leadership positions

10 Aug 2017

There is no doubt that science and progress in the field of technology has greatly improved the lifespan of mankind the world over.

This of course is not to underestimate the ravages of poverty in some party of the world, made all the worse by war and other forms of conflict.

While it is in order to celebrate such progress, it is important to point out that at least half, if not more of mankind has been left behind.

Women have not benefited proportionately to these advances.

We still have much fewer women in leadership positions.

This is notwithstanding ample evidence that suggests that including more women in leadership positions ultimately pays off.

This is true for companies as it is for countries.

Yet resistance persists – at government level but also at corporate level.

Other than cultural stereotypes, it is not easy to establish the reasons behind this strange resistance.

For example a large study of nearly 22,000 firms from 91 countries, published last year, found that having senior women in a company may improve performance, especially if there is a high share of them in upper management. The same study established that having a female CEO did not necessarily seem to make any difference. That suggests it is important to build a pipeline of managers who look more like the rest of the country, rather than appointing a lone one at the top.

There is a clear sign that past achievements that Botswana had gained by putting more women at the top administrative rungs have over the last years been significantly eroded.

One does not have to go far or dig deeper into figures and statistics to realize this sad reality.

In fact there is not a need for figures and statistics at all to prove this observation.

The media is partly to blame for the mess, first for taking eyes off the ball, but also for over emphasis on the few women that had made it at the exclusion of the majority that needed media attention to break the glass ceiling.

In the end the media overly celebrated those few that had made it to the top without making more efforts to ensure that more women joined the top table.

Showcasing a single or few women over and over again can be self defeating and counterproductive in the long run.

In a subtle and totally unintended way with time, such a fixating obsession with a few prominent women becomes part of evidence that it’s hard or even impossible to succeed if you are a woman.

That is exactly what our media has been doing; harping on a few women who have made, while excluding the multitudes in the trenches who are working against immense odds to make it in life.

Admittedly, it is important for the media to highlight the cultural barriers that are so much loaded against women.

Just as important is for the media to highlight the value of instilling leadership qualities among girl children.

It is also important for the media to assist girl children to be assertive and ambitious from early on.

It is important to point out that culture and world environment are heavily skewed against women.

It is important to challenge and frown on stereotypes that say only men can be breadwinners

But in the end it is much more important to show that women who have succeeded are not an exception to the rule. And in here our media has fallen decimally short.

In so failing, the media has fallen short of its critical mandate: pointing out that that girls and boys are the same and equal as human beings.

The number of CEOs in parastatals and indeed top companies has not been growing.

If anything it has been declining.

So too has been the number of women in top public service positions.

The declining number of women in top positions under the current administration reflects very much our declining economic fortunes of our country.

There is ample empirical evidence to suggest a correlation between women in positions of power and national success.

Looked at from a different by related analogy, such evidence is a derivative of the one that says that companies that have more women at the top (management or board) are often more successful than their counterparts pulling in an opposite direction.

Which is why some visionary countries have already moved on to enact laws that say women should never be paid less than their male counterparts for doing exactly the same kind of work.

In their more recent work, a global consulting firm, Mckinsey states that women would add something like 12 trillion dollars to the GDP of the world if they were allowed to play a more meaningful role in the economic activities of their countries.