Saturday, March 6, 2021

Women rule at local banks, or do they?

Walk into any of the local commercial banks and there is a seventy percent chance that you would be assisted by a woman. The fact is more women are employed in the banking sector.

This may well be an indication that women are finally breaking through the glass ceiling, especially because the national income and wages index indicates a perennial gap in favour of men, albeit at first glance. If a cursory survey of the banking sector is anything to go by, women are definitely making their presence felt.

The degree of consistency in the female-male ratio across local commercial banks suggests the sector may be a breeding ground for female employment in Botswana.

Could this mean women empowerment has become the buzzword across Botswana’s banking circuit? Or are banks just using women as bait to advance their business interests? Could it be there is something attractive about women handling cash that seems to have an aphrodisiac effect on men?

Tumie Ramsden of Standard Bank Botswana believes it’s just a coincidence. She insists that banks accord both males and females equal opportunities and appoints them strictly on merit. Women constitute roughly 65 percent of the bank staff complement. Across town, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) boasts of a 66 percent rate in favour of women. They also insist that the bank only recruits based on qualification and skills.

“All genders are given equal opportunities. There is no conscious decision to employ more women than men,” said Kemiso Ben, FNBB Communications Manager.

Ruth Modisane of Stanbic also believes the fact that banks employ more men should be applauded because the financial services sector has stereotypically been thought to be male driven.

“It’s pleasing to discover that we work in a field that has more women who are focused on succeeding in the corporate space,” she said.

Barclays Bank of Botswana’s Internal Communications Manager, Grace Mosinyi, re-affirmed the banks’ commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“We view this as an essential driver of our long-term sustainable success,” she said.
Women make up 62percent of Stanbic Bank’s permanent employees, 63 percent at Banc ABC and 70 percent at Barclays. In a country where females constitute 52 percent of the total population, it should perhaps make more numerical sense for women to dominate employment. But that has not been the case because figures from Statistics Botswana show that female unemployment stood at 32.1 percent in 2008, though the figure had dropped dramatically by almost 10 percent by the end of 2013. On the other hand, male unemployment stood at 21.9 per cent in 2008 and had dropped to 17.9 percent by 2013.

So there is no doubt that more women are unemployed.

Granted, the banking sector has made significant strides in empowering women through employment, but just how many women hold power and decision making positions? Shouldn’t the fact that women constitute the majority across the commercial banking sector also be reflected at the top levels of their organisational structures?

Unfortunately that is not the case. Although Barclays Bank Botswana and FNBB are both headed by women, Reinette Van Der Merwe and Lorato Boakgomo-Ntakhwana, overall men still hold most of the key positions in private banks. The difference is even more significant in the boards of directors. Men make up 87percent of the board membership at Banc ABC, 66percent at Barclays and 80 percent at FNBB. Whatever their recruitment policies, the contrasting ratios of women-vs-men at the top vis-a-vis that of lower structures raises some serious eyebrows.

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