Sponsored article. Please see our policy on sponsored stories.
This thought leadership article has been sponsored by Big Law Management Consultants, a company that manages investor relations for listed companies especially in the digital sphere.
403 is the total number of directors who sit on the boards of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed companies which shared the composition of their boards in their last annual reports. Of these 403 powerful people, only 72 are women. Yes, the math works out to 18%.
There are some listed companies which don’t report on this?
Of the 62 listed companies in Zimbabwe, 18 of them didn’t report on the composition of their boards of directors in their last report. That’s almost 30% of them. This is not cool. Gender balance is a key metric particularly for listed companies which are naturally assumed to be the leaders of the private sector which just means the leaders of business.
Gender is a political issue and hence very difficult to write about. However, I don’t think it’s difficult to get a consensus that 18% is too small a number for chairs occupied by women in the boardrooms of the biggest companies.
Why does it matter?
The best response to this question came from Rob Stangroom, the CEO of Big Law Management Consultants. Rob sounded almost politically incorrect but what he said made so much sense to me:
Well what do females contribute to a board?
If they are equal to males then why have them? We talk of equality…
Yes females are equal to males from a human right perspective
The real value is in diversity of views on decision making
Just as Boards are required to have financial skills, youth and old age and possibly (not sure) a diversity of religious views and a diversity of executive and non executive roles they should have a diversity in gender
To be relevant in the modern day of social and digital media where anyone and everyone can connect with a company boards need the diversity and depth of insight to deal with the management decisions arising therefrom
This makes sense to me because keeping the discussion of gender balance in the boardroom to issues of equality between the sexes does not address the issue of why it matters to the organisation itself beyond cosmetics. If the issue itself is mere equality then a company is no better with only male leaders or only female or a mix of both.
This is obviously not true. Men and women though equal are different and it is that difference that matters more than just window dressing for equality. Most of the listed companies sell to men just as much as they sell to women. It stands to reason that they can’t afford to lack the perspective of half their customers in their leadership.
Which listed companies are leading on the gender diversity score card?
Hippo Valley Estates
has the highest representation of ladies on its board. 45% of their board members are women. Old Mutual PLC
and Fidelity Life Assurance
follow with 36% and 33% respectively. Of course dealing with percentages for small numbers as obtain for boards of directors may not say much.
Women CEO’s and Chairpersons?
How does Zimbabwe compare to neighbors?
The situation is not too different in the region. However, by percentage Zimbabwe has the lowest number of female board members in its listed companies when compared to Botswana, Malawi and Zambia. 20% of all listed company board members are ladies in Botswana, 21% in Malawi and 24% in Zambia.
So what does it all mean?
We have obviously come a long way when it comes to gender balance in different sectors of our society but it is quite clear that we are still far from where we should be. I will not be presumptuous and offer remedies to a very complex issue that I am not well informed about. My job is to stimulate the conversation.
Listed companies on the spotlight
Listed companies are very important to the economy. Not only because they offer ordinary citizens an easy and simple way to invest
and participate in the growth of the economy but also because they are the organisations that businesses like Techzim all right down to the smallest little tuck shop aspire to be.
It is thus very important for listed companies to be more introspective than even the law demands them to be. They have to portray the picture of an economy that all of us can believe in and work hard to build. Diversity is one such strong image that I encourage our listed companies to take seriously.
Transparency is obviously very important too. How can they be an inspiration in the dark? Of course they are required to disclose several important information by law. Do they do so eagerly? They should. Do they make the information easy to understand and readily accessible in this digital era? They must. Those companies that have not been reporting on the composition of their boards, we urge them to do so…
This is not going to be the last time that we will be taking a close look at local and regional companies that are publicly traded. We will be running a series that will use different lenses to look at how the public companies are dealing with the public and how they measure against the expectation of our time: openness, accessibility, fairness and community.