A More Equitable Society Is More Prosperous
In trying to bring this issue to life I realized, yet again, how the lack of authentic and diversified leadership is ruining the African continent. Needless to say, not everyone will agree with me, but let’s consider some facts.
According to Statista, the median age of the African population in 2020 was 19.7 years, meaning that half of the population was older, and half was younger than that age. Africa is the youngest continent in the world and presents the highest share of inhabitants aged 14 years and younger – that is, 41% of the population.
Now let us look at the current political leadership. The average age among the 10 oldest statesmen is 80.2 years. In other words, one out of Africa’s ten oldest leaders is four times older than the regular African. In comparison, the average age of leaders of the top 10 most developed countries in the world is only 52. How can and how do these politicians hope to get to the young voters, through their parents? What happens to innovation or changing policies when you have somebody spending more than 20 years in power, suppressing the younger population while holding on to old policies and old power.
Let’s move to women leadership and diversity in governments. According to UN Women, only 25% of all national parliamentarians are women. Significantly, Rwanda is the number one example with 61% women in parliament. UN Women states that at the current rate of progress, gender parity in national legislative bodies will not be achieved before 2063. That is in another 42 years.
Now let’s talk about the current lack of women in leadership roles in the workplace, despite research dating as far back as 2016 that found a correlation between women’s representation and profitability. This Mckinsey Report found that boards with a quarter share of women, had on average a 20% higher on earning margins than the industry average. This fact was confirmed by another report in 2016; the Peterson Institute for International Economics, titled “Is Gender Diversity Profitable?” It was established that that moving from a men-only board to 30% female representation corresponded with a 15% increase in profitability. They also found that executive boards with more women tend to manage risks better, which directly improves finances. Experts agree that women’s participation in decision-making processes fosters openness to new perspectives, collaboration and inclusiveness, and strength in ethics and fairness.
Moving onto COVID and women in leadership. According to a UN Women policy report, women are leading the way. Globally, there are only 21 countries with women as heads of state and government, but their leadership has been lauded for greater effectiveness in managing the COVID-19 health crisis. Their leadership styles in response to COVID-19 have been described as more collective than individual-focused, more collaborative than competitive, and more coaching than commanding.
So, my question: How different could our world have been today, if we had more women in leadership roles in business as well as government when COVID started? Sadly, we can only imagine the progress we could have made.
Diversified leadership is needed not only in Africa but globally. From the private sector and the public sector, we need intentional inclusion of women.
Women around boardroom tables. Women empowered with decision-making responsibilities – not just titles with no authority. We need to provide our female leaders with the same recognition, especially in the media and public platforms, that what we provide to their male counterparts. This will go a long way towards ridding society of unconscious bias. We need equal pay for women. Most of all, we need to encourage all to challenge the status quo and to not tolerate any stereotyping or any form of discrimination against women.
August is Women’s month in South Africa, but this is a global issue. Let’s do more than awareness campaigns with catchy slogans, that last for a month and then we forget about gender equality and the plight of women – until the next time.
Let’s change internal policies, appoint more women to leadership roles, and create environments that facilitate open discussion and questions on gender equality without fear of ridicule. Diversification of leadership means ensuring a conscious effort to ensure a collective of leaders in any organisation, in any sector, that is representative of more races and ethnicities, genders and even abilities than what we currently see.
Let us work together to create a more prosperous society by ensuring a more equitable society – after all, if we are truly creating Shared Value as a business community, we do not exclude any stakeholders.
Until next time.
Founder and CEO
Shared Value Africa Initiative