Kenya can increase its GDP by 20 to 30 percent by investing in women, closing the gender finance gap, and encouraging female-led entrepreneurship.
According to the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), putting policies in place that encourage women entrepreneurs and expanding women’s access to capital and networks will help them realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
Speaking during the launch of the inaugural Private Sector Gender Mainstreaming Policy on Thursday, March 24, 2022, KEPSA Chairperson Flora Mutahi said the policy, developed with support from the Mastercard Foundation, aims to offer guidance to companies and organizations seeking to optimize gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives.
“The formulation of this policy demonstrates the private sector’s commitment to ensuring that gender mainstreaming is integral to the policies and operations of an organization. It is therefore imperative to ensure that no one is left behind in this quest for sustainable growth and development,” said Mutahi.
She said that bridging the gender pay gap was also an important intervention area to reverse the income inequality between men and women, noting that women make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Other areas the private sector can strengthen include the commitment to supplier diversity programs that support the growth and jobs of small and diverse businesses owned by women and youth.
“Research has shown that companies with a supplier diversity program generate a 33 percent greater return-on-investment, drive an additional USD 3.6 million to the bottom line for every USD 1 million spent in procurement operating costs while generating new revenue streams,” said Mutahi.
Mutahi added that embracing the role of the private sector in the elimination of gender-based violence (GBV) will go a long way in negating its impact in society, noting that the impact of GBV on the economy has been documented at 1.2 to 2 percent of GDP cost of lost productivity globally.
The launch, which was part of the two-week observance activities of the 66th session of the UN Women, Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 66), under the theme of Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work, was witnessed by the chief guest Jebii Kilimo, and Rachel Shebesh, Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS) in the Ministry of Gender, Public Service, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes respectively.
In her keynote address, Kilimo, said there was need to promote women’s entry, re-entry, and advancement in the job market by investing in care infrastructure services while strengthening education training and skills.
“The difference in labour force participation can be attributed above all to women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work. The importance of robust legislative and policy frameworks is therefore critical to provide a foundation for implementing relevant programmes and interventions for women’s empowerment and the economic growth of a country,” Kilimo said.
At the event, stakeholders observed that women worldwide still face a multitude of gender inequalities in the world of work, hindering them from accessing employment and career progression, not only as a human development issue but also as a drawback to wealth creation.
Mucha Mlingo, Chair, KEPSA Gender Sector Board, said that in developing the Private Sector Gender Mainstreaming Policy, KEPSA has adopted the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment as central to its mandate of supporting the private sector in finding solutions to socio-economic challenges that impact on business.
“In 2020, KEPSA conducted a gender assessment that revealed the existence of gender gaps that needed to be addressed, such as insufficient gender diversity in leadership and the workforce, a lack of gender-responsive policies and initiatives, a lack of freedom from violence, abuse, and sexual harassment, an existing gender pay gap, and discrimination against special interest groups in the hiring process,” said Mlingo.
The policy lists seven points and recommendations, including gender mainstreaming as part of organizational strategy at the board and executive level. This, KEPSA says, if implemented, could greatly advance and champion gender equality and women’s empowerment in the private sector.
To promote the transformation of corporate and business culture across all levels, the policy says the private sector must support women’s empowerment among other marginalized groups in the workforce, business, business associations, and leadership. This is in addition to the adoption and implementation of gender-responsive policies in the workplace.
Others are the prevention of GBV and sexual harassment by adopting an anti-GBV and sexual harassment policy at the workplace, in addition to the promotion of gender awareness in policies, programs, projects, and services that respond to the different needs of women and men.
The policy also recommends that businesses must implement gender-responsive budgeting and resourcing as well as set clear targets, measurements, reporting and communication procedures for collecting and analyzing gender-related data to contribute to sustainable outcomes.
Shebesh said the Ministry shall continue to partner with KEPSA, including sharing of information and best practices such as gender-friendly facilities at the workplace, among other initiatives.
“The government has made twelve concrete commitments to advance gender equality and the elimination of GBV by the year 2026. Key among these that require partnership with the private sector is the ratification of the ILO Convention 190 on ending GBV in the world of work, research, and innovation on GBV for evidence-based policy and programming and setting up a GBV survivors fund through a co-financing model. It is our hope that the private sector can also consider making specific commitments within the Generation Equality Framework and contribute to the transformative change envisioned by 2026,” said Shebesh.
The Private Sector Gender Mainstreaming Policy is guided by the principles of gender diversity and inclusion and recognizes that the private sector’s policies, programs, and initiatives ought to contribute to the realization of gender equality in Kenya.