What you need to know:
- Kenya Private Sector Alliance chairperson says a lack of digital literacy limits women’s access to financing.
- An opportunity that presents itself for companies is the adoption and implementation of gender-responsive policies.
The exclusion of women from the digital space is bad for business and for the economy. It is for this reason that Flora Mutahi, the chairperson of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), is focused on driving gender-sensitive interventions to address the gender gaps and contribute to the resilience of the economy.
“The UN Women’s Gender Snapshot 2022 report indicates that low- and middle-income countries lost $1 trillion from their gross domestic product in the last decade and will lose an additional $1.5 trillion by 2025 if the exclusion of women is not addressed,” she said.
In March of 2022, Ms Mutahi led Kepsa, through its Gender Sector Board, to launch the Private Sector Gender Mainstreaming Policy to guide companies on how to close gender gaps, including in the digital space.
“This was a demonstration of our commitment to ensuring gender mainstreaming is integral in the policies and operations of the private sector as we call on the government to implement the two-thirds gender rule,” she said.
“And the mainstreaming must start at the top with the executives. Managers should be trained in how to promote gender diversity and inclusion. They should also build women’s confidence in leadership and management and implement gender-related education in all departments.”
The seven-point agenda outlined in the policy, she said, will also enable companies to keenly evaluate the inherent and emerging gender gaps and opportunities, ensuring no one is left behind.
An opportunity that presents itself for companies is the adoption and implementation of gender-responsive policies such as equal pay for equal work done and work-life balance.
This should be done while addressing the gender digital divide by skilling women to be able to harness their potential, as they tend to lag behind in access to and use of digital tools.
“The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2022, for instance, showed that women remain seven per cent less likely than men to own a mobile phone, and are 16 per cent less likely to use mobile internet. A different study also found that only 35 per cent of women use advanced digital services, compared to 54 per cent of men.”
Ms Mutahi, who is also the founder and chief executive officer of Melvin Marsh International Limited, observed that a lack of digital literacy is one of the major barriers limiting women from accessing financing, thus dwarfing their growth potential in the small and medium enterprise space.
She asserted that by bridging the digital gap, women will increase their participation in various sectors. In the manufacturing space where women are still underrepresented, they will be able to acquire the right technologies and upscale production, while in the agricultural sector, they can address perennial challenges like drought and low yields.
So far, she added, many companies have expressed their willingness to embrace the policy, with some already implementing it. To succeed in gender mainstreaming, she recommended that gender diversity and inclusion initiatives be established as part of company culture and practices. This year, Ms Mutahi is committed to pushing the adoption of the policy even further.