One of the largest and most profitable companies in the region, East African Breweries Limited (EABL), has committed to achieving a 50:50 gender balance in its workforce in the next five years.
And it will not just stop there in its push for gender equality but go a bit further to enable its creative agencies and production partners to meet the same target, one of EABL board members said.
Kenya Breweries Managing Director, Jane Karuku, said whereas there is increased understanding and acknowledgement of gender issues in the region, businesses need to be decisively progressive if they expect to reap the benefits of a more balanced approach.
“Women are increasingly overcoming societal barriers, but we must continue having genuine conversations about everything we do at work, and other facets of our life, with greater boldness to challenging the status quo. At EABL, believe our continued focus on diversity and inclusion unlocks huge advantage for our business and creates the conditions for every employee to be at their very best. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is core to our business purpose and strategy,” said Karuki in an online panel on Progressive Gender Portrayal in marketing.
She said corporate organisations need to be deliberate about driving gender diversity in the workplace to nurture more progressive roles for women, an agenda for many companies and brands across Africa.
The KBL boss, who also sits at the EABL board, said the listed company is pursuing gender diversity from the top, with 37 percent of the company’s board members and 38 percent of the Group’s executives comprising women, from an average of 20 percent about a decade ago.
EABL recently appointed Ory Okolloh, a renowned leader in corporate and non-profit circles, as a non-executive director to the board.
The company has also rolled out an internship programme to get more female graduates from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics degree programmes.
Mrs Karuku said all the company’s graduate programmes and mid-career development programmes ensure they have an equal intake of women and men and to attract, retain and grow the best talent.
The panel discussed the role of advertising in shaping culture, the historic misrepresentation of women in advertising and strategies and partnerships to support more progressive gender portrayal in content.
The panel included Agnes Gathaiya, Google’s Country Director in charge of East Africa, Grainne Wafer, Global Brand Director for Guinness and Graham Villiers- Tuthill, EABL’s Marketing and Innovations Director.
Serengeti Breweries Limited (SBL) Managing Director Mark Ocitti and Megha Dutta, an executive creative director at JWT, a local advertising firm, were also in the panel.
One of the biggest advertisers in East Africa, EABL is pioneering ways in which the marketing fraternity can show more “progressive” portrayals of people in their marketing communication roles.
“Brands that want to get gender right must start by being bold, by consciously considering gender issues and challenging the status quo. As corporates and marketers, we must then acknowledge and embrace gender differences by recognising outdated, over-simplistic targeting assumptions that reinforce old decision-making paradigms,” said Villiers-Tuthill.
Mark Ocitti, the SBL MD, said that while there is no direct connection between the progressive portrayal of women and a company’s financial or stock fortunes, a brand’s authenticity is bound to be noticed over time.
“Across the region, the consumer is more exposed – and more so the contemporary woman: they have seen what other global brands are doing, they are more aware than they were two decades ago,” said Ocitti.
The progressive drive to counter gender diversity is part of the challenges identified in a recent study by Kantar, demonstrating that a majority of Kenyans are sceptical about the capacity of women to lead in the Government.
Kantar’s Reykjavík Index for Leadership shows that perceptions on leadership differ deeply: while 50 per cent of Kenyan women would be comfortable with a woman as head of government, only 30 per cent of men hold the same view.
Slightly more than half of women hold the same views about a woman leading a national company, while 42 percent of men would trust a woman in this role.