Sexism in C-Suite: A Commentary on Gender Disparity in Ghana’s Corporate Sector
Category : Social Policy Advocacy
The recent Public Relations debacle that engulfed Millicom International Cellular (MIC) S.A, operators of Tigo network, and Reliance Personnel Services (RPS), recruitment agency for Tigo, generated tremendous public outcry for good reasons. The management of Reliance Personnel had sought to curtail the economic rights of female staff by introducing an unfair maternity-leave policy that would have effectively rendered unemployed, pregnant staff members, following their application for leave without pay. This is one of the many structural impediments which is captured by the 2015 Human Development Report (HDR), as furthering gender inequalities in the labor markets across 189 countries, including Ghana. The Human Development Report (see p.189) make key arguments; that “even though women carry more than half the burden of global work, they are disadvantaged in the world of work, and also, women are broadly under-represented at key decision levels of economic value structures. This view is echoed in a broad spectrum of scholarly work done by gender researchers that speaks to different dimensions (pay, promotion, work-life balance, etc.) of workplace gender discrimination. So clearly, Ghana’s business sector has a problem as far as gender discrimination against women is concerned.
To test the depth of this problem, I conducted a structural review of 20 companies operating in Ghana across 5 sectors of the economy to assess the extent of gender diversity at Executive Management levels. The targets were randomly selected using a sector-based quota approach to ensure balance. My findings (see Table and Fig.) affirm the conclusion put forth by the Human Development Report 2015 in respect of women being underrepresented at higher levels, though the point needs to be made, that as far as Ghana’s formal economy is concerned, tremendous progress towards gender mainstreaming has been achieved over the years. That notwithstanding, there is enough literature to suggest that, factors that determine pay differential and career progress between male and female workers are largely attributable to gender discrimination, albeit other rational or objective factors (education, experience, sector) may account for some of that differential.
Table. Gender Diversity at Executive Management Levels of 20 Companies in Ghana.
Data Source: Compiled from each company’s website as at 20.04.2016
So what is/are the cause(s) of discrimination against women in business? To answer this question thoroughly, we would require another full page article solely dedicated for that purpose since the issue is a complex one. Unfortunately, there is not enough space to allow for a comprehensive literature review and analysis of the subject. Suffice to say however, that theology and culture bear the most guilt for entrenching doctrines of feminine inferiority into our social psyche through socially constructed gender stereotypes.
Why This Conversation is Necessary
Okay, so now you know we have a problem; not just in the Legislature, Judiciary and Executive, but in the private corporate sector as well. It is no more a hypothesis, that women with equal qualification and experience, by and large, are paid less than their male counterparts and under-represented at the top echelons of executive management. But then again, why does it matter? Here is why. There are enough studies on gender that prove a strong relationship between women empowerment on one hand and improved socio-economic outcomes on the other. In a study (cited by FORBES in an Aug, 2014 article) to compare the differential impact of male and female leadership on financial performance, it was found that companies with majority of executive management roles occupied by women, had better financial performance than those dominated by men. Controversial? Well, the researchers, DDI and Conference Group, surveyed 13,000 leaders across 2000 organisations in 48 countries worldwide. Statistically significant, I would say. Again, in a 2008 research by Mckinsey Consulting Group, they concluded that there are five leadership behaviors which are seen in women more frequently than in men: people-development; setting expectations and rewards; providing role models; giving inspiration; and participative decision-making. Contrary to the traditional narrative, improving gender parity across board, particularly in business, is actually a good thing for Ghana’s private sector development agenda.