And the numbers back it up: only five percent of all CEOs on the continent are women. And only 12 percent of all board positions belong to women, according to the 2016 McKinsey report “Women Matter Africa“.
Further, 18 percent of businesses on the continent have no women in senior roles while only 29 percent of senior roles overall are held by women.
Yet the positive impact of female leaders on a company is beyond doubt. Here are the unique benefits of the African woman CEO and women in leadership:
Companies Under Women Leadership Are More Profitable.
Studies find that businesses on the continent with the most women on their boards have an operating profit over 20% higher, according to the African CEO forum.
The numbers are further backed by a massive study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the accounting firm EY, which looked at nearly 22,000 publicly traded companies in 91 countries and found a correlation between the number of women in executive positions and a company’s profitability.
“The research demonstrates that while increasing the number of women directors and CEOs is important, growing the percentage of female leaders in the C-suite would likely benefit the bottom line even more,” said Stephen Howe, EY’s U.S. Chairman.
Women See And Pursue Entrepreneurial Opportunities.
With the pipeline to C-suite leadership often non-existent, African women are side-stepping this problem through entrepreneurialism. In East Africa, many women CEOs are actually founders or co-founders of their own companies. From Gina Din Kariuki of Gina Din Communications and Hilda Moraa of Weza Tele Limited to Flora Mutahi of Melvin’s Tea and Suzie Wokabi of Suzie Beauty Ltd., these women automatically bring their unique entrepreneurial mindset involving business skills, determination, resilience, networking, and social impact to the boardroom.
Within companies, women overall also show more effectiveness at the executive levels of organizations where seeing opportunities for growth is most significant, according to Zenger Folkman’s extensive study of more than 16,000 leaders’ 360 feedback reports.
Women Build Inclusive Work Environments
Because of their own uphill climb to the top, women leaders are also more predisposed to create an inclusive work environment. This inclusivity goes beyond gender diversity, but also allows for diversity in age, religion, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity. Setting the tone for increased diversity and inclusiveness in an organization requires both individual diversity awareness skills and effective organizational systems.
Women often hold the skills, like communication, teamwork, emotional literacy, mentorship, and interpersonal skills, to implement such company-wide changes.
Finally, by the time an African woman has made it to the top position of a company, she has proved her worth tenfold and intends to prove it further. And that determination and grit is a win for any company's top or bottom line.