COVID-19, and more importantly, steps taken to recover from its adverse socioeconomic effect has provided a rare opportunity to close work-based gender-gaps at a faster pace than the more than 200 year projections given pre-pandemic.
This is according to Moez Miaoui, the Head of Environment, Social & Governance Advisory, West Africa & Maghreb at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), who says that the onus is on policymakers at national and corporate levels to take advantage of the disruption occasioned by the pandemic to ensure economic equality, as recovery will hinge upon it.
Delivering remarks at a Bell Ringing session organised by the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE), as it joined exchanges the world over to commemorate International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021, he cited recent studies which suggest that a significant number of working women have become more constrained by childcare as a result of the pandemic’s impact on education systems.
This, he explained, is leading to rising concerns that the effectiveness of a number of highly-skilled women might be hampered, inadvertently eroding recent gains in gender-equality.
“We believe that the crisis is an opportunity, and a great opportunity for businesses to address gender inequality at the workplace. For example, they can promote home-based work by providing flexible work schedules and equal pay for equal work. Companies must build work environments that are more conducive for gender equality,” he explained.
He added that companies must maintain corporate cultures where women have equal opportunities to achieve their potential as well as conditions for women to thrive and progress up the corporate ladder.
Taking the argument further, Chief Executive at TheBoardroom Africa, Marcia Ashong contended that the pipeline, bottom-up approach to workplace gender-equality has yielded limited results and suggested that starting from the top of the organisational hierarchy was the best approach.
Basing her position on research, she said: “We believe boards are essentially the stewards of any organization, their behaviors and mindset resonate around the company and sets the tone that the group makes and ultimately impacts on the group’s performance.
Historically, we have focused on building the pipeline, graduating women from the bottom upwards as a way to increase female leadership and we have also demonstrated through research that focusing on the lower ranks of an organisation to cultivate leaders has yielded very limited results.”
“This has to be a decision situated at the top; starting at the top of an organization leads to changes that are the most effective and long-lasting. So focusing on accelerating diversity at the highest levels of leadership can really help to facilitate equity and inclusion so that these values really trickle down,” she added.
Also present at the event, which was hosted virtually, as a speaker was General Manager at IBM, Angela Kyerematen-Jimoh who charged women to have the audacity to dream and actively pursue set targets. Deputy MD at the GSE, Abena Amoah reaffirmed the Bourse’s commitment to equality in the throughout its operations – from the boardroom to aiding women-led business list on the Exchange.
Also present were Senior Vice President responsible for Operations at the IFC, Stephanie von Friedeburg; Senior Gender Consultant, IFC, Bettina Boekle and MD of the GSE, Ekow Afedzi.
The event was organised in partnership with the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE) and Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative (SSEI), UN Women, and the United Nations Global Compact Network (GCN).This year, more than 100 stock exchanges rang the bell to commemorate IWD 2021, with IFC participating in more than 40 of these events.