Gender balance is not a diversity issue, it is a business imperative – First Lady

First Lady Mrs. Rebecca Akuffo Addo has stated that companies that want change need leaders who focus on gender balance and position it as a key lever to improving business performance.
She said that companies need to frame gender balance as a strategic business management priority, and not just invest in programs to “empower” women.
“It is clear that gender balance in business cannot be purely a diversity issue, it’s an economic issue; and addressing it properly can benefit business and economic performance thereby impacting more citizens,” she said when addressing the keynote address at the launch of the publication ‘Trailblazers: Portraits of Female Business Leadership in Emerging and Frontier Markets,’ in Accra.
She called on leaders to tap into women – not only through a range of initiatives aimed at branding them but through major change initiatives whereby they are given opportunities to create value for their companies, institutions and also for the economy as a whole.
“We are a country full of promise but to meet that promise we need to tap into all of our economic potentials and that means women, too. Research shows the link between financial performance and female leadership at the corporate level. Companies with female leadership tend to do better in many respects.” she added.
A recent International Finance Corporation (IFC) study of women on company boards in Ghana found that more gender-diverse boards tend to demonstrate higher performance, reflected by returns on assets and growth in sales. Yet, nearly one quarter of Ghanaian companies have no women on their boards. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, women hold an average of 14 percent of board positions, while globally women hold only 15 percent of board seats – and only 4 percent for CEO and board chair positions worldwide.
The publication, ‘Trailblazers – Portraits of Female Business Leadership in Emerging and Frontier Markets,’ highlights the personal and professional journeys of female business leaders from emerging and frontier markets that include Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa. These women, through their leadership, have helped create new markets and add business value to their organizations, giving a boost to their communities and national economies.
Four women from Sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana’s Nora Bannerman, CEO, Sleek Garments Exports Ltd. and Africa Sleek Institute of Creativity & Technology are among 20 female business leaders profiled in a publication by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, for their professional success despite facing formidable challenges.
 “These women are relatable role models, who by their example will motivate other professional women to push for more, and encourage male colleagues to champion greater diversity,” the First Lady said.
In addition to the four women from Sub-Saharan Africa, the list includes female business leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Myanmar, Panama, Turkey, Vietnam, and Yemen. They represent a range of industry experience, from information technology to shipping, from healthcare to development finance.
“By their examples, these trailblazers show that investing in business leadership for women is good business, that gender diversity at the top yields dividends for companies, communities, and economies,” said Ronke-Amoni Ogunsulire, IFC Country Manager for the Ghana sub-region.
“That’s why IFC works to narrow gender gaps in business leadership as part of our strategy for inclusive and sustainable private sector growth,” she added.
The publication, from IFC’s Women on Boards and in Business Leadership program is part of IFC’s multi-faceted gender strategy, which includes building a pipeline of qualified women leaders in the regions where IFC operates. The goal is to accelerate the pace at which women in emerging and frontier markets join boards and assume C-suite positions.
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