Female representation on boards of GSE-listed companies still low

Marcia Ashong, Founder and CEO of TheBoardroom Africa

Among the 35 companies listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange in 2022, women hold only 25 percent of the board seats and only 27 percent of non-executive director seats – which is not different from what pertained in 2021. This is contained in the 2022 Board Diversity Index Report released this week by TheBoardroom Africa in partnership with the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE).

According to the report, these figures indicate that progress toward gender diversity has stalled since last year. The report also reveals that the most common role held by women across most of Ghana’s listed companies is still that of corporate secretary; a position that is not in fact a board-director role.

Meanwhile, research shows that companies with 30 percent or more female non-executive directors are likely to result in an average of 15 percent increase of women in board chair and executive roles. “It is critical that women not only have a seat at the table but also occupy positions of leadership in these spaces to ensure continuous progress – and this has to be led by boards,” the report said.

It noted that while an increasing number of Ghanaian companies are responding to the call for more gender-diverse boardrooms, the overall gender gap among senior executives still remains wide.

Some women on the boards of GSE-listed companies: from left – Elizabeth Joyce Villar, Board Chair at Camelot Ghana; Ama Sarpong Bawuah, Board Chair at Access Bank; and Rosie Ebe-Arthur, Executive Director at MTN Ghana

Per the report, 61.5 percent of the industry sectors have more than 30 percent women on their boards – a 15.4 percent increase from 2021, and by international standards 30 percent is the minimum to reap the benefits of boardroom diversity.

Having 30 percent women on boards, the report said, is the pivotal point at which minority voices become heard – it also represents the minimum target recognised by the Board Diversity Charter. However, this threshold remains a minimum target, not a ceiling. “While we recognise the companies meeting this standard, much remains to be done in working toward gender parity – the ultimate goal,” the report stated.

Indeed, it noted that more than one-third (38 percent) of companies still have one or zero females on their boards, indicating a decrease by 9 percent from 2021. But that gap still needs to be bridged. In terms of sectors that have more women in their boardroom, the report said the advertising & communications, fast-moving consumer goods, mining/natural resources and telecommunications sectors have the highest number of women represented in the boardroom.

However, in terms of the aggregate number of women directors, the financial services sector outperformed all with 45 percent of all female directors in GSE-listed companies being from the sector. Per the breakdown, women make up 12 percent of Chairs; 13 percent of CEOs/MDs; 17 percent of CFOs; and 6 percent of COOs on Ghana’s listed boards.

The report observed that there has been an increase in the number of CEOs/MDs and CFOs by 1 and 13 percent respectively from 2021; however, there has been a decrease in the number of Chairs and COOs by 3 and 4 percent respectively from 2021. It also notes that almost one-third (32 percent) of Ghana’s listed companies have boards featuring at least 30 percent female board directors, an increase of 3 percent from 2021.

Commenting on the methodology, Marcia Ashong, Founder and CEO of TheBoardroom Africa, said: “As we acknowledge the progress made so far, we remind stakeholders to continuously press for progress to solidify and expand on recent strides. We advocate that the Government of Ghana should encourage business leaders to have boardrooms that are fully representative of their stakeholders by signing the Board Diversity Charter; and also promote gender-conscious board appointments in state-owned companies to ensure that, as a country, we can fully reap the benefits of diversity”.

Touching on the 2022 Board Diversity Index’s significance, Abena Amoah – incoming Managing Director of the Ghana Stock Exchange said: “The Ghana Stock Exchange is an integral part of the Ghanaian economy, and we aim to be at the forefront of sustainable, diverse and inclusive economic growth. We are delighted to see more and more companies respond to the call for diversity, and we further pledge to work with all stakeholders to ensure that Ghanaian boards are more inclusive and effective”.

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