Ensuring gender equality in the workplace [Opinion]

Mrs. Mansa Nettey - Chief Executive, Standard Chartered Bank Ghana Limited

International Women’s Day 2020 has been a great opportunity for Standard Chartered to continue to promote equality and inclusion. We know we are heading in the right direction but remain acutely aware of the need to take bolder actions to rapidly level the playing field for our clients, colleagues and stakeholders. 

It starts with us 

The International Women’s Day was instituted more than 100 years ago in 1911, while the Fourth World Conference on Women by the UN, popularly known in Ghana as the Beijing Conference, occurred 25 years ago. These two events mark milestones on the difficult drive for gender equality. We have made strides along the way that have sustained our progress. As we foreground the lives of 49.2% of our female workforce, other female stakeholders and especially our female customers, we reiterate that achieving gender equality requires effort from all genders especially those in privileged positions. 

Gender equality is not an issue that has to be tackled by women only; it is economically expedient to get all hands-on board in achieving this goal. The HeforShe initiative by the United Nations is an example of how men need to make conscious efforts at closing the gender gap. We are cognizant and grateful for the unshakeable contribution our male colleagues at Standard Chartered,have made towards the successes our female colleagues have chalked over the years.  

Research is unanimous in arguing that women’s active participation in the workforce bolsters productivity and enhances the economic growth of any organisation, yet, practically, statistics also reveal that we do not have enough being done in this regard. Research by The Boardroom Africa shows that women make up a paltry 8% of all CEOs listed on Ghana’s Stock Exchange; women form just 3% of all chairpersons on Ghana’s listed boards. In other words, female CEOs and female chairpersons are less than 1 in 10 and 1 in 5 respectively. There are similar figures for positions like MD, COO, and CFO where women occupy 5% or less across companies in Ghana. Again, women represent 15% of company secretaries. In terms of directors, there are 62 female directors to 244 male directors. And finally, out of all non-executive directors on Ghana’s listed boards, women constitute 20%. These statistics illuminate the extensive gap that requires concerted and strategic efforts by all players in corporate Ghana.  

Further, this data does not reflect the immense contribution of women in our corporate workforce; rather it illuminates the various biases which inhibit their progress and affirms our view that in order to ensure women’s equality at the upper echelons of any corporate organisation, a safe working space has to be provided for all genders to thrive; where women perceive that they can give the best of themselves without imposed stereotypical albatrosses around their necks, we will be all the better for it. These figures illuminate the extensive gap that requires concerted and strategic efforts by all players in corporate Ghana. 

It makes perfect business sense 

Ensuring gender equality transcends individual acts, especially when systemic and structural regimes maintain the status quo. We prioritise actions over rhetoric. Female representation in our senior leadership team is 47%. Our board has 38% female representation which is ahead of our global aspirations as a Bank.  

Our commitment to gender equality and diversity informs our policies that make our working environment a safe space. We pride ourselves with the highest standards of conduct and have created safe channels for employees to speak up should they face any form of gendered harassment or abuse. Furthermore, we prioritize work-life balance through our parental leave policy. Our female colleagues are eligible for up to 5 months of paid maternity leave while our male colleagues get up to 2 weeks of paid paternity leave. This helps ease the burden placed on women after childbirth and encourages both parents to actively support each other on the parenting journey. We believe that our colleagues should not be forced to choose between being good parents and good employees. We can do both.  

Standard Chartered, offers flexible working arrangements that gives our colleagues the freedom to choose where and when to work, to help balance their personal and professional goals. It involves flexible working arrangements such as part-time, flexible working hours, remote working and sabbaticals.  

I believe the female staff at Standard Chartered,do a great job in overachieving targets, mentoring and training talent and living up to W.E.B Dubois’s quote which says, “There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise.” We will continue to support them to reach the apex of their careers and take on the world. 

As a Bank, our colleagues continue to volunteer their skills and time to support the development and progress of women across the age spectrum. We recently organised speed mentoring and coaching sessions with girls in second and third cycle institutions. In partnership with Mentoring Women Ghana, we supported a mentoring session for young impressionable women preparing to start out their careers. We also organised an awareness session on fraud, information and cyber security for female entrepreneurs and business leaders to support them to grow their businesses sustainably.  

A force for good for our clients, colleagues and communities 

Having been in the Ghanaian market for over 120 years, Standard Chartered, remains Here for good and will continue to play a pivotal role in our socio-economic development. At Standard Chartered, we remain committed to be the best bank for our employees, the best financial institution to do business with and the organization that best supports our communities to become more prosperous by sustainably supporting small, medium and large corporates while enabling the full potential of women in a balanced working environment. 

By Mrs. Mansa Nettey – Chief Executive, Standard Chartered Bank Ghana Limited 

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