Women, wives and mothers-where are they in Zim’s banking boardrooms?

By Nqobile Munzara

The Zimbabwean banking sector has 19 registered banking institutions, excluding Tetrad Investment Bank and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Corporation. A perusal of those institutions will show that there is a significant gap in the representation of women in the Boardrooms, particularly Board Chairmen or as Chief Executive Officers. This article seeks to investigate the reasons for this, and make proposals on how this can be improved.

Current state

The table below shows the statistics as retrieved from the websites of the banking institutions:

Banking Institution Board Chairman Chief Executive Officer No. of Female Directors Total No. of Directors
Agribank T Nherera SMT Malaba 2 6
BancABC A Mabhena J Sibanda 2 7
CABS W Matsaira SJ Hammond 2 12
CBZ Bank R Pasi* P Zimunya 3 6
EcoBank F Chisango M Kurenjekwa 2 9
FBC Bank TE Mutunhu W Rusere 2 11
FBC Building Society B Kumalo F Gwandekwande 2 9
First Capital Bank SD Mtsambiwa S Matsekete 3 11
IDBZ WL Manungo TZ Sakala 1 8
MetBank D Marandure B Ndebele 2 7
NBS S Kudenga L Danga 4 12
Nedbank W Zireva Dr C Jinya* 4 10
NMB Bank B Chikwanha BP Washaya 2 8
POSB M Dzumbunu* A Kandlela 5 10
Stanbic Bank G Sebborn J Tapamgwa 2 9
Standard Chartered L Manatsa R Watungwa 2 8
Steward Bank B Chidzero L Mambondiani 2 10
ZB Bank and

ZB Building Society

C Manyeruke* R Mutandagayi 2 9
Total No. of Women* 3 1 44 162

 

From the table above, three out of 19 banks have female Board Chairmen, and one out of 19 has a female Chief Executive/ Managing Director. On average, banking institutions have two female directors, with some having as many as five women. Out of a total of 162 executive and non-executive directors in the country’s banking sector, 44 are women, which represents 27%.

Where are the women in banking institutions?

Outside the boardroom, the situation is the same, as there are few women who occupy senior executive positions in banking. Section 20 of the Banking Act (Chapter 24:20) prescribes five Principal Officers, namely, a Chief Executive Officer, a Chief Finance Officer, a Compliance Officer, an Internal Auditor, and a Company Secretary. Other key positions in banking institutions include Head of Retail Banking, Head of Corporate Banking, Bank Treasurer, Head of Operations, ICT Executive, Marketing Executive, Head of Risk, and Head of Credit.

Of the five Principal Officers, a number of women occupy the positions of Compliance Officer, Internal Auditor and Company Secretary. In addition, the majority of Marketing Executives in banking institutions are women.

However, the rest of the senior executive positions, namely, Head of Retail Banking, Head of Corporate Banking, Bank Treasurer, Head of Operations, ICT Executive, Head of Risk, Head of Credit and Chief Finance Officer, are occupied by male counterparts.

The beginning of a career in banking for women

Like every career, banking is challenging and requires time investment from its professionals. When graduate trainees are recruited in banking institutions, there is hardly a distinction between male and female graduates, as recruitment is predominantly based on merit. As the trainees grow in their professional careers, they are exposed to the same training, which also does not distinguish between male and female trainees. However, as the female trainees grow, societal pressure pushes them into marriage and motherhood quicker than it does to male trainees. This is where the wheels begin to slow down.

Some female employees in the banking sector or any other profession for that matter, experience a lull in their careers between the ages of 25 and 35, as they choose to begin families of their own. During this decade, women get married, have children, and take on responsibilities at home in addition to those in the office. Inevitably, there are times when women choose to leave their jobs and to focus on rearing their young children, and minding their newly established homes, difficult as it may be to make those choices. Once a woman is out of formal employment, it may be a challenge to return a few years later, let alone to be considered for board appointment.

Where a woman chooses to remain in employment even after having children, there is always a difficulty in the attempt to strike the balance between home and the office. More often than not, women do prioritise family over the office, because failing to do so invites severe criticism from counterparts, peers and sometimes, family!

In turn, the colleagues in the office will naturally assume that a woman will prioritise family over the office, and therefore tend to opt out of including women in key projects, transactions or assignments. This contributes negatively to the professional exposure of women.

How can banks assist women?

It is true that not all women who sit in the boards of banking institutions are primarily bankers. But it is also true, as shown above that there are a few women who currently occupy the key positions in banking, such as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Finance Officer, Head of Retail Banking, Head of Corporate Banking, Bank Treasurer, Head of Operations, ICT Executive, and Head of Credit. There is need therefore for banking institutions to put in place deliberate measures and programmes to assist in the career development of young women, to enable them to grow to become astute bankers who can take up executive and board positions in banks when these become available.

Firstly, during the formative years of one’s career, banking institutions must consider making their graduate trainee programmes are flexible to enable young women who get married or have children to complete them in additional time. This will go a long way to remove the pressure on young women that they cannot pursue their personal dreams before they complete the graduate trainee programmes. In addition, banking institutions can consider putting in place work-life balance policies that assist young women who become mothers to pursue their careers, while having the option of working from home when their children are still very young.

Next, banking institutions must have deliberate strategies that constantly review the professional growth of young women, including exposing them to various aspects in the banking value chain. As indicated above, the majority of key executive positions in banks are occupied by male counterparts, with women occupying the supporting roles. Banking institutions must ensure that the career development processes, and invariably, the succession planning processes include women to take up senior executive roles in core banking functions.

Lastly, when banks consider filling in vacancies on boards, the candidates shortlisted for these vacancies must include women. This process does not preclude considerations that drive recruitment for board positions, namely, qualifications, suitability and skills required by the board.

The youth demographic dividend

In December 2015, the Government of Zimbabwe with the support of the United Nations Population Fund launched the findings of the Demographic Dividend Study, which calls for greater investment in young people so as to reap the Demographic Dividend.

The Demographic Dividend is a social and economic benefit that can arise when a country has a relatively large proportion of working-age population. In this regard, with more young people in the work force, a country has a window of opportunity for rapid economic growth if the right social and economic investments are made in health, education, governance and the economy.

It has been reported that Africa has the fastest growing and most youthful population in the world over. Zimbabwe is among the countries that have seen an increase in the population of young people, with thousands of them graduating in any one of the country’s 20 universities annually.

There is merit therefore in investing in the career growth of young people in banking institutions, so they are capacitated to occupy senior executive positions early on in their careers. More so, where such strategies target young women, the benefits will begin to become evident as young women will be considered not only for only banking executive opportunities, but also as board members of banking institutions.

Conclusion

The statistics in the table above do not paint a good picture of the status quo for women in the banking sector’s board rooms, which currently stands at one Chief Executive Officer/ Managing Director, and three Board Chairmen, out of the 19 banking institutions. There is a lot of work to be done to increase these numbers, including those of female senior executives, which process begins at the onset of the careers of young women in banking institutions.

By Nqobile Munzara, LLB (UCT)

Nqobile holds a Law Degree from the University of Cape Town, and is admitted as a Legal Practitioner, Conveyancer and Notary Public with the High Court of Zimbabwe.

 

IOBZ