Why there are still few Ugandan women in executive positions

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Women's Day

A woman receives a scroll from a man. Although women make up close to half the workforce in employment, they still lag behind men in business leadership roles. 

By Dorothy Nakaweesi

Posted  Tuesday, March 8   2016 at  02:00

In Summary

Ugandan women still lag behind their male counterparts in leadership roles. Dorothy Nakaweesi explores what prevents them from crossing over to executive positions.

Allen Kagina, the executive director of Uganda National Roads Authority with just months into office is at it again to clean up this institution which was marred with corruption.

The task ahead of her is not new. From her previous job as Commissioner General Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), she left a good performance legacy 10 years as its head.
No wonder her predecessor Doris Akol, the current Commissioner General URA, trounced a stiff competition with five male commissioners becoming the second Ugandan woman to head the tax body in 2014.

Jennifer Musisi, the executive director at Kampala Capital City Authority may have rubbed many in a wrong way, while lifting the status of Kampala City which now recognised by the international fraternity as one of the fastest growing urban centres in Africa.
These are some of the few female executives that have sprouted out after crossing over to what is regarded as the male territory.
Furthermore the 20 years after, the Beijing Platform for Action unleashed remarkable political will and worldwide visibility of women.

The platform enabled women to exercise their freedoms and choices such as participating in decision making and earning equal pay for equal work.
A lot has been achieved in the last two-decades in Uganda. There have been some strides on the political scene where, women have a 30 per cent share of seats in Parliament through gender equality measures.
While others have served in various top political positions from former vice president Specioza Kazibwe to the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, other women have led key ministries and down to the village councils.

Conversely, Uganda’s women are taking long to cross over into the profitable male dominated sectors.
A study by the World Bank published in May 2014, titled Gender, Economic Productivity and Development in Uganda shows “….Uganda presents an opportunity to examine what obstacles might be preventing women from crossing over into the more profitable male-dominated sectors.”
Institutions, corporate companies and businesses headed by women have exhibited excellence in delivering profits.

However, the World Bank study’s quantitative analysis reveals two significant findings.
First, on average, firms owned by crossovers are about three times more profitable than those owned by non-crossovers.
Secondly, businesses owned by women who cross over are just as profitable as businesses owned by men.
Thus the rationale for crossing over is clear, begging two questions: What encourages certain women to cross over? What prevents more women from doing so?

What explains few women in executive roles?
Private Sector Foundation Uganda executive director Gideon Badagawa, believes the glaring rare presence of women executive officers in Uganda is enrooted in the parenting habits and having the illusion that the boy child is superior to the girl-child from the home environment.
“I find Ugandan women are quite brilliant with high potential for management if only they can be given a chance and nurtured,” Badagawa observes.

Badagawa says, “We, in Africa, have a culture of not keeping the girl-child in school. This is where they are supposed to be exposed to sufficient knowledge and expertise to innovate and have an independent mind to reason and manage systems.”
Thirdly, Badagawa thinks the culture of inheritance of capital and property in Africa does not favour the girl-child.
“In essence, girls are not given the challenge to manage assets or capital. To be a CEO, one must have the capacity to manage and leverage resources (finance and human capital). This does not just emerge,” he says.

Maggie Kigozi is one of the few Ugandan women with vast experience in the boardroom and a co-director/ proprietor of Crown Beverages, the producers of Pepsi Cola products in Uganda.
Kigozi says most women with experience are not visible and no one knows them yet many are well qualified.
“Women may not apply for jobs because they lack confidence. That is why many miss out on executive positions,”Kigozi tells Prosper magazine.

URA’s Akol also agrees that there are seemingly, few women in executive positions, especially in large corporate entities.
“That is explained by Uganda’s demographic realities. There are fewer girls going to school and staying In school than boys and ultimately, a woman’s natural roles tend to keep many women out of executive roles at the out of home workplace,” Akol explains.
Olive Lumonya, the national director SOS Children’s Villages Uganda, says women disadvantages have been historical.

“The quality of education affects the employment they will get. It is mainly a societal problem where a lot more focus and value was put on the male child at the expense of the girl child,” Lumonya says.
She says the same tradition manifests itself in the corporate organisations when remunerating women.
Lumonya says: “There are many examples of women and men in the same position earning different salaries with women earning significantly lower than their male counterparts.”

Way forward
Maggie Kigozi, co-director Crown Beverages, calls for capacity building in entrepreneurship and leadership skills.
“Government has done well to insist 30 per cent seats are for women in Parliament. We need to lobby government as well to increase this to 50 per cent,” Kigozi says.
URA’s Akol advises women to stop expecting things on a silver platter on account of affirmative action.
“…the reality of the matter is that for us (women) to advance, we must bring value to the table,” she adds.

Her message to those aspiring and who have merit is that they must be deliberate about showing the value they will add to their entity.
She said: “You must work on your confidence levels and associate yourselves with mentors that will add value to you and challenge you to become better.”
Jean Byamugisha, the executive director Uganda Hotel Owners Association says the sky is the limit for any woman wishing to pursue her career in any field.

​She shares: “If you have a passion for what you do, there is no way you cannot excel. Thank goodness we are now living in a generation where women have the opportunity to go to the schools of their choice and can choose to build their career.”
She adds that this is no longer a man’s world as women now stand a much better chance of success in the corporate world.​
Byamugisha hopes to be an inspiration to young girls in school who have big dreams.

“Never give up and take your education very seriously. It opens doors to a bright future,” she notes.
Byamugisha adds women should live with integrity.
“There are always people looking for a scandalous story of how a woman made it to the top, make sure your hands are clean. There is nothing more fulfilling than being in an office that you know you earned on credit,” Byamugisha cautions.

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