Stop settling for less, women in banking industry told

L-R:  Ms Lina Higiro CEO, NCBA Rwanda; Ms Njeri Jomo, CEO and Principal Officer, Jubilee Health Insurance Kenya and Ms Sarah Arapta, CEO Citiban. PHOTO/BUSEIN SAMILU

What you need to know:

  • According to her, women in the past would be sidelined in the banking industry but now the ground has been leveled it is upon them to grab more top positions. 
  • According to Ms Goretti Masadde, the CEO of UIBFS, women ought to be aggressive and take on positions.

Top women experts in the banking sector across the East African region, including board members, chief executive officers, managing directors, and operations officers, among others have asked their junior counterparts to always work towards elevating to the top instead of settling for lower positions.

Speaking at the Women in Banking and Finance conference held in Kampala on Friday, different top women banking experts from the region said that the majority of their junior counterparts are lagging behind because of low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence and believability.
This disadvantage, they said, is exploited by their male counterparts who are ambitiously grabbing opportunities.

“Our role as women should be to ensure adequate representation by training women to take up leadership positions, sponsoring and supporting other women to ascend to top positions. We need to increase women's participation in the labor force, enhance earnings, ensure access to productive assets, and eliminate gender bias and discrimination,” Ms Maria Kiwanuka, the Board Chairperson of Standard Chartered Bank Uganda said.

According to her, women in the past would be sidelined in the banking industry but now the ground has been leveled it is upon them to grab more top positions. 
“In the positions we have occupied, we have added value because, for example, we have seen female managing directors performing excellently,” she said.

Ms Kiwanuka who is also the former Finance Minister said current top leaders in the banking industry must train their junior counterparts to take on leadership roles.
The 2023 statistics from the Uganda Bankers' Association (UBA) show that only 24 percent of women employed in the banking industry are at the level of at least a chief executive officer or executive director.

They add that over 52 percent of roles in banking and finance are now held by women, but only 58 out of the 186 board members in financial institutions are female and only 7 serve as Board Chairpersons.
The managing director Citibank Sarah Arapta said that women should work towards reversing this trend.

Ms Goretti Masadde, the CEO of Uganda Institute of Banking and Financial Services speaking at the conference in Kampala on June 21, 2024.

“This will be done if young women in the sector take up these positions. It is we women who must break the current barriers because if you don’t do it, no one else will do it for you and this should start by knowing who you are,” she said.
Adding, “If we don’t start by appreciating the uniqueness within us, no one will. Know your own inner strength and see how you articulate it.”
According to Ms Goretti Masadde, the CEO of UIBFS, women ought to be aggressive and take on positions.

“Go for higher positions whenever you see an opportunity, believe in yourself and that is how you will rise to the top,” she said during the conference hosted by the Uganda Institute of Banking and Financial Services (UIBFS), in partnership with the Uganda Bankers’ Association and the Women Economic Empowerment Initiative, under the theme: Empowering Women, Shaping the Future of Banking and Finance, attracting experts from different countries including; Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, among others.

Ms Lina Higiro, the CEO of NCBA Rwanda and Founding Chairperson of Women in Finance Rwanda (WIFR) said women should first change their mindset.
Ms Njeri Jomo, the CEO and Principal Officer of Jubilee Health Insurance Kenya said that, “As a woman, whatever table you get on, you have no right to remain silent. Speak up to that woman who cannot have such opportunities.”

As part of the efforts to increase the number of women at the sector’s helm, WIFR and UBIFS signed an MoU that aims at offering specialized Credit and Microfinance Training in Rwanda, including courses such as Certified Credit Management, Diploma in Microfinance, Agribusiness Credit Risk Assessment, and Agricultural Value Chain Financing.

This partnership, according to Ms Massade, will also foster regional collaboration, encourage knowledge and technology transfer across the banking and financial sectors of Uganda and Rwanda, and make these courses more accessible to women in Rwanda, thus narrowing the skills gap in their banking sector, especially in the Credit Function.

“The bigger picture for women in our industry is one of inclusion, leadership, and innovation. It is about creating an environment where women are not just participants but also leaders and change-makers. It is about ensuring that our voices are heard, our contributions are valued, and our potential is fully realized,” she said.
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