Namibian State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) still have a long way to go in assuring that 50/50 gender equality is attained as the ratio of women and men in top management positions remains at 16:1 to the disadvantage of women.
Very few women get appointed into chief executive officer (CEO) positions in SOEs, and as it currently stands the ratio of women to men in CEO and Managing Director positions in Public Enterprises (PEs) out of a sample of 18 PEs stands at 16 men to one woman.
This trend was inherited from the past regime.
In recent years PEs such as TransNamib, Namibia Training Authority and Air Namibia have had female CEOs and MDs being given the axe raising concerns over whether or not Government is serious about bringing the ratio to a 50/50 scale.
Sara Naanda former CEO of TransNamib faced the axe in 2014 following allegations from the board of directors of alleged wrongdoing, and Theo Namases of Air Namibia also got the axe after 17 counts of alleged misconduct were levelled against her resulting in the SOEs in turn losing millions in settlement packages.
However, the Minister of Public Enterprises, Leon Jooste, said that it is very important that PEs launch a leadership practice were they need to expose female leaders to the most strategic work in companies and not keep women confined to the administrative or support functions as that exacerbates the problem and reinforces gender biases in critical roles such as MD and CEO appointments.
According to the Minister research has indicated that improving women representation in senior positions helps contribute to better decision making and a diverse leadership tends to outperform the market.
“Going forward PEs need women in top leadership positions to inspire and mentor other women for top positions and build a leadership talent pool from middle management level to groom and build a firm foundation for career progression from this level” said Jooste.
He went on to add that it is further needed to create a leadership environment that is gender neutral and non-discriminatory against women.
However, following Swapo’s electoral victory in 2014, the representation of women in parliament has increased from 24% to 47 % bringing it close to complying with Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol, which requires a 50/50 gender representation in parliaments.
“We will further make sure that we have a balanced gender representation in Board/CEO recruitments based on transparent and merit selection process. As part of our stakeholder engagement strategy we will work closely with the Equity Commissioner to monitor annual statics on progress on how women are recruited, trained and promoted in the PEs and how we can use these reports to engage our PEs in this regard” said Jooste.
The Minister went on to add that the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is assisting to compile a database of potential women board members to serve on PE Boards.
“We equally want to include the youth and we are investigating various mentoring initiatives to empower women and young people to serve our PEs. We have a long way to go to integrate women into the corporate world in Namibia and we will do our best to facilitate this process” said Jooste.