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Want more women in leadership? Here’s the way

By NJOKI CHEGE December 1st, 2018 3 min read

Once again, the Gender Bill sponsored National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale this week failed to sail through because of lack of quorum, forcing Parliament to defer debate to February next year.

I can only hope and pray that come February, Members of Parliament will do the honourable thing and shoot the bill into an abyss of oblivion, where it really belongs.

Now, there are many ways of including more women in leadership roles but the proposed Bill is definitely not one of those.

Here’s why.

This Bill suggests the only way women can get into leadership is through tokenism, nominations and freebies. Of course, there are some threadbare arguments advanced by ill-meaning male politicians, such as the fact that these new positions might be abused by party leaders to award their girlfriends.

But the main reason why this bill should not sail through — from my point of view — is because it is bound to make women lazy in their nominated comfort zones, besides the fact that it really does nothing to address the real and underlying reasons why women are not in leadership in the first place.

As a young woman with C-suite ambitions, I can authoritatively say what aspiring future female leaders need is not freebie positions or even affirmative action but a favourable environment where we fairly and equally compete with our male counterparts.

While I appreciate those who look at it differently and believe nominated positions give women a “foot in the door”, I also believe if men in leadership truly want to increase female leadership, they must and should do the following.

1. Treat women as equals

Many of you like pretend that you are feminists and believers of gender equality, but it is almost often mere lip service. You pretend you are blind to the gender when offering jobs and opportunities, but some of us have been alive long enough to know when it comes to equal opportunities, men are perceived as superior to women.

It is why we have never had a female president — or even deputy president — and why we do meaningless opinion polls asking stupid questions like “Are you comfortable with a female president?”.

If you want more women in leadership, don’t use gender as a determining factor. Just use performance and potential — and you will find yourself working with an equal number of men and women, if not more women.

2. Women don’t want mentorship, just sponsor them

I am one of the few people who think mentorship is overrated, if not useless, especially for women. There are a hundred and one female mentorship programmes in hotel ballrooms where women swap teary motherhood stories but very few female leaders.

Why? Mentorship is a massive waste of time. Men rarely mentor each other or share those emotional, useless stories. Men sponsor each other. Every male leader you know has a sponsor, a fellow guy who took him under his wing and introduced him to the right people and opened the door for him.

Women — especially those in power — rarely do this for younger women; they just step on them, malign them, sabotage them and lock them out. If you are serious about more women in leadership, male leaders must sponsor women into leadership. Women don’t need you to carry them on your backs, we just want you to do for us what you do for the men; believe in us, throw in a good word, make a few phone calls and we will fly on our own!

3. Treat strong women with respect

“Every man wants to raise an Ivanka but marries a Melania” so the modern saying goes. You want to raise strong, independent daughters, but your favourite past time is to bring down strong and independent women you consider a threat. How is that helpful?

A lot of male leaders we know would never allow their daughters to get into leadership — politics or otherwise — because they know what they do to women.

In public, they yap about “gender inclusion” and “equality” but in private, they engineer the character-assassination of women leaders because strong women generally make a lot of men nervous.

Because we, young women, see what you say and do to the Martha Karuas and Anne Waigiurus of this world, we tend to shy away due to the great social price you make strong women pay, simply because they raised their hands up.

And that, gentlemen, is how you ensure more women in leadership!