African firms must develop a pipeline of qualified female leaders – Ahmad

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To significantly increase the participation of women in the economy, African businesses must actively develop a pipeline of qualified female candidates for top management positions so as to harness the benefits women can bring to bear on the economy through quality leadership.

Aishah Ahmad, chairperson, executive council, Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ) and head of consumer banking at Diamond Bank, said at the recently concluded 2016 London Business School’s Africa Business Summit.

Speaking during the plenary panel session titled ‘The Gender Agenda,’ Ahmad highlighted the need for businesses to make deliberate efforts to harness the potentials of qualified women within the workforce, while encouraging women to strive for successful careers without opting out at mid levels.

“Organisations must deal with the urgent and real requirement of establishing a pipeline of qualified female candidates for consideration in top management and board positions. As it stands, representation levels dwindle at senior to top management as many women opt out of the workforce at middle management levels,” she said.

The Gender Agenda panel re-examined the state of gender parity in Africa and the role of women in driving macro-economic growth. The panellists especially highlighted strategies to ensure that Africa makes far better use of the women in the workforce.

She used the occasion to disclose that WIMBIZ over the last 15 years had continually executed programmes to elevate the economic contributions of women in the workforce, including building leadership and entrepreneurial skills, advocacy, mentorships and international partnerships.

According to Ahmad, “WIMBIZ is at the forefront of enabling organisations to achieve their gender parity objectives and through the WIMBOARD we are actively ensuring growth in the number of women appointed to board positions.

“The Wimboard initiative is a comprehensive four-pronged strategy that includes advocacy, Wimboard institute, maintaining an executive database and executive mentoring. We also conduct a due diligence survey that monitors the representation of women on corporate boards and serves as an advocacy tool when making a business case for women on boards.”

The Wimboard institute is in two separate partnerships with the IE Business School, Madrid and the Lagos Business School, which delivers bespoke programmes to build critical skills in board management for experienced senior executives and accomplished entrepreneurs. The insights cohorts gain from the programs are complemented with executive mentoring from seasoned board executives.

The summit plenary chair was Bronwyn Nielsen of CNBC Africa. Other panellists featured alongside Ahmad were Imoni Akpofure, director at CDC, Sipho Gumbi, HR executive ROA at Old Mutual, and Mia Kimani of the Boston Consulting Group. Eloho Omame, CEO, Amari Limited, moderated the session.

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