Nairobi — The Capital Markets Authority has announced plans to review the Code of Corporate Governance that will among other things ensure that more women are well represented in the boards of public listed companies across the country.
The current Guidelines on Corporate Governance Practices by Public Listed Companies in Kenya specifically provide that the process of the appointment of directors should be sensitive to gender representation, national outlook and should not be perceived to represent single or narrow community interests.
But CMA says there is need to review this, to push more companies to increase the number of women in boardrooms without taking the legislation angle.
"The Authority is in the process of convening a stakeholders committee that is going to be looking at the development of a reviewed Code of Corporate Governance for the country and this is one of the key issues. But there is no defined timeline as we stand," said Paul Muthaura, the authority's acting CEO during the signing of an MOU with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants(ACCA) to hold investors education for the next two years.
He says the issue needs more consultation to ensure that there is balance between gender and fulfilling the interest of the shareholders as far as appointments of board members are concerned.
In Kenya, women occupy only nine percent of boards or 44 positions out of the 462 seats across 55 companies listed at the bourse, according to CMA.
Kenya is, in fact, doing much worse than Uganda and Rwanda, with the latter registering more than 50 percent of women in boardrooms.
According to a study done by the Kenya Institute of Management this year, among the state corporations, board composition comprises of 20 percent women and 80 percent men.
The analysis revealed that there is less than three women have appointed as chairpersons in the listed and state owned firms in the country.
The results further indicated that the factors affecting women representation on boards in both listed companies and state corporations were attributed to the interplay of historical and cultural factors.
"We feel that there is a strong need to have more women in the boardrooms and in this case we support the capital markets authorities move to have the guidelines reviewed. In terms of legislating it, I know it's not as easy, because we have seen the problems we already have with implementing our own constitution's requirement on gender," said Antony Kariuki, Country Manager for the ACCA, a global body for professional accountants.
However Norway, which currently boasts of a 44 percent rate of women on the boards, did not reach such an impressive level by voluntary action by the respective companies, but rather by compulsory legislation in 2006 that required at least 40 percent of board members to be women in public listed companies.
While Kenyan regulators may not want to set strict thresholds for representation by women, many feel that it may be prudent to have laws in place on this matter.