Women in Manufacturing – Mainstreaming Gender and Inclusion - International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW)

The gender discourse in Kenya continues to generate debate in the public domain about the role of women in leadership, and specifically the representation of women in parliament and county assemblies. The role of women in business and Kenya’s other economic spaces continues to focus on the economic empowerment of women at the bottom of the pyramid (often in agriculture). Although women play a large role in SMEs across several sectors and are beginning to play a larger role in large enterprises, the issues to do with women in business are not clearly articulated considering the development initiatives and changes happening in Kenya today.

Research shows that countries that fail to address gender barriers lose out on significant economic growth. If the Middle East and North Africa region had introduced the same policies as East Asia with regards to gender equality in access to education and employment, it could have grown 0.7% faster per year during the 1990s (World Bank).

Across the globe, discussions on gender equality for private sector have gained momentum driven by the belief that women’s empowerment is a key characteristic of well-managed, forward thinking companies that can create sustainable shareholder value over the long term. Several studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between gender equality practices and stock performance. In addition, having women in executive positions and on the board can indeed contribute to stronger financial performance and that the better a company is at promoting women, the better it tends to rank in terms of profitability.

Kenya’s manufacturing sector, with sub sectors including food products, textile and apparel, fabricated metals, chemicals, beverage and tobacco, contributes 9% to the national GDP. Women make up more than half of Kenya’s population, and have over the years continued to join the manufacturing sector as leaders, employees and entrepreneurs. However only about a fifth of the women population is employed in industries. This illustrates that there is a huge potential that can be tapped to have women contributing more to the manufacturing sector and the national economy at large. Despite the growth in women representation and participation in Kenyan manufacturing, there has not been a comprehensive research conducted on the status of women in the sector to determine: the policy context they operate in, key challenges, and the policy options to mainstream equality and inclusion in the sector.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) Women in Manufacturing Programme approached BAF expressing the need to have compelling evidence to make the value proposition to private sector, and decision makers to increase opportunities for women to participate in manufacturing. KAM has stated that this evidence could be used to inform policy positions on: The Gender Bill, 2018; Equal Opportunities Bill, 2017; Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) listing guidelines; and the Breastfeeding Mothers Bill, 2017 and other regulatory instruments that would address the key challenges for women in the sector.

The Business Advocacy Fund commissioned the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW to) conduct research to document:

  1. the status of women in the manufacturing sector;
  2. the challenges they may face in opening manufacturing firms and growing them;
  3. the extent to which women in manufacturing have achieved leadership positions either at management or boards.
  4. The status of the policy framework, and suitable policy options to mainstream equality and inclusion.

The research findings will be used to inform an advocacy strategy to mainstream equality and inclusion in the sector. This research will be done in partnership with Kenya Association of Manufacturers and its Women in the Manufacturing (WIM) program.  

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