, JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Oct 14 – Is giving women a seat at the table of decision making enough?
The issue dominated discussions at a media forum in Johannesburg, South Africa ahead of the 2016 CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards due Saturday, where panellists made it clear much more needs to be done.
“In Africa and around the world if you don’t have a voice, you are nobody. But having a voice alone is not enough. You have to be at that table where other powerful voices are,” Amadou Mahtar Ba, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of AllAfrica Global Media said.
Ba said it is not just the ethical thing to do to empower women more, but a growing necessity.
He made reference to a report by McKinsey Institute which shows that the world economy will grow massively if women get equal roles as men in the coming years.
“If we have women playing an equal role as men in society, meaning having an equal voice at the table, by 2025 we will have added $28 trillion to the global economy.”
Ba said he had a firm belief that the challenge starts at home.
“We need a mental revolution which could help our children grow up in a world where they understand that gender is not a factor in success. In many industries including media critical problems exist that need to be addressed by empowering women in managerial positions.”
He pointed out the media can do better in empowering wpmen.
“Africa is diverse but in some countries like Kenya and South Africa we have very able professional women journalists and women media managers. Is it enough? No. We can do better.”
He urged media owners to come together and form guiding principles to ensure there is at least a 50-50 male to female ratio of media managers.”
The forum hosted by CNN’s Africa Correspondent Eleni Giokos who is based in Johannesburg included Andia Chakava, and investment professional with over 14 years in fund management as a panellist.
Other panellists were Matsi Modishe, the managing director of SiMODiSA, an industry association whose mission is to accelerate entrepreneurship. Also on the panel was Kwangu Liwewe, content Executive at M-Net’s Zambezi Magic Channel.
Chakava, who is the Kenya Chapter Director at New Faces, New Voices in her comments, advanced the view representation does not necessarily mean influence.
“You can have women in senior management but if you put them in peripheral roles, they are not influential. What happens when you give them such positions? Is the tenure long? Is it successful? It not just about breaking barriers but it’s the support mechanism.”
She said cultural attitudes and conscious bias hinder women’s progression into leadership positions.
“We wouldn’t have discussion about equal pay and promotions… we need to get to the root and encourage more women in these fields. We need more role models to nurture women in leadership positions.”
There was heated debate at the forum when discussions shifted to the roles women play vis-a-vis their roles in the home, with the issue of child-bearing and the impact it has on their careers coming to the fore.
“I think women need to live their dreams and focus on what they are good at doing and remain resilient. You are always going to have to fight and prove yourself. I keep telling women not to give up,” Chakava said.