Integrated Approaches/Monitoring and Evaluation

Integrated Approaches/Monitoring and Evaluation

Date: September 1, 2016
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On Correspondence

Women Matter Africa Report: Representation of African Women in the Private and Public Sectors

Drawing on research undertaken at over 200 African companies and interviews with more than 30 women leaders across the continent, McKinsey & Company’s latest report on Africa, Women Matter Africa, highlights that the continent has taken big strides regarding women’s representation in the private and public sectors.


In the private sector, Africa has more women in executive committee, CEO, and board roles in companies than the average worldwide.

Numbers vary by industry and region – not surprisingly – and are much lower in industries that traditionally rely on men for their workforce (heavy industry, for example). Yet women are still under-represented at every level of the corporate ladder – non-management and middle and senior management – and fall in number the higher they climb. Only 5 percent of women make it to the very top.

In government the number of women parliamentarians has almost doubled over the past 15 years and the number of women in cabinet has grown fivefold in 30 years.

Again, numbers vary considerably, this time by country and region. Southern and East Africa are ahead of the pack, but there is room for improvement even here. In global terms, Africa has more women in parliament than the average. Credit for this growth may go in large part to targets for women’s representation set by parliaments and political parties. Representation rates, however, still need to double if Africa is to achieve gender equality. Numbers do not equal influence. Although the number of women in leadership positions may have risen, women do not necessarily have greater power. In the private sector, more than half of senior women occupy staff roles rather than the line roles2 from which promotion to CEO typically comes.

In the public sector, approximately half of women cabinet ministers hold social welfare portfolios, with arguably limited political influence, that do not open doors to top leadership roles.

Indeed, the increase in women’s share of cabinet roles appears to come more from the creation of new social welfare portfolios than from any real redistribution of power.