The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) has launched the first private sector gender mainstreaming policy. This policy is developed with support from the MasterCard Foundation, aims at offering guidance to companies and organizations seeking to optimize gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives.

During the launch last week, KEPSA Chairperson Flora Matahi said “The formulation of this policy demonstrates the private sector’s commitment to ensuring that gender mainstreaming is integral to the policies and operations of an organization…It is, therefore, imperative to ensure that no one is left behind in this quest for sustainable growth and development,”

“The will within the private sector to close the gender gap is there, what is lacking is the how. This policy lists seven points and recommendations, including gender mainstreaming as part of organizational strategy at the board and executive level,”

KEPSA says that if implemented, could greatly advance and champion gender equality and women’s empowerment in the private sector. Kenya can increase its GDP by twenty to thirty percent by investing in women, closing the gender finance gap, and encouraging female-led entrepreneurship. The policies if implemented will encourage women entrepreneurs and expand women’s access to capital and networks which will help them realize their entrepreneurial dreams.

Bridging the gender pay gap is an important intervention area to reverse the income inequality between men and women, noting that women make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Other areas the private sector can strengthen include the commitment to supplier diversity programs that support the growth and jobs of small and diverse businesses owned by women and youth.

“Research has shown that companies with a supplier diversity program generate a 33 percent greater return-on-investment, driving an additional $3.6 million to the bottom line for every million dollars spent in procurement operating costs while generating new revenue streams,”

The launch, which was part of the two-week observance activities of the sixty-sixth session of the UN Women, Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 66), under the theme of Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work, was witnessed by the chief guest, Jebii Kilimo, and Rachel Shebesh, Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS) in the Ministry of Gender, Public Service, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programs.

In her essential address, Kilimo said there was a need to promote women’s entry, re-entry, and advancement in the job market by investing in care infrastructure services while strengthening education training and skills.

“The difference in labour force participation can be attributed above all to women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work… The importance of robust legislative and policy frameworks is therefore critical to provide a foundation for implementing relevant programs and interventions for women’s empowerment and the economic growth of a country,”

At the event, stakeholders observed that women worldwide still face a multitude of gender inequalities in the world of work, hindering them from accessing employment and career progression, not only as a human development issue but also as a drawback to wealth creation.

Mucha Mlingo, Chair, KEPSA Gender Sector Board, said that in developing the Private Sector Gender Mainstreaming Policy, KEPSA has adopted the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment as central to its mandate of supporting the private sector in finding solutions to socio-economic challenges that impact on business.

“In 2020, KEPSA conducted a gender assessment that revealed the existence of gender gaps that needed to be addressed, such as insufficient gender diversity in leadership and the workforce, a lack of gender-responsive policies and initiatives, a lack of freedom from violence, abuse, and sexual harassment, an existing gender pay gap, and discrimination against special interest groups in the hiring process,”

To promote the transformation of corporate and business culture across all levels, the policy says the private sector must support women’s empowerment among other marginalized groups in the workforce, business, business associations, and leadership. This is in addition to the adoption and implementation of gender-responsive policies in the workplace.

Others are the prevention of GBV and sexual harassment by adopting an anti-GBV and sexual harassment policy at the workplace, in addition to the promotion of gender awareness in policies, programs, projects, and services that respond to the different needs of women and men.

The policy also recommends that businesses must implement gender-responsive budgeting and resourcing as well as set clear targets, measurements, reporting and communication procedures for collecting and analyzing gender-related data to contribute to sustainable outcomes.

Shebesh said the Ministry shall continue to partner with KEPSA, including sharing of information and best practices such as gender-friendly facilities at the workplace, among other initiatives.

The Private Sector Gender Mainstreaming Policy is guided by the principles of gender diversity and inclusion and recognizes that the private sector’s policies, programs, and initiatives ought to contribute to the realization of gender equality in Kenya.