Examples of female empowerment and leadership abound in Africa. In Rwanda, women constitute 68% of parliament, in Nigeria women have held key positions in government, while in Malawi, Burundi and Ethiopia women have been elected or appointed president.
A report published by McKinsey two years ago found that in the private sector, Africa has more women in executive committee, chief executive and board roles in companies than the average around the world.
However, the day-to-day reality in business is a little different. Take the proportion of female chief executives in Africa for instance – it is only 5%.
“This is an aberration,” says Binta Touré Ndoye, chief executive of Oragroup. Ndoye has been head of Oragroup since 2016, after holding the position of deputy chief executive. Before that, she was managing director in Togo for Ecobank.
“I was incredibly proud and honoured that the Oragroup board of directors made the decision to appoint me as the chief executive,” says Ndoye.
“I was a 45-year-old woman at the helm of the bank replacing a 60-year-old man. I was the one tasked with leading 1,800 people across 12 countries. It was a bold choice,” she says.
“I really feel like I broke the glass ceiling.”
Gender shouldn’t matter when it comes to choosing a chief executive, says Ndoye: “How you conduct yourself, how you lead a business are the criteria by which you should be measured.
“That said, women in leadership have a greater responsibility to carry in Africa,” she adds. “To get to the same level of responsibility as a man, a woman has to work twice – or even more – as hard to succeed. A small error can cost them their career, whereas a man can ride out almost any difficulty with lots of tolerance.”
In March, Ndoye launched the Orabank Women’s Group, a platform to allow women at the bank to change the existing corporate environment – to create a place where they too can become leaders.