Kenya’s improvement in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2022 Global Gender Gap Index is a strong indicator of women’s growing participation in the country’s economic development.
According to the report, Kenya’s global gender gap ranking has risen 38 places, from 95th in 2021 to 57th in 2022. This is due to increased female participation in four areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
Notably, significant progress has been made in Kenya to increase the number of women on boards and in management positions.
Gender diversity in the boardroom was 36 percent in March 2021, according to a Kenya Institute of Management report, up from 21 percent in 2017. This figure is likely to be higher, as policies aimed at closing the gap gain broader support.
Despite these remarkable milestones, women entrepreneurs still face distinct challenges compared to their male counterparts. Lack of security, such as land, unconscious gender bias, juggling work-life balance, and a lack of mentorship are some primary reasons women-led businesses struggle to obtain business financing.
In Kenya, women entrepreneurs account for slightly more than a third of the country’s registered small businesses (33 percent), forcing financial institutions to reconsider how they can tap into potentially one of the most lucrative business segments in Kenya.
Financial sector players must, therefore, pause and consider how they can empower women-led businesses while not neglecting their male counterparts. Mentorship and training opportunities that address the specific needs of female entrepreneurs are one way to support women-led businesses.
Non-financial benefits such as capacity building and mentorship forums, as well as partnerships such as the recent Absa Bank Kenya InspireME conference, are channels through which women entrepreneurs can receive business development and investment training to help them support their businesses.
Such opportunities not only allow women to make new business connections, but they also introduce new ideas and innovation into local industrial practices. These platforms support female entrepreneurs in their efforts to become the primary engines and accelerators of economic growth.