HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsWomen bankers, glass ceiling: Part 2

Women bankers, glass ceiling: Part 2


Last week’s article elicited significant interest from readers of the Financial Sector Spotlight (FSS).

I am not a human resources expert, so when I set out to write the article, the only intention was to highlight the issue of boardroom diversity in as far as it concerns women because of its implications on performance.

I did not intend to wade into a full scale polemic on the subject but having received some interesting feedback, I could not resist the direction in which the debate was heading, so the follow-up article came naturally.

But first, a point of correction: Due to a typographical error, the table we published last week showed that Stanbic Bank has one female director.

For the record, the bank has three female directors, which when expressed as a percentage of the total number of directors comes up to 27% instead of 9%.

The correction also marginally increases the average for female directors for the nine banks we surveyed to 21%, up from 19%.

On another note, FSS wishes to congratulate Stanbic for being nominated for this year’s African Banker Awards’ Best Local Bank Award which recognises the bank’s stature as one of Africa’s top five banks with regard to the application of best practices in domestic operations.

And now for some of the feedback.

Blessing Muzawazi is a Masters Degree student at the York Management School (University of York) in the United Kingdom.

He thought the article made “good reading” and “was a cleverly written piece . . . similar to my area of research interest”.

Muzawazi recently submitted a dissertation titled: Boardroom diversity in UK FTSE 100 Banks (2003-2010): A Critical Analysis of the Gender and Ethnic Composition of Directors and how these might have impacted on Bank Performance during the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008, in which he argues that “a balance of males, females and ethnic minorities provides better outcomes and improves performance”.

“We found conclusive evidence that the banks that included a combination of ethnic minority and female directors performed well during the financial crisis,” says Muzawazi.

Brett Chulu, a fellow columnist who writes regularly in the Zimbabwe Independent on HR issues, thought the glass ceiling exists because: “The cultural software written into our womenfolk is difficult to overwrite.

Family upbringing is a serious management job and women seem to be better experts at it.

It is possible that the natural psychological wiring brings some form of internal tension when womenfolk do not give much attention to family issues.

Inevitably the pull of family relationships to ‘keep the family together’ wins over the testosterone-laden boardroom environment.”

Charles Kwinjo, who also said he was working on a dissertation on the same topic, said: “The glass ceiling is real, as the numbers in your table reveal. I wonder what the numbers are like at management level?

This is particularly so if I take your remark that Zimbabwe’s ratios are better than the First World’s.

Certainly, men are still deeply entrenched in the upper echelons of power in many sectors.

The simple reason is that formal organisations were initially created by men for men.”

Interestingly, only one female reader calling herself Tat Donna responded to the article.

“I am a final year student and my class had lesser girls than boys and there was a tendency for boys to dominate the discussions more.

Why? I really don’t know.

Then when I did my attachment I found it very difficult to get a mentor.

There were lots of males and the few females there were just unreachable.

And to sail in this or any field without a proper mentor is difficult.

I have put it upon myself that when I get to the top I will start a mentoring group.

Lawyers have them and they are working, but as bankers (female bankers in particular) we are just missing it.”

Solomon Mugwise, a male banker, had this to say about the glass ceiling: “I have my own views about women which I normally do not want discussed in public because the world we live in is very unkind to candid views/comments.

It is not that I have anything against women but I just want to comment about issues as I see them.

Whether I support or I am against the status quo that is a debate for another time.

For a woman to rise to those dizzy heights you mentioned it’s either 1) they are exceptional (extremely);

2) they have failed in a marriage (even men can be successful at the expense of family);

3) they have been put in positions as window dressing (not genuine);

or 4) it’s bowing down to current pressures to have women in those positions.

“For people to have a better understanding of issues affecting women they need to refer to the Bible.

Unfortunately some people interpret the Bible to suit their own views and not to understand the will of God . . . My advice to women would be to work hard as human beings and not to be looking at themselves as women.

They may rise to those positions by having their own companies as opposed to waiting for someone to appoint them.

They should also understand their God-given roles without any biases.”

Some of the sentiments expressed above tie-in with existing research.

According to Lyness and Heilman (2006), women are less likely to be promoted than males, and if they are promoted they have stronger performance ratings.

Lyness and Heilman found out that performance ratings are more strongly connected to promotions for women than men, suggesting that women have to be highly impressive to be considered eligible for leadership roles.

Experts also contend that women are more likely to choose jobs on the basis of factors other than pay, such as healthcare and a schedule that can be successfully managed together with the duties of primary care of children, for which women are still overwhelmingly responsible.

A woman is therefore less likely to take a job that requires travel or relocation or one that is hazardous, it is argued.

It is also argued that gender inequality is often embedded within the social hierarchy and this affects how women and men are perceived in leadership roles since different traits are ascribed to females, which when compared to men may result in unfounded biases.

From the feedback above, it would appear that the glass ceiling is real but despite its inhibitive characteristics, many women have managed to break it and rise to the top.

Such women may however face a glass of another kind, the glass cliff whereby they find that they have been promoted into risky, precarious leadership positions where the chances of failure are high.

Zimbabwean banking history is not short of examples of women who, having impressively risen to the top, suddenly disappear without a trace.

For some, however once they scale the heights, they last the distance, but at considerable personal sacrifice, it would appear.

Omen N Muza is a banker and Managing Director of TFC Capital (Zimbabwe) (Pvt) Ltd. He writes in his personal capacity. Feedback: omen.muza@gmail.com

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