One of the things which caught my attention in the Absa Bank Sustainability report which was launched some time last year was the fact that the bank had managed to achieve its 50/50 employee gender diversity target.

Gender diversity can be termed as the equitable or fair representation of people of different genders in an organization. With women making up 50% of the population, one might think that their presence in the workplace is given but this is not always the case. The truth of the matter is that women represent a smaller percentage of the workforce as compared to men. Which is why the fact that Absa had managed to achieve gender parity at the workplace is a cause for celebration.

In the past, the issue of gender diversity at the workplace has been such a concern that it was named as one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Gender Equality is Goal number 5 and it seeks to ensure that women enjoy full participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in the organization.

As a country, we have not been faring well in this matter, a fact which is highlighted in the Global Gender Gap Report 2023 by the World Economic Forum. In the report, Kenya dropped 20 places to rank 77th in the global ranking on matters gender parity from position 57 in the previous year. This goes to show the deliberate effort by the bank to make their workplace more accessible to women.

So how did Absa go about achieving this amazing feat that has remained elusive for many organizations? The journey towards gender diversity started 52 years ago when the then Barclays Kenya became the first bank in the country to promote a woman Agatha Obare to the position of Branch Supervisor in 1972. Mary Okello was promoted to the position of a Branch Manager in 1977. In 2014, the bank became the first listed company to achieve a 50:50 male to female representation at the board level.

According to the bank, Diversification & Inclusion is a key pillar of the organization that has helped them to ensure an inclusive work environment.




The secret sauce that has enabled the bank to achieve gender diversity appears to be the Absa Women Network Forum. The forum was created with an aim of attaining improved diversity and inclusion results for women through better representation of women leaders at senior management levels. It has also been a key advocate for quality pro women policies, products and programmes which has clearly has the desired effect.

The forum’s priorities include.

  • Driving gender diversity by supporting the leadership and career development of all women in the bank with a view to increasing the number of women in senior management.
  • Focusing on leadership development for female colleagues across all levels, but especially in middle management.
  • Creating a suitable environment that is empowering to all women, considering their unique needs.

Over the years, the forum has been a success going by the fact that it has enabled the bank achieve gender diversity. Some of its achievements in 2022 include.

  • 700 colleagues participated in Break the Bias Dialogue with Brenda Mbathi, President of GE East Africa.
  • Sponsored 10 delegates to Activate Women in Leadership Africa Summit, themed “Leading with Adaptability, Agility and Authenticity.”
  • Trained 351 colleagues on Gender Diversity, a training conducted by IFC.
  • Launched 253 ladies on mentorship undertaken by 47 female colleagues in senior management.
  • Sponsored three colleagues to join the Women on Boards training by FKE.
  • Facilitated a menopause conversation to support colleagues in October 2022.
  • Title sponsors in the 100 Women in Finance launch in Kenya.
  • Graduated 206 mentees in the She Mentorship Circles supported by 37 in-house mentors.

All in all, Absa Bank has shown that indeed with the right policies it is possible to close the gender gap and achieve diversity at the workplace. One can only hope that other organizations will rise to the occasion and make the desired changes to make their workplaces more accessible to women professionals.