In the finance world, where numbers often tell a story, there is one figure that stands out starkly in Uganda’s banking sector – only 24% of women hold top leadership positions. This gender imbalance has caught the attention of Deputy Bank of Uganda Governor, Dr. Michael Atingi-Ego, who is calling for a concerted effort to promote women into leadership roles across all sectors.
The Uganda Bankers’ Association (UBA) recently highlighted this issue, revealing that while female employees make up 52% of the 19,362-strong banking workforce, the percentage of women in leadership positions dwindles as they climb the corporate ladder. Speaking at the inaugural Women Economic Empowerment Forum in Kampala, Sarah Arapta, Managing Director of Citibank and Chairperson of UBA, shed light on the disheartening statistics.
According to Arapta, 54% of women occupy entry-level positions, but the situation changes significantly further up the hierarchy. At the junior management level, only 49% are women, and at the senior management level, this drops to 41%. Shockingly, just 24% of women, or 16 out of 50, reach the highest Chief Executive and Executive Director positions.
The underrepresentation of women extends beyond leadership roles. It also affects female bank customers and the availability of products and services catering to their specific needs. Arapta acknowledged that while individual financial institutions have introduced various initiatives and programs for women in business, there’s still a glaring gap at the industry-wide level.
Despite this, she commended UBA’s member financial institutions for their ongoing efforts in providing services for both urban and rural women. However, Arapta stressed the need for a coordinated industry-wide approach to make a more significant impact.
Addressing the forum, Dr. Michael Atingi-Ego emphasized the positive impact of women in leadership positions, asserting that more women are being appointed to leadership roles in banks and financial institutions. Still, he underlined the persistent underrepresentation of women at the highest echelons of the financial industry and urged the need for more substantial efforts to promote women into leadership roles across all sectors.
The Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) initiative, established by UBA, aims to address this issue and is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5, which seeks to achieve gender equity and empower women and girls. Patricia Amito Lutwama, UBA’s Chief of Communications, pointed out that the goal of WEE is to create an enabling environment within the banking and financial services industry that promotes the growth of professional women, women leaders, and women entrepreneurs, ensuring their equal participation in the economy. It represents a crucial step toward closing the gender gap in Uganda’s banking sector and fostering a more inclusive and diverse financial industry.