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Another side of #MeToo: Male managers fearful of mentoring women

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Another side of #MeToo: Male managers fearful of mentoring women

A picture shows the message “Me too” on the hand of a protester during a gathering against gender-based and sexual violence on the Place de la Republique square in Paris on October 29, 2017. PHOTO | AFP | FILE 

Men attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this year were worried about a lot of things. A global economic slowdown. Threats to cybersecurity. Populism. War.

And, several acknowledged at the meeting this past week, mentoring women in the #MeToo era.

“I now think twice about spending one-on-one time with a young female colleague,” said one American finance executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the issue is “just too sensitive.”

“Me, too,” said another man in the conversation.

The #MeToo movement, which burst into the spotlight in the fall of 2017, bringing down powerful figures in Hollywood, the media, politics, sports and more, continues to reverberate 15 months later.

It has empowered women to speak up about harassment in the workplace and forced companies to take the issue more seriously.

More than 200 prominent men have lost their jobs, and nearly half of them were succeeded by women.

But in one unintended consequence, executives and analysts say, companies seeking to minimise the risk of sexual harassment or misconduct appear to be simply minimising contact between female employees and senior male executives, effectively depriving the women of valuable mentorship and exposure.

“Basically, #MeToo has become a risk-management issue for men,” said Laura Liswood, secretary-general of the Council of Women World Leaders, an organisation for former and current female political leaders.

It’s a problem many have acknowledged. Last February, two online surveys by Lean In and SurveyMonkey on the effects of #MeToo in the workplace found that almost half of male managers were uncomfortable engaging in one or more common work activities with women, such as working one on one or socialising.

One in six male managers was uncomfortable mentoring a female colleague, according to the studies, which together surveyed nearly 9,000 adults employed in the United States.

Pat Milligan, who leads research on female leadership at consulting firm Mercer and advises multinational companies on gender and diversity issues, said many of her clients had voiced concerns over saying or doing “the wrong thing” since #MeToo drew broad international attention.

“A number of men have told me that they will avoid going to dinner with a female mentee, or that they’re concerned about deploying a woman solo on-site with a male,” Milligan said. “People are concerned and have questions.”

“If we allow this to happen, it will set us back decades,” Milligan said. “Women have to be sponsored by leaders, and leaders are still mostly men.”

The main focus now, she said, is education. When male executives tell her that they are considering deliberately avoiding women, she tells them bluntly that would be illegal.

“Just replace the word ‘woman’ with any minority,” she said. “Yes, you have to talk about the right kind of behaviour, but you can’t stop interacting with women.”

Such hesitance among male managers, while intensifying in the #MeToo era, has long been an issue.

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Research by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett found that two-thirds of male executives hesitated to hold one-on-one meetings with women in more junior positions, for fear they could be misconstrued.

Vice President Mike Pence has said that he never dines alone with a woman other than his wife, a maxim that has become widely known as the Pence Rule.

Beyond the mentorship issue, some indicators of gender equality are slipping, though it is hard to establish any link with #MeToo.

In its December report examining educational opportunities, life expectancy, pay equity and other factors, the World Economic Forum predicted that it would take 202 years for gender parity to be reached in the workplace.

That is significantly more than the estimate of 170 years in 2016.
Of the Fortune 500 companies, just 24 had female chief executives in 2018, down from 32 a year earlier. While the number of female heads of government has more than doubled since 2000, they still make up just 6 percent, according to data from the United Nations.

“Gender fatigue,” Milligan said, noting that the #MeToo movement had come after an intense decade of raising awareness on gender imbalances.

“The business case for women had been made,” Milligan said. “We were rocking it. And then #MeToo happened.”

One challenge is to assess the risk of sexual harassment in a company and to identify men who make women uncomfortable — or worse, harass them.

Traditional tools like employee surveys are not effective, said Milligan, who recommends technological tools that allow for real-time and anonymous chats.

Once companies have identified those who make women uncomfortable, they have to assess whether the men are “clueless, creepy or criminal,” Milligan said.

“If you think they are clueless, you can coach them,” she said. “Clueless can become creepy very quickly if you don’t address it.”

“If they are creepy, you have to act,” she added.

Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, said it was important to show zero tolerance to bad behaviour of any kind.

“It’s not enough to stand by when toxic masculinity is on display,” he said. “It’s not enough to stand by and say ‘that’s not me.’ You need to be a role model for the next generation.”

‘Safe spaces’ for men

But men also need “safe spaces” to air their confusion and concerns about what behaviour might qualify as bad, he said.

“We need something like Lean In circles for men,” he said, referring to the movement inspired by the Sheryl Sandberg book to empower women in the workplace and beyond.

Shelley Zalis of the Female Quotient, a company dedicated to achieving workplace equality, spoke of a climate of “microsensitivity.”

“I tell women, before you take offense, make men aware that you are uncomfortable, as it may not be intentional,” she said. “Women and men must work together to write a new script for what’s OK in the workplace so we all feel safe.”

Otherwise, she said, men may avoid women more, making the path to senior leadership positions even trickier.

Not everyone is convinced that men have altered their behaviour all that much in the #MeToo era.

Stephanie Ruhle, a banker-turned-television anchor, pointed out in a Davos panel titled the Future of Masculinity that men on Wall Street had never really gone out of their way to promote women before #MeToo, either.

“Could this be an excuse?” she said.



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BCCI: The bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.

BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.

It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.

BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.

The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.

He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.

In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  

BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.

The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.

The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.

Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.

It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.

The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.

It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”

This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.

The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.

And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.

“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.

BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.

“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.

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A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.

“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.

CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.

This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.

For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.

In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.

Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 

The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.

Criminal culture

In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).

The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.

This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.

Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.

“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.

These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.

“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.

BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).

Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).

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Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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East Africa celebrates top women in banking and finance

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The Angaza Awards for Women to watch in Banking and Finance in East Africa took place Online via Zoom on 8th June 2021.

The event was set to celebrate the top 10 women shaping banking and finance across East Africa. The 2021 Angaza Awards, which will be a Pan-African Awards program, was also announced at the event.

Key speakers at this webinar were Dr Nancy Onyango, Director of Internal Audit and Inspection at the IMF; and Gail Evans, New York Times Best Selling Author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman and former White House Aide and CNN Executive Vice President.

Dr Nancy Onyango advised women to deep expertise in their fields, spend time in forums and link with key players in that sector.
“Gain exposure with other cultures by seeking for employment overseas and use customized CV for each job application,” said Dr Onyango.

According to Gail Evans, women should show up and be fully present in meetings and not be preoccupied with other issues.
“Be simple and avoid jargon. Multi-tasking only means that you are mediocre Smart people ask good questions in a business meeting. Most women face drawbacks due to perfectionism, procrastination and fear of failure, said Evans.

She advised women to play like a man and win like a woman, be strategic, and intentionally make their moves to get to the top.

“For us to pull up businesses that have been affected by effects of COVID-19 pandemic, we need to re-invent business models, change the product offering and make more use of digital platforms,” said Mary Wamae Equity Group Executive Director.

Mary Wamae emerged top at the inaugural Angaza awards( East Africa) ahead of other finalists.

While women continue to excel in banking and finance, the number of that occupies top executive positions is still less.

“There is a gap for women occupying C suite level and it continues to widen in the finance sector. At entry level, there is still an experience gap for women,” said Nkirote Mworia, Group Secretary for UAP-Old Mutual Group.

She said that at the Middle Management level, women do not express their ambition. For this reason, UAP-Old Mutual has developed an executive sponsorship program to help women get to the next level.

Mworia added that most women hold the notion that top positions in management have politics and pressure.
“One needs leadership skills and not technical expertise to get to the top,” said Mworia.

According to Catherine Karimi, Chief Executive Officer and Principal Officer of APA Life Assurance Company, women need to focus on the strengths and natural abilities that they already have.

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“Take risks and raise your hand to get to the high table. Find mentors along the way and develop your own brand and not compare yourself with others Focus on your strengths because it will make you move faster in the career ladder,” said Karimi.

Lina Mukashyaka Higiro, a Rwandan businesswoman and chief executive officer of the NCBA Bank Rwanda since July 2018, has three lessons for women who want to excel in banking and finance.
“Always spend at least 20 minutes each day reading, seeking genuine feedback from other staff members and widen your network,” Higiro told the webinar.

Women picked for Angaza awards

Mary Wamae, Executive Director, led this year’s Top 10 Women in Angaza Awards, Equity Group (Kenya)(2)Catherine Karimi, Chief Executive Officer, APA Life Insurance Company (Kenya)(3)Lina Higiro, Chief Executive Officer, NCBA Bank (Rwanda)(4)Elizabeth Wasunna Ochwa, Business Banking Director, Absa Bank (Kenya)(5)Joanita Jaggwe, Country Head of Risk and Compliance, KCB Group (South Sudan)(6) Millicent Omukaga, Technical Assistance Expert on Inclusive Finance, African Development Bank (Kenya)(7)Emmanuella Nzahabonimana, Head of Information Technology, KCB Group (Rwanda)(8)Judith Sidi Odhiambo, Group Head of Corporate Affairs, KCB Group (Kenya)(9)Rosemary Ngure, ESG & Impact Manager, Catalyst Principal Partners (Kenya) and(10)Pooja Bhatt, Co-Founder, QuantaRisk and QuantaInsure (Kenya).

The Kenyan Wallstreet, a financial media firm, partnered with Kaleidoscope Consultants to raise awareness of seasoned women shaping and influencing the sector through their organizations.

The Angaza Award criteria included assessing the applicants’ area of responsibility and contribution to firm performance. Professionals in Banking, Capital Markets, Insurance, Investment Banking, Fintech, Fund Management, Microfinance, and SACCOs were invited to submit their applications or nominations via the Kenyan Wallstreet Award Web page.

ALSO READ: Angaza Awards Top Finalist; Mary Wangari Wamae

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IFC in New Partnership to Develop Affordable Housing in Mombasa County

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 14 – International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, has signed a new deal in support of affordable housing in Kenya.

The corporation has partnered with Belco Realty LLP, to develop a mixed use affordable living complex that will consist of 1,379 residential units and over 4,500 square meters of retail and commercial spaces in Kongowea, Mombasa County.

Together with the Kenyan firm, IFC says the partnership will help meet surging demand for housing in Kenya.

Under the agreement, IFC will help identify suitable international strategic partners to invest equity of up to $12 million, or Sh1.3 billion in Belco and to provide the company with the necessary technical support to develop the project.

The development, known as Kongowea Village, will be developed to foster inclusive and affordable community living within the city.

Jumoke Jagun-Dokunmu, IFC’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa says the project, which will be located on eight acres within the heart of Mombasa city, will aim to be a catalyst for wider city regeneration.

The project will be developed to meet IFC EDGE certification requirements and will incorporate the latest technologies in passive cooling, energy efficiency and water conservation to support sustainable urbanization.

 Kongowea Village is expected to create 1,160 jobs and business opportunities during the three-year construction period and many more after completion of the project within the themed retail arcade.

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 “Access to quality housing is a growing problem in Kenya and across Africa,” said Jumoke Jagun-Dokunmu, IFC’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa.

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“Developers often target the high end of the market, but this project is aimed squarely at the lower-income bracket. Helping Belco identify the right partners for this project is expected to attract more developers to Kenya and other parts of Africa to help meet rising demand for housing.”

 IFC‘s engagement with Belco will help Kenya support its rapidly growing and urbanizing population by increasing access to affordable housing. The problem is similar across most of Africa, where population growth and demand for quality housing are combining to outstrip supply.  We are pleased to partner with a company such as Belco that is committed to contributing to solving this challenge,” said Emmanuel Nyirinkindi, IFC‘s Director for Transaction Advisory Services.

 IFC’s partnership with Belco is part of its broader strategy to support better access to affordable housing in Kenya.

In 2020, IFC invested $2 million in equity in the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company (KMRC) to help increase access to affordable mortgages and support home ownership in the country.

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