The concentration of women investors on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) has increased substantially for the first time in a decade, raising hopes of gradually bridging the gender gap among stockholders.
Statistics by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) show that about 513,062 women had invested in the Nairobi bourse as at June, accounting for 34 percent of the total investors. This was a slight improvement from an almost flat record of 32 percent since 2010 when such data was first provided.
And more uplifting in the push for gender parity is that the number of women investors grew at a faster rate of 87 percent from the 273,254 registered in 2010 to 513,063 as at June, compared to 71 percent for men over the same period. There were 1,000,955 registered male investors on the NSE as at June.
In tandem with the rise in number of women investors, shares held by women also increased by 37 percent from 1.7 billion in 2010 to 2.4 billion in June.
The number of shares held by men increased 9.7 percent to 7.8 billion from 7.1 billion over the same period.
The shift is a good sign for women, long locked out of business and investment opportunities by cultural norms which favoured men.
With more women, especially the young, learning about investment and wealth creation, their participation in the securities market is gradually rising.
Though women hold ambition for economic participation, lack of capital has been a major hindrance—a challenge that could be partly addressed through deeper participation in the securities market for wealth and business capital generation.
A recent World Bank survey report Women, Business and the Law shows that cultural norms that barred women in Kenya from owning land and their low capitalised enterprises hurt their prospects of accessing credit to grow their businesses compared to men who were able to borrow large amounts of money.
Most women, it found, relied on micro credit facilities run on mobile apps where money borrowed was paid within days allowing the women traders to borrow afresh the next day. The mobile lenders preferred female borrowers because they have a higher score in repaying loans than men.
The investment capacity of women in Kenya is hurt by pay disparities which favour men. A recent survey report covering the 61 Kenyan companies listed on the NSE—Gender equality in Kenya—revealed that on average, a Kenyan woman is paid Sh68 for every Sh100 paid to a man.
This means, women end up losing a third of their earnings every month due to wage gap. The import of this, in an age where women are now considered co-providers in families and main breadwinners in other situations, is huge.
Data by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), shows that though women are predominant in household and social work acuities by 60.6 percent and 57.7 percent respectively, men dominate high-paying sectors such as manufacturing and real estate by 79.6 percent and 76.1 percent, respectively.
KNBS numbers further show that women accounted for only 38 percent of the population earning a monthly salary of Sh50,000 compared to the 68 percent of men in that pay group. About 45,119 women earned a monthly salary of Sh100,000 and above, compared to 87,400 men in that pay group. In the Sh50,000-99,000 monthly pay group, there were about 33,898 women compared to 550,264 men.
Despite such disparity, there is a growing push for more women- owned business enterprises in Kenya owing to their superior impact.
The World Bank survey report published in March shows that women-led businesses in Kenya have a bigger investment impact, supporting huge portions of household budgets.
In Kenya, firm-level profits earned by women entrepreneurs represent on average 65 percent of their household income while these businesses mainly employ women, the survey further shows — boosting their multiplier financial effects, both on the national economy and on households.
“Women-led businesses mostly employ women, which shows they can be a catalyst for bringing more women into the workforce. About 75 percent of the workers in female-owned enterprises are women (when excluding the business owner), while in male-owned businesses, only 20 percent of employees are women,” the study shows.
The women businesses in Kenya also have an edge in innovation due to more engagements with customers to establish their special needs.
“A survey of female-owned firms in Kenya, 82 percent of female entrepreneurs indicated that they ask customers if there are other products or services the clients would buy from them. Almost 20 percent of women business owners said also that they were planning to introduce new products or improve existing products in the coming two years,” says the World Bank.
However, 31 percent of the women entrepreneurs in Kenya suggested that they were unwilling to try something new unless they were 100 percent certain it would succeed.
With such huge potential, the World Bank says providing women with access to secure mechanisms for savings, including bank accounts and mobile savings technology, can increase their business investment and support the overall economy.
“For example, providing female market vendors in Kenya with access to savings accounts enabled large increases in business investment (over 45 percent) and consumption (37 percent), while no impact was found in providing such accounts to male motorbike drivers,” it says.
Adding access to business bank accounts to support formalisation led to significant increases in women’s use of business bank accounts and insurance, and also enabled more women to separate household and business money.
“This led to large impacts on sales and profits for female entrepreneurs. On the other hand, increased access to financial services does not always translate into greater use by women. In Kenya, researchers found that providing free ATM cards, which reduced withdrawal fees and increased account accessibility, increased overall account use” says the World Bank further.