Businesswomen from around the world recently found support and information at the 10th annual summit of the Global Banking Alliance for Women, an organization committed to the growth of women in business worldwide. Among those attending was Theopista Sekitto-Ntale, senior vice president of the DFCU bank of Uganda.
Sekitto-Ntale says she has worked in the banking industry for the past 12 years at some of Africa’s major banks. She says when it comes to banking, women in Africa face some unique challenges.
One of them is poor infrastructure, she says, making it difficult to reach women in rural villages. Language is also a challenge because many countries are multi-lingual.
“You have to translate brochures into 50 languages,” says Sekitto-Ntale, and “English is a language for the elite woman.”
But the biggest challenge, she says, is culture.
“There is a perception that African women should always be dependent on the man. It doesn’t really go over well with the men when they see a woman moving up economically, academically -- any sort of progression. There is a new thing in Uganda, where I come from, that you have to choose between the marriage and the money.”
In addition, Sekitto-Ntale says women don’t have the confidence to speak up about what they expect a service provider to give them.
“We are trying to do some mentoring and training programs to help women realize they are very important and have a right to certain products, to certain levels of service,” she says.
While African women do have some unique challenges, Sekitto-Ntale said what this summit showed is that in banking and business, there are situations that reach across the board and touch women in all corners of the globe.
“What I have come to realize is even in developed countries, the percentage of senior women sitting in boardrooms, and even in the U.S., the percentage is still at 30 (%) and in China, 28 (%). The problem that we share across the globe is (that) the percentage of women in senior management levels in the banking sector is very embarrassing,” says Sekitto-Ntale.
To improve in this area and help women progress in the banking industry, she says, “We need to design programs that are region specific, country specific -- then age (and) education specific, so it is not one dress fits all.”