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Gender gaps in organizational Leadership in MTN and Orange Head offices in Douala: Issues and Prospects

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Statistical Analysis
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This study focused on investigating issues related to Gender Gaps in Organizational Leadership in MTN and Orange Head Offices in Douala. The major objective was to examine the causes and effects of gender gaps in organizational leadership and the implications for the mainstreamed in leadership.

The specific objectives include: to assess the general characteristics of gender gaps (inequality in MTN and Orange head offices Leadership; To find out factors responsible for gender gaps in leadership and the implications of these gaps for the mainstreaming of gender in organizational leadership).

The stratified random sampling technique was used to select Five hundred respondents into some four key departments in MTN and Orange (Central Administration, Human Resource, Mobile Financing and Marketing) who were administered the 500 questionnaires required for the study. Data were analysed using descriptive statistic and inferential statistics with the aids of SPSS software.

The findings show that though 56.60% of female employees of the workers in the organisations it was somehow difficult to find a woman to occupy a key leadership position in the organisation. It was also revealed that amongst the factors leading to the gender gap are women’s reproductive functions like family responsibilities at home which greatly interfere with women jobs.

Study shows gender gap at the top of leadership especially makes skilful and competence female employees feel discouraged to aspire and occupy leadership position and this may lead to waste of human and other resources. Recommendations have been made to MTN&Orange Cameroon, the government and other stakeholders to promote gender equality in the country and mainstream gender in organizational management. Suggestions have also been made for further studies.



1.1 Background to the Study

Social psychologists have had a popular interest in matters related to leadership which have transformed the field of social psychology to an empirically based understanding of leadership. During its creation, leadership was a call for attention in many disciplines and as the field kept on widening, scientists sustained interest in both leadership and topics that were fundamental in leadership processes (Hoyt & Simon, 2011).

Leadership position in organisations is often seen as a field of work that involves the setting of goals for both individual and groups of people in that organisation while making sure that the challenges faced by the organisation are also met (Cook, 2018). Leaders in organisations often rise to be at the top of administrative and executive positions due to their abilities to manage the present situation while looking toward the future task ahead (SEU, 2018).

This position also requires someone that can meet the needs of different kinds of people that are working together towards a goal but this position is mostly filled with one particular sex (men) all around the world and the other sex (female) are underrepresented in such positions.

In the past, leadership position has been dominated by men, and it is, however, essential for the status of both men and women to be considered in a tridimensional Sustainable Development (SD) approach because of the situation of women in the poor economy and their social status. During the past’s decade, women in Bangladesh, for example, have been marginalised and treated unequally, and their responsibilities were often underestimated to be less important in most societies.

SD cannot be achieved due to the lack of women involvement, which makes them be vulnerable for their poor social and economic positions in society especially in developing and undeveloped countries (Chowdhury & Dewan, 2014) which have to increase the proportion of women involvement in the development of the nation.

Genders of people are socially contracted differences that exist in communities leading to gender inequality and unequal rights (Georgina, 2014). WHO could see gender as attributes, activities, behaviour and roles a society will consider appropriate for men and women. But these roles and behaviours cause differences in communities that turn to favour only one group of gender over the other in wealth, political appointment, access to quality education and incentives.

Research on gender in organisational leadership was greatly ignored in social psychology within the past years due to lack of interest until around the 1970s were issued on gender in leadership began attracting the attention and interest of writers in popular press who started talking about women inherent marginalises in leadership positions (Hoyt, 2010).

Also, Arum (2011) carried out a study on whether or not there are sex differences, the gender gap in leadership positions in organisations and realized that these differences can be seen from a relationship based or task-based perspective due to the fact that men have primarily held leadership positions and they turn to have those perceptions of them being the most effective leaders.

A recent assessment of public opinion was conducted in America that found that 35% of employees in the organisation will prefer to have a male supervisor than a female one, while 23% choose but a female supervisor and 41% were neutral with no preference during the 90s.

But when this same research was conducted within the 20th centuries, 66% of the employee did prefer a male supervisor and only 5% for female as their leader (Newport & Wilke, 2013). This percentage has been relatively steady over the recent years, but after studying the male and female bosses in organisations  Newport & Wilke realised that majority of the workers did not prefer one gender over the other because acceptance of women as leaders was still trending upward.

Drilling down into the data, it was surprising to notice that 40% of female workers preferred a male leader whereas just 29% of men will prefer a male as their leader which means that most women will not want to be led by a female while most men would not also like to be driven by a male leader in the organisation.

These gender gaps in these nations are a result of unequal access to opportunities between both gender and gender gaps can be seen in most communities in areas of education, politics, cultures, payment, recruitment and leadership, just to name a few. But most often in organisations, the gender gap is mostly persisting in employee’s payrolls and leadership positions.

According to Hennig & Jardim (2009), they assumed that the ability for men and women to carry out responsible jobs in organisations are slightly different even thou, women do possess the appropriate job qualification for the task, but they still remain liable to discrimination.

In Africa, it is important to note that the nuclear family had some tremendous impact on the gender behaviours of children. In regard to the girl child, they are supposed to be submissive, inactive, avoidance of aggression and competition, which discourage them from taking a risk and some other qualities our culture consider to be feminine.

Based on ILO (2015), Statistics indicated that, even when both boys and girls in high school have the same college and career aspiration in life, the male sex often receive more parental encouragement to pursue their goals than the girl child. Studies have proved that boys and girls in a high school setting usually have the same career aspiration in life, but the boys receive more parental encouragement to pursue their goals than the girl child.

The world statistics indicate that women make up just 60.6% of the global population and 46.5% of the labour force but the number of women represented at senior corporate levels is significantly small by assessment making it readily identify the number of women at the top of leadership position in some organisations and political systems such as Chancellor Germany and PepsiCo’s CEO, but closer examinations reveal the real gender gap that still persists in most countries and organisations (Hoyt & Simon, 2011).

Most organisation turn to lose talent from a large pool of motivated female which was prohibited from many jobs, due to their sex. That is why the human capital theorists turn out to argue that, such underutilization of resources was disadvantageous and wasteful to the firm’s profitability and competitiveness.

Some studies have proven that most humans perceive successful managers to have the characteristics that are uniquely associated with men but which, the actual qualities of a successful manager are a combination of masculine (e.g., self-confidence, initiatives, forcefulness, task orientation) and feminine (e.g., feelings, concern for people and relationships) traits in an organisation.

According to Fensom (2016), he highlighted a wide gender gap that was still persistent in the Asian develop countries and the progress toward economic equality was still slow, with 59% being one of the widest gender gaps in 2008. The top countries who were making everything possible to close these gaps were Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Rwanda and Nicaragua coming 5th and 10th base on the world ranking, topping from developing countries who were globally recorded for their effort despite being from developing countries.

They were fast progressing in the empowerment of women in their countries. According to an EU report in 2012, women make up just 3.4% of president and chairs within the EU, and other parts of the world were also seeing the same trends even though the USA saw a slightly improved figure with 15.7%. Canada and Australia were both at the level of 10% of female board representation.

In the Asia Pacific region women made up just 6.5% of board members while in North-Africa and the Middle East could have just 3.2%, and in Australia, they could boast of 35.4% of female representation within government board seat making it seems, there is an improvement in women acquiring top leadership position.

It is true that Australia was doing remarkably well in representing women at the top leadership position in the country, but another Asian country that was far better off than any other country in Asia was the Philippines with regard to women status. Based on the Global gender gap report of 2014, the Philippines were ranked ninth in the world in terms of gender equality out of the global top 50 countries.

Notwithstanding their effort to mainstream gender in their country, they were also rank among the top countries in terms of educational attainment, as well as in the health and survival of women (Daniels, 2017). The proportion of women being in business in this country was remarkable encouraging as compared to the neighbouring countries.

The global professional services firm (GPSF) reported in its report that, the Philippines were ranked first for the number of women holding senior management roles in Southeast Asia and women were still able to comprise an average of 34% of corporate board seat in their nation. Also in Africa, some countries which have a high percentage of women as principal owners of firms such as Cote d’Ivoire (61.9%), Mali (58%), Angola (56.6%) and Zimbabwe (56.2%).

Countries like Madagascar, Botswana, Liberia and the Central African Republic could boast of 50%, but the countries with the lowest percentage of firms owned by a female in their regions are Eritrea at 4.2% and Sierra Leone with 7.9%. Guinea, Lesotho, Mauritius, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania and Cameroon ranged between 15% to 20% (ILO, 2015).

According to the ILO survey conducted in 2015 on 93969 enterprises in Cameroon did indicate that, while 27% of their employee were women in those enterprises only 10% could have female manager represented at the top of organisations and it was rare to find a female CEO of a large company that was established by a woman. 

Gender gaps in labour markets have been persistent over time, significant markets indicators clearly pacify the gender gaps in the market within the past years with women being marginalized from their rights as human and workers in organisations just because of the sex they possess and females life’s ambition have been weakened by their early childhood socialization in the nuclear family that have affected their behaviours and their way of thinking.

Due to this, there have been an overall picture of the gross under-representation of women in employment and leadership profile of public and private organisation in Cameroon and the gender gaps are more pronounced at the top of management than anywhere else.

Regarding some tertiary institutions in Africa. The statistics of the female academic head in their universities indicates that 6.1 per cent are employed in Ethiopia, 12.4 per cent in Nigeria, 17.6 per cent in Sierra Leone, 19.7% in Uganda and 20.1% in Cameroon (Georgina. 2014).

A Woman in Cameroon is less frequently found at line positions in the organisation but mostly represented in staff position which makes it difficult for them to have the opportunity to demonstrate their own competence and even in female-dominated occupations, men still have more opportunities to be promoted at the top as compared to their female colleagues in the organisation.

In regard to the health care sector, the promotion of women at senior management and director of hospitals has been shown to be slower in comparison to the men even though women hold most positions. However one doesn’t need to go that far to realise that gender discrimination does exist in the world when it comes to selecting a leader for a particular position.

In 2007, during the USA presidential election Gallup polls indicated that 14% of the voters stand against the opinion that the next president of the USA should be a woman and 10% of the US population swore not to vote for a qualified woman even doe is nominated by their party. And within the 89% who said they would vote for a woman 14% of them were not comfortable with that decision, which means that the level of trust given to women at top position is drastically small (Yndinda. 2010).

With all this discrimination faced on women around the world, the practice of gender mainstreaming (GM) was officially introduced by the European Commission that seeks to rectify gender gaps experienced by most organisations and their influence on education, working arrangement, family, career path and fertility (EU, 2010). 

The charter of a fundamental right in the EU also looked at GM as a strategy and method to struggle for equality between men and women in all action while prohibiting gender discrimination within them in society and in organisations.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

In 1979, CEDAW was adopted by the UN general assembly in other to fight for a women-specific treaty. The widespread and systematic discrimination of women in all spheres of life was still a global reality existing in most countries that was alarming and did call for attention. During the tenth anniversary of the Convention in 1989, almost one hundred nations from Eastern Europe and Central Asia had agreed to be bound by its provisions and were therefore obliged to work in accordance with the CEDAW laws put in place (Cuthbert, 2017).

This conversion explicitly acknowledges the general discrimination against women that continue to exist and then emphasised such discriminations that violate the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity. Discrimination against women in society are seen as those exclusions, distinction or restriction made on the basis of sex in political, social, economic and cultural fields which have the effect or purpose of impairing or abolishing the enjoyment, recognition or exercise by women, regardless of their marital status, on the foundation of equality of men and women human right and fundamental freedom (UN, 2009).

For example, looking at a scenario that happens in Peru of which article 168 of the Peruvian civil code provided that only men had the right to represent matrimonial property before the courts. “Mme. Avellanal was married to her husband and owned two apartment houses in Lima, she sews a tenant in court for not paying his rent but the supreme court held that she did not have the right to sew her tenant for overdue rent due to the fact that she was married, so only her husband had that right to represent matrimonial property (UN, 2018).

The woman was not satisfied with the court judgment, so she complained to the Human Right Committee, and it was found that Mme. Avellana has been denied equality before the court which constituted discrimination on the ground of sex”.

The aspect of violence against women in Cameroon is a prevalent problem, despite the country legal framework (UN, 2014). Based on the 2004 survey that was carried out in Cameroon, 13% of women had been sexually assaulted meaning, 500,000 women are raped each year in Cameroon as a result of violence. So advocate of human right made recommendation regarding Cameroon civil legislation, penal code, justice and legal centres and provision of victim’s services for the United States review of Cameroon.

Resolution 1325 (2000) of the United Nations Security

The 1325 resolution which is also known as the Maputo resolution was put in place to ensure that women should be part and fully participant at all level of conflict resolution meetings and crisis management committees. These resolutions provide that women should be allowed to work and also contribute as partners with the men’s having their own significant contribution. In account to protect and promote human and people rights in Africa under the African Charter on Human and People Rights (ACHPR, 2016).

These resolutions also emphasise obligations of some state parties based on the national and international human right always to protect the right of human, more particularly to guarantee the security of persons living in their own nation as well as the freedom of association, assembly and expression. But it was also noted that human right defenders face particular barriers in engaging in defence of human rights.

Reaffirming the importance of women role in the prevention and resolution of peace-building and conflicts in the world, the sectary general of member states did provide training guidelines and materials on the right and protection of women particular needs as well as involving women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding measures (UN, 2014).

That is why the African Platform for Action and the Beijing Platform for the action of 1995 and the Dakar Declaration of 1994 did call for all the member states of the United Nations, to take substantial steps to give greater attention to the human rights of women so as to be able to eliminate all forms of gender discrimination especially gender-based violence which affect women in most society (AU, 2013).

During the 1960s, the International Aid Communities (IAC) emphasise the aspect of women partaking in development and the improvement of their status in developing countries around the 1970s. The concept of Women in development (WID) that focused on women was introduced into the system, that seeks to integrate women into development phases, to increase their efficiency in existing roles and also to analyse their needs while advocating discrete development to women and lay emphasis on their development projects. But after some time during the 1980s, a new notion of Gender and Development (GAD) was introduced to replace WID.

GAD was eventually introduced to compare the social relationship of men and women and assumed that all development policies and projects could make a different impact on men and women (JICA, 2015) because this approach was eventually out to remove the gender barriers that could lead to the equitable participation of men and women in the growth process and also ensure access and control over resources that will work in accordance with the Sustainable development goals.

The equality of men and women in organisations is a fundamental development objective and is essential for men and women to partake equally in organisations and in the economy for better sustainable development Bank (2015). The World Bank paid consent to the Africa Region needs and was dedicated to improving the lives of women and men by assisting government partners with knowledge and finance to minimise such gaps.

In some countries in Africa like, Guinea, Madagascar, Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa, women increased their share in management jobs during the last decades and there was a slight decline based on the number of men that occupied management positions in Ethiopia and a reasonable decrease in Uganda (ILO, 2015) that made women start holding some top management positions.

According to Standing (2005) who made a similar study of Human Resource (HR) in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Cameroon and some other African countries noted that women formal sector of employment is mainly in health service sectors. This is because, women dominate the men as employees, holding 57.4% of the total employment but still, these women are concentrated at the lower end of the hierarchy and salary grades.

In Africa, some Commonwealth countries have addressed the political empowerment of women by promoting GAD in their nations like Rwanda, where women through legislative proportion hold 56% of the parliamentary seats and South Africa parliamentary seat consisted of 43.3% of women in the ruling political parties based on the African National Congress (ANC).

The conventional belief is always made that women are not good enough for a specific leadership position to be given to them, but the notion that women could only get married and bear children were implanted into the minds of men which turn to affect their consciousness and perception about the world around them (Georgina, 2014).

For instance, during the national conference that was held in Nigeria at recent times, a higher percentage of male participant overwhelmingly refused the motion to allow female sex to occupy executive positions in Nigeria politics because, in recent times, just about three female has been able to occupy the Vice-Chancellors position in Nigerian Universities since the beginning of University education in Nigeria, this university includes, the University of Benin, the University of Abuja and the University of Uyo.

And this created a perception and lack of confidence in the minds of these women that they can’t venture into leadership roles in the nation or in organisations while having stereotype believe that their sole purpose in the society is groomed to their marriage roles as wife, food provider and mothers, and are condition at an early age to start believing that a woman is inferior to a man and her place is at home.

But in the recent times now in Nigeria, the barrier of gender disparity have been minimised as women now occupied leadership positions, and some of them are a prominent entrepreneur who is owners of organisations who are doing exceptionally well in those companies.

Kenya also has been taking some affirmative actions toward gender equality and thus, have achieved a reasonable percentage of almost 40% of women representation in public and private functions in 2012, as a result of gender introduced as a performance measurement for federal authorities (URT, 2013). And they have been efforts in recruiting and promoting women in public service in other to introduce an organisational environment that is not one gender dominated but equal.

Based on the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA, 2015) that carry out a study in Cameroon in the agricultural and environmental protection sector to compare with 187 countries around the world on their Human Development Index (HDI) on knowledge, health and their living standard realized that Cameroon was part of the countries having the lowest HD and its level of gender gap within the Gender Development Index (GDI) was higher than the average of those other countries and almost same Sub-Sahara African countries with 0.872 representing countries with the largest level of gender disparities in their organisation.

MTN Cameroon (MTNC) and Orange are telecommunications companies in Cameroon which are subsidiaries of MTN group from South Africa and Orange group from France. Both companies have existed in Cameroon for a period of about 17 to 19years with diverse missions.

 MTNC head office is located at Rue Drouot Douala Akwa in the littoral region and with it sub-branches situated all over the regions of Cameroon with a total of about 15000 employees who are 99% Cameroonians, with the corresponding organisation top position been headed by men. While Orange Cameroon head office is located adjacent to MTNC head office still in the littoral region with its sub-branches also located all over the regions of Cameroon, with a total of about 17000 employees.

Based on the authorisation of the first mobile operator in Cameroon CAMTEL to MTN International and Orange international to operate in Cameroon, they have put themself as the leaders of electronic communication in the market, and are seen as essential partners of the socio-economic growth of Cameroon and Africa.  MTNC have played a significant role in the Cameroon economy as one of the biggest private investors in the country and secondly have contributed massively to the State revenue in terms of customs duties and taxes paid.

From the year 2000 to date, MTNC has created an average of 74 new direct jobs such as mobile money and some others of which women occupy 40% of them and the vitality of their work often provide daily income to about 200,000families. The organisations also host a foundation that contributes to the welfare of the communities in areas of education, health and community development of which the organisation uses 1% of its profit to perform all these activities.

Main while, Orange Cameroon have transformed the Cameroon economy to be a digital society based on some of their programs like Orange Fab, Challenge Innovation, Social Entrepreneur Price and also by providing APIs by young developer around the nation which leads to the continuous innovation of their services been delivered.

Orange Cameroon is more into fighting against the digital divide that makes women been left out in the digital world, so they empower women through their foundation know as Orange foundation to empower women via the deployment of Digital homes where many women and girls are being trained on digital technologies.

The organisation also pays more values to the Cameroonian numerous cultural activities that revive the traditions and languages of our diverse cultural groups. The organisation is even more into supporting festivals such as NGOUON, the “Fete du Coq”, NGONDO, MPOO and MEDUMBA to name a few.

1.2 Statement of the problem

During the past decades in many countries of the world especially the developing ones, organizational leadership is centred on males (Grant, 2018). Although greater numbers of women are involved in public services and despite the fact that an increasing number of countries are adopting equal opportunity policies to encourage and enable women to join the labour market in the world, in Cameroon just like in many African countries, only a few numbers of women are growing their profession and occupy leadership or top management positions.

There are improvements in women’s, academic and professional life in society, but it is still not very easy to find women progress within the labour market and occupy top leadership positions. It seems Gender issues related to the socio-economic differentiation of male and female highlighted, as an important issue in management and organizational studies in the 1980s & 1990s are affecting how employees get into leadership in organisational management.

Male dominance in organizational leadership seems to prevail with the few numbers of active women in the different sectors participating in top management in Cameroons organisations (Atanga, 2010).

This is the situation of MTN & Orange Cameroon where trends on all forms of leadership from Director-General to different heads of units show, there is a high presence of male leadership in management. Onalaja(2015) reported gender diversity in some telecommunication companies in Africa and reveal that women participation ranges from 10% to 52% and less than one in ten of their senior leaders are women.

It is not really clear whether women are being hindered or denied leadership just because they are women or whether men are mostly being preferred for recruitment and administrative or managerial positions in organizations than their female counterparts (Grant (2018).

Sometimes in MTN & Orange head offices Douala and Cameroon as a whole generally very few women possess the necessary qualification or charisma for leadership, but even when and where women have the potentials for leadership, they seem to be prevented by either their sex as women or somehow distracted by their reproductive functions that negatively affect their chances or position of leadership.

Also, there is the worry on why and how in some MTN and orange head office where there are skilled female workers with the potentials of good leadership qualities but not easily appointed or promoted for organizational leadership.A general observation of women in leadership in MTN & Orange of Douala municipality especially in the head office seems to be showing the trend with very few women as principals leaders, head of the unit and other leadership position of organisations.

What is responsible for this phenomenon and how this may be affecting the productivity of the organization and the career inspiration present and prospective female are the worries of this study (Agassy, 2013).  Gender equality in the workplace implies that equal enjoyment by women and men of socially-valued goods and facilities for effective work, hiring opportunities, resources, rewards and promotion.

This does not mean that men and women become the same, but that their opportunities and professional development should be without gender discrimination that may show up in various dimensions including hiring discrimination, differences in salary and wages, discrimination/differences in the promotion to leadership and inequity related to different goods and facilities provided to a different gender (Sperandio and Kagoda, 2005).

Around the 20th century till date, the condition of women has been improving in several aspects but never the less, the gender gap is in favour of the males with a remarkable absence to access power and leadership position because female managers still represent the minority as compared to the men (Seghieri et al., 2015).

The focus is more on women than men because women most of the time are not very present in top leadership positions like men. Although women make up about 60% of the Cameroon population, there is still an uneven low number of them at senior leadership positions in all areas as presented in the statistic above. Most civil service organisations hiring men into senior management positions has been used as an instrument of control over female employees.

Although this may be treated by society as legitimate, the practice still continues (Olufemi et al, 2011). In some private organisational cases in Cameroon, there is some distingue task that is mostly delegated to men in the organisation while some to female even when both genders possesses the qualities to perform the task.

Therefore, the purpose of this work is to investigate the indebt causes of gender difference in organisational leadership of MTN & Orange Cameroon Douala Head Offices, what causes the  leadership positions in organisations and what can be done to mainstream gender in leadership positions in organisations.

1.3 Objective of the study

The main objective of the study is to investigate the causes and effects of gender gaps in the organizational leadership of MTN and Orange Cameroon head offices in Douala and the implications for the mainstreaming gender in organizational management.

The specific objectives of this study are:

  • To assess the general characteristics of gender gaps (inequality) in organizational Leadership in MTN and Orange head offices
  • To investigate the factors responsible for the gender gaps in the organisation’s leadership of MTN and Orange Cameroon head office.
  • To assess the implications of these gaps and propose strategies through which gender can be mainstream in these organisations.

1.4 Research questions

The main research question of this study is to investigate gender gaps in the organisational leadership of MTN and Orange head offices in Douala?

Specific research questions:

  • What are the general characteristics of the gender gap that exist in leadership in MTN and Orange head office?
  • What are the various factors responsible for the gender gaps in the organisation’s leadership in MTN and Orange head offices which affect women career development?
  • What are the implications of gender gaps and propose strategies to be used to mainstream gender in the organisational leadership of MTN and Orange head office?


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