FIP 73: Men Who Champion Women with Isaac Fokuo

Today we begin our new podcast takeover series with Tamsin Jones of The Boardroom Africa. Her first guest is Isaac Fokuo of Botho Emerging Markets Group who shares his thoughts on how men can be champions for women.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • The tools and tactics for building gender diversity from a male perspective, which for Isaac derives from where he is from and his family history. For Isaac, the word “diversity” implies a push and a pull and that there is a dominant conversation, which was not the case in his household where is mom and aunts were both family and business leaders. Isaac notes that in his own life, he tends to gravitate toward female-owned businesses because they resonate with his values.
  • Isaac explains the parallels between racism in the United States and gender discrimination in Africa, notably the similar excuse when hiring of “there are no qualified candidates” that are people of color or women. Isaac clarifies that qualified candidates are there, companies or institutions just need to look harder and those that have made an effort to diversify have been able to do so. For African institutions, he thinks they just need to be very deliberate in their diversity efforts.
  • In terms of unconscious bias, Isaac does think it exists – which can be both positive and negative – that can be based on peoples’ personal and family experiences and we should all be careful to manage these blind spots.
  • Isaac struggles to answer the question of the value of gender diversity, as the value seems to be so self-evident. Any company that sales to women – whether it is a bank, a retail business, or an NGO – need to have women on their staff so they can better understand their client base. Having a diverse team is also impactful for innovation and ownership because it allows people to expand beyond the group and give a voice to other people.
  • Finally, Isaac recommends that men who are looking to help diversity their boards or companies should start by understanding what are the entrenched self-interests that prevents gender inclusivity, finding other ways to include people in decision-making, being an advocate for women, and encouraging women to be advocates for themselves. He also suggests that it may be easier to diversify the workforce and management team before the board, as an additional way to provide evidence of the positive results that can come from gender diversity.

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