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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  11 Mar 2013

WOMEN IN BUSINESS: Not Enough Women in Senior Management Positions in SA


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As the world celebrates International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March, Grant Thornton’s 2013 Women in Business research reveals that the percentage of working women in senior management positions in SA is inadequate and has been static for the past six years.

The 2013 Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) on women in business reveals that just over one quarter of top decision-making roles in SA businesses are filled by women. This is a long way off government’s ambition to ensure that 50% of senior management positions are filled by women.

As has been the case since 2009, only 28% of SA senior management positions are filled by women and the statistic has disappointingly flat-lined for five years. This stagnant five-year trend is the same when global averages are reviewed, with international businesses also showing no improvement since 2009, at 24%.

Even more concerning is the statistic that 21% of SA businesses surveyed for 2013 have no women at all in senior management positions.

The Grant Thornton IBR surveys the views and expectations of over 12 000 large privately-held businesses and mid-sized listed organisations per year across 44 economies, providing insights into SA and international perceptions.

“President Jacob Zuma’s commitment to gender equality in this year’s State of the Nation address, and his reiteration of the importance of upcoming legislation to uplift more women into decision-making roles, are to be welcomed,” says Jeanette Hern, partner and head of Corporate Finance at Grant Thornton Johannesburg. “It is pleasing to note that improving the status of women remains a critical priority for this government.”

The Bill on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, which seeks to ensure a 50/50 representation of women in decision-making structures in both the private and public sectors, has been approved by Cabinet for public comment.

“These stats indicate an urgent need for change,” says Hern. “However when SA businesses were asked whether they would support the introduction of quotas to legislate for more women on executive boards of large listed companies, it is pleasing to note that 60% of SA businesses surveyed said they would support the quota system,” says Hern.

In comparison, only 37% of businesses surveyed globally support government-enforced quotas, despite the same static position prevailing internationally.

The IBR survey revealed that only 15% of SA women are represented on boards, compared to 19% globally and 26% in the BRIC economies.

It is encouraging to note that the data revealed a significant improvement in terms of women in CFO positions in South Africa. Women Chief Financial Officers in SA more than doubled this year compared to 2012, up 128% from 14% to 32%. The number of CEOs continues to be low although slightly up from 2012 (from 8% last year to 10% for 2013). However, this is a big jump since 2011 when this number was only three.

“This steady improvement – although still small at this stage - may fair well for us in the long term - the number of accomplished women in CFO positions could just be the launch pad for women achieving a greater presence at a corporate board level,” Hern continues.

The good news for SA women is that local businesses are among the leaders who plan to hire more women this year. 32% of SA organisations indicated intentions in this direction, compared to BRIC (17%) and global (15%) businesses.

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