Happy International Women's Day

Even though women in South Africa are far from being equal to their male counterparts.

Today marks International Women’s Day and, this year, the theme is “press for progress”. It is a “strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive”. However, while gender equality has progressed in South Africa, there is still a need for improvement as the unequal representation of men in positions of power continues. Also, Women in South Africa earn 27 percent less than men, on average.  For the past seven years, Bain & Company has researched how and why the career paths of women and men differ. In a 2017 report, it examines the lessons learnt from previous studies and looks for opportunities to apply them to better address gender parity in the South African workplace.


Among other things, the report lists some concerning statistics about the representation of women in corporate South Africa. Citing the latest Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa (BWASA) census on women in leadership, it indicates that 22 percent of board directors are women, but only 7 percent are executive directors. Furthermore, only 10 percent of South African CEOs are women, and if we look solely at companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), this number drops to 2.2 percent according to the BWASA census. Overall, the percentage of women in senior leadership roles has been relatively flat, with representation increasing slightly from 26 percent in 2004 to 28 percent in 2017. South Africa is on par with the rest of the African continent, where 29 percent of senior leadership roles are held by women, and performs better than some developed countries, such as the UK (19 percent) and Australia (23 percent). However, the percentage of CEOs who are women in South Africa (10 percent) is lower than the global average of 12 percent. Representation matters, as studies suggest that for minorities to have their voices heard as an influential body and not as a token, this figure needs to be 30 percent or higher.


Furthermore, South Africa is ranked 19 in a new global index report on gender inequality released by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The report finds that while South Africa has improved its share of women legislators, senior officials and managers, the gender wage gap in the country has increased.  The Geneva-based organisation’s annual report tracks the disparities between the sexes in four areas: education, health, economic opportunity, and political empowerment. It states that women’s steady advances in the areas of education, health and political representation have plateaued, and for the fourth year running, equality in the workplace has slipped further from view. The most recent report states that, at the current rate of progress, it would now take a full 100 years on average to achieve overall gender equality.