Black (wo)man, you’re (still) on your own

2013-04-21 10:00

Employment Equity Commission names transformation leaders in carrot and stick approach

The Commission on Employment Equity this week named eight listed companies that had either surpassed or met their goals to transform.

They are Tongaat Hulett, Old Mutual, SABMiller, Sasol, Truworths, Pick n Pay, MTN and SAA.

The eight companies are the best of a group of 30 listed companies chosen by the department of labour for on-site reviews by the department’s director-general.

They won kudos in a report replete with critique.

Tighter management by the department of labour means compliance levels are up.

This year the commission had a base of 23 312 reports to work on – in 2002, the commission only received 6?990 reports from corporates.

It is time for “sunrise clauses” not sunset clauses, as some have suggested, to prop up employment equity, according to the Employment Equity Commission’s chairperson, Loyiso Mbabane.

He compared the progress of “designated groups” – legalspeak for those targeted for affirmation – to a “drunkard’s walk”, walking away from the bar and back to it.

Progress was muted this year, and lower than previous years for both black people and women in senior management.

White occupation of top and senior management is still dominant.

In 2002, for example, eight in 10 top managers were white.

Today, the figure is more than seven in 10.

Female top managers are now at one in five, up from a much lower base but still nowhere near equality.

At professional and skilled levels, workplace representation is beginning to normalise with faster black progress, another glimmer of light in a report that was largely a picture of stalling progress.

The commission, which analysed progress made between 2002 and last year, estimated that at the current rate, it would take “centuries” for black females to reach the levels of their white counterparts, as gender and racial discrimination continue to thwart transformation in the workplace.

The report showed that black African people accounted for only 12.3% of all senior management positions, an increase of only 2.3 percentage points in 10 years.

Meanwhile, only 4.6% of coloured South Africans were at the same level last year, an increase from 3.4% in 2002.

White people “overdominated” senior management positions at 72.6% last year, even though they constitute only 11.3% of all economically active people in South Africa, the report states.

The commission’s Mbabane lamented the fact that last year South African employers favoured white people for promotions, recruitment and skills development.

Almost twice as many white males (34.5%) went through skills development at senior management last year, compared with African males (16.6%).

More white males (42.6%) and white females (17.1%) were recruited into senior management than any other male ethnic group – black Africans (12.7%), coloureds (4%) and Indians (6.7%).

The promotion trends were also as “predictable”, with a higher percentage of white males (32.1%) promoted into senior management posts last year than any other racial grouping.

Only 16.8% of all promotions into senior management were for African males, with coloured males constituting 5.6% and Indian males 7.8%. Black

African females scored 9.1% in promotions and Indian females 4.5%.

Mbabane said: “If anything, the data on the trends over the past 10 years cry out for a sunrise clause. There is still a great need for employment equity in South Africa.

“The challenge lies in the approach. The spirit of the Employment Equity Act ought to be brought back. The designated group members (black Africans, coloureds and Indians) who are now in senior management and top management have yet to flex their muscle.

“We need transformation leaders and transformation management. We need to go back to the drawing board and revisit the fundamentals. The leaders and managers who are committed to non-discrimination and employment equity are called upon to rise up to the challenge.

“The report is an indictment on the part of past and current leadership in all sectors.”

Mbabane added that amendments to the Employment Equity Act, the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act and the Affirmative Action Amendment Bill were welcome since the changes are meant to strengthen enforcement and compliance to transformation policies.

But according to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, government could not intervene until the laws were changed.

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