New JSE chair still among select few women in top positions

2013-12-15 06:00

The news this week that Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita was appointed as the first black and female chairperson of the JSE served to highlight just how far women lag behind their male counterparts in the world of business.

According to the 2012 Women in Leadership Census conducted by the Business Women’s Association of South Africa (BWASA), while women make up 52% of the South African population, the statistics in business do not reflect this.

About 3.6% of CEO positions are occupied by women and women also occupy: 5.5% of chairperson positions, 17.1% of directorships and 21.4% of executive management positions.

In a previous interview with City Press, CEO of Shanduka Group Phuthi Mahanyele painted the picture of women in the corporate environment:

“You’ll have about 50% of women coming into business, and then as you go up the ranks, that’s where the numbers become low. So when you look at your CEO and exco levels, it’s [at] the single-digit level,” she said.

BWASA has released another study looking at how women-owned businesses fare in government procurement – the tender system.

The study found that despite the existence of a policy framework that provides preferences for previously disadvantaged groups, women-owned businesses (WOBs) still face various barriers in accessing government procurement and supply chains.

“WOBs are underrepresented in public procurement when compared [with] their male counterparts. While no aggregated data is available on total women spend in terms of public procurement in South Africa, WOBs are unlikely to account for more than one quarter of procurement spend. This is likely to be much lower,” the report said.

The report attributed this underrepresentation to the absence of a policy stance that explicitly promotes equality for women-owned businesses and drives the promotion of women-owned businesses (WOB) in South Africa.

“This includes technicalities such as definitional inconsistencies in terms of what is defined as a WOB, a lack of standardised targets that are set for allocation of a share of public procurement to WOBs, the absence of a homogeneous monitoring framework to track public procurement spending awarded to WOBs and a lack of repercussions for not meeting targets,” the report said.

But there are some government entities that are playing their part.

Recently, state-owned logistics company Transnet announced a five-year blockbuster R15.5 billion black economic empowerment (BEE) deal for fuel supply awarded to nine companies; and five of the black-owned companies were more than 80% female owned.

The contract is for a supply of fuel for 222 million litres of fuel a year.

The fuel industry is not only considered very mature but is traditionally a male-dominated industry.

One of the beneficiaries of the Transnet deal and, also a new entrant to the fuel industry is Lerato Makgekgenene, who owns and manages fuel company Tlokaina21.

Makgekgenene says her company got a fuel licence last year and has only been operating since September last year.

But she says it has been tough going and this Transnet tender was her big break.

“So to convince important clients and to convince the market to take you seriously as a new entrant is difficult.

Also, the financial barriers to entry are quite high and it also doesn’t help that the margins in the industry are very tight so as much as you seem to be dealing with big numbers the amount that actually accrues to your company is very [small], so the fuel side of the business has to be a volume-based business,” said Makgekgenene.

Pria Hassan, the CEO Women of Africa (WOA) Fuels and Oils and also another company that received part of the tender, said excellence was key in breaking barriers in an industry.

“I don’t think it’s enough to just say: ‘I’m black, I’m a woman and I deserve this opportunity,’ I have got to be capable and have the ability and excel at what I am doing or else I shouldn’t be playing in this space because it sets a bad precedent for the women who come after you,” Hassan said.

The report from BWASA calls for greater communication and proactiveness between stakeholders on the supply and demand side to create an enabling environment to match women-owned businesses with government tender opportunities.

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