Rich women less equal

2012-09-28 00:00

THE wealth gap between men and women in South Africa explodes the richer South Africans become, with women making up only seven out of every 100 people who earn over R5 million a year, tax statistics reveal.

In fact, figures for the 2010 tax year, the latest available and compiled by the SA Revenue Service (SARS) show there are only 135 women in the country earning over R5 million a year from a total of 1 849 taxpayers who declared their income in this income bracket.

The figures call into question how effective affirmative action has been in combating gender inequality in the workplace, experts say.

The statistics show, however, that the number of women paying tax is increasing. In 2007 there were close to 1,8 million female taxpayers and in 2010 that number increased to close to 1,9 million. Over the same period male taxpayers had declined by 1,7%.

The wealth gap between men and women is clear early on in the income ladder. Women and men are almost equally represented for the last time at earnings of R150 001 to R200 000 a year, where women represent 48,8% and men represent 51,1%.

For every income category above that, the percentage of women making up the category plummets rapidly.

Janine Hicks, commissioner of the Commission for Gender Equality, said that while there were tools like affirmative action, the Employment Equity Act and the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, they appeared not to be working. “It is apparent that South African government institutions and private sector companies are performing dismally with regard to gender transformation,” she said.

The middle-income groups contain a more balanced split between the genders. Statistics show that women make up half of the number of taxpayers in the R120 001 to R130 000 bracket.

Colleen Lowe Morna, CEO of Gender Links, said the figures were a typical reflection of glass ceilings.

“We now have equal numbers of women and men in higher education and in the entry levels of the job market, but they do not get to the top,” she said.

The number of women starts to decrease at earnings of R200 001 to R300 000 a year, with women numbering about four of every 10 taxpayers at this earning level.

The statistics begin to show startling differences in the number of women at higher income levels. In the R750 001 to R1 million tax bracket, women make up only one-fifth of the 46 547 earners.

In the R2 million to R5 million band, there are close to 11 000 taxpayers, but only one woman to every 10 males.

Ayanda Mbanga, managing director of Ayanda Mbanga Communications, who falls into the millionaire tax bracket, said the business world was fundamentally male-dominated, although women did get opportunities.

“The government has created an enabling environment where women can thrive, but the question is what do people do when they get the opportunities? A lot of people squander opportunity and want shortcuts when they actually need to work hard,” she said.

Hicks quoted Bwasa Women in Leadership Census 2011, which noted that women comprised a mere 15,8% of directors and 5,3% of chairpersons of boards of companies, 4,4% of CEOs and 21,6% of executive management positions.

One of the few women who fall into the R5 million-plus tax bracket is Gail Curtis, Group CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi South Africa. She said women were not represented at the top because they lacked confidence.

“I find that women don’t put themselves forward as much as their male counterparts for job promotions. They tend to feel like they don’t have enough experience, whereas their male counterparts have more confidence.”

Marika Muller, spokesperson for SARS, said another reason for the earnings gap was that many women took time off from formal, full-time employment to have and raise a family.

“This means that their work lives are often punctuated by breaks and their remuneration does not remain at the same level as that of men.”


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