Khanyi Dhlomo: More women leaders will drive economic change

Cape Town - There is a need to value women as more women in leadership will drive the economic change narrative, according to Khanyi Dhlomo, founder and CEO of Ndalo Media.

“You can only go as far as what you imagine, and the universe responds to that. Don’t kick down the ladder, use it to bring other women up,” she said at a Power Talk event hosted by the Black Management Forum (BMF) Western Cape.

She pointed out that, according to a recent study by the Small Business Project, female-owned businesses are more focused on growth than male-owned ones, with these women actively seeking broader recognition of their ventures and new markets for their products and services.

A study by the Business Women's Association on the women workforce showed that the number of SA companies with women in senior management were 10 in 2004; 57 in 2008 and 37 in 2011.

Only 4.4% of the companies had women CEOs or MDs; 5.3% had women chairs; 15.8% had women directors; and 21.6% had women executive managers. At the same time 35% of government senior managers are women.

READ: Jozi on top-50 list for women entrepreneurs

Women leaders

Another study (by Bain) showed that 2.2% of JSE-listed companies have women CEOs, while 31% of local companies have no women representation in senior leadership roles. South Africa is on par with the rest of the continent, where 29% of leadership roles are held by women.

This is better than the UK, for instance, with only 19% of leadership roles being held by women, and Australia with 23%. However, the percentage of female CEOs in South Africa (currently at 10%) is lower than the global average of 12%.

At the same time women earn just over half what men earn and, even in the UK, women are still paid nearly 20% less than men for the same or equivalent work, according to an EY report.

Restrictive laws, a large amount of time spent on child rearing and infrastructure challenges hamper women's productivity, said Dhlomo.

"There is an unconscious bias towards women," she said.

"The value women add to the economy lies in accessing untapped employee talent; reaching female customers; opening new distribution channels; and enhancing the brand and reputation of the business."

Dhlomo also quoted philanthropist Melinda Gates who said women speaking up for themselves and those around them is the strongest force to change the world.

"Remain open to opportunities. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook said careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder," said Dhlomo.  

“And economic activist Wendy Luhabe said the path to success for women lies squarely in their ability to take the road less travelled and to take the risk along that journey.”

Dhlomo said she agrees with Nunu Ntshingila, head of Facebook Africa, that the world of global internet connectivity will level the playing field so that the barriers of trading as business owners will finally come down.

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