Three ways to address gender inequality in organisations

Women remain under represented at executive level in South African companies, with only one female CEO in the JSE top 40, according to research by PwC.

In a statement issued ahead of Women’s Day, PwC highlighted that for every 10 men, only eight women are employed or actively looking for work. On the AltX board of the JSE, 82% of executives are men while only 18% are women. In the financial services sector specifically 72% of executives are male and only 28% are female.

PwC referred to its report executive directors’ practices and remuneration report, for 2018, which highlights the challenges of the gender gap. The report, released earlier this year also proposed legislating the disclosure of the gender gap in companies and providing quotas for women on boards and in executive positions to address the gender gap.

Another study by PwC which looks at what must change for women at work, surveyed over 3 600 professional women from 61 countries across 27 industries.

The study revealed that nearly half (49%) of women regard that the employer’s diversity status - such as age, ethnicity and gender - as a career barrier. Of those surveyed 42% felt nervous about the impact of having children on their careers and 48% of new mothers said they were overlooked for career advancement because they had children.

“Many professional women are deeply frustrated with their conditions of employment, and sceptical of talk of change,” the report read. This is mainly because for decades companies have discussed introducing change related to gender balance and women are now pessimistic of how long it will take to achieve equality, the study explained. The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap report concluded at the current rate of change, gender equality in the global workforce won’t be realised for another five generations or the next 217 years.

The report also highlighted that business leaders must advance gender equality and the career development of women through three ways. These are by creating transparency and trust, strategic support and have considerations for life, work and family.

This will give greater satisfaction and fulfillment for women, and lead to greater success for their employers the report suggested.

Transparency and trust

According to the report women have low levels of trust in what their employers say about valuing and promoting them. “Greater transparency won’t benefit only women - it will foster more inclusive environments, which give everyone greater opportunities to fulfill their potential,” the report read.

Strategic support

Women also need proactive networks of leaders and peers to help them progress in their careers. “Women don’t need men to back away. They need dedicated sponsors and role models of both genders. Lack of support from male colleagues will stall progress,” the report read.

Life, work and family

Those surveyed want to be successful in their careers, but they want to enjoy their jobs and want better options when it comes to managing the demands of the different aspects of their lives. Employers must reconsider the approach or solutions to balance work, life, parenthood and family care. This includes redesigning maternity and paternity leave, as well as re-entry.

“When the problems are defined in an open and transparent way and the prerequisites for success as described here are identified and in place, women of all generations and their employers, working together, can come up with the right solutions to address issues of gender equality in the workplace  and empower female advancement,” PwC said.

PwC director Rene Richter told Fin24 that part from addressing historical inequality some companies have programmes to develop female leadership, they also have mentoring programmes to equip females for the leadership challenges they often face at executive level.

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