Women constitute 51.2% of the South African population, but the labour market and business funding agencies still favour men over them.
Newly formed pro-women advocacy group Women of SA (WoSA) wants government to take an unprecedented step and make it a criminal offence for companies to pay women less than men for doing equal work.
According to WoSA, research findings by Stats SA and PwC have proven that there’s a widespread bias against women.
As a drive during Women’s Month, WoSA demands that government implement a multipronged approach to hasten the economic empowerment of women, close the pay disparities between men and women, facilitate access to funding for women-owned companies and increase women’s representation in publicly listed companies.
WoSA was formed by women across the broad sphere of the economy, said spokesperson Staff Sithole, who serves as corporate affairs director at Nkwe Platinum.
The organisation wants government to promulgate and enforce legislation that empowers women to claim their fair share of the economy.
“Despite constituting about 51.2% of the population and a majority of the workforce in South Africa, research by Stats SA has found that the South African labour market is more favourable to men than it is to women, and that men are more likely to be in paid employment than women, regardless of race,” said Sithole.
PwC research, she said, also found that women constituted about 20% of directors on the boards of JSE-listed companies and the remuneration gap between men and women in chief executive positions continued to be skewed.
“The findings of these studies and many others underscore the systematic discrimination women are subjected to and highlight a pervasive, but invisible bias that has a dreadful effect on women’s lives,” she said.
WoSA believes that women aren’t getting their fair share of dividends as shareholders of the South African economy due to entrenched patriarchy and systematic discriminatory practices.
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Sithole said the group was also calling on government to hold all development funding agencies, such as the Industrial Development Corporation, the Public Investment Corporation, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the National Empowerment Fund, accountable for their support, or lack thereof, of women-owned businesses.
These organisations are also being called on to increase funding for women’s business ventures to plug the financing gap.
WoSA has called on the public to sign an online petition intended to lobby government to:
- Eradicate gender discriminatory practices;
- Improve access to finance for women-owned and women-controlled businesses;
- Increase women’s representation on the boards of JSE-listed companies;
- Criminalise unequal pay for equal work;
- Promulgate a women’s empowerment and gender equality bill; and
- Establish an annual gender barometer to measure women’s participation in the economy.
“Women are ready to collect and redeem their rightful share of the dividend in our 52.1% shareholding of South Africa Incorporated, be it through equal pay for equal work dividend, access to funding and credit dividend, board appointment dividend at JSE-listed companies or gender equality representation dividend across all sectors of the economy,” said Sithole.
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