Want to tackle GDP growth, unemployment? Close the gender gap, research shows

Closing the gender gap in pay and representation by just 10% could deliver an additional 3.2% in GDP growth and a 6.5% reduction in the number of unemployed job seekers. Yet according to research by PwC, women continue to remain both underpaid and under-represented in leadership positions.

PwC's Executive directors: Practices and remuneration trends report for 2019, which was released earlier this year shows that 96.6% of all CEOs on the JSE are male, 87.2% of CFOs are male, and 91% of executive directors are male.

Furthermore, out of the total number of listed companies on the JSE as at April 30, 2019, only 3.31% of CEOs were female. PwC’s REMchannel® July 2018 publication shows that female representation at senior management and executive levels in SA is still on average only 20%.

Anelisa Keke, senior manager of PwC’s People and Organisation division, said that despite the acknowledgement that there is a need for diverse representation in boardrooms that must be addressed, there is a lack of clarity on steps to be taken to effect lasting change. 

"Corporate South Africa needs to focus more on ensuring that the number of women at executive and managerial level are increased, in addition to addressing gender pay gap inequalities.

"To bring about real change, companies should not view gender parity and diversity concerns as a means of appeasing individuals or organisations, but rather as an essential component in their long-term success," she added.

PwC’s report, which analyses gender representation in listed companies across all sectors, also notes that companies should keep track of internal pay disparities based on gender at all levels and then question how the pay gaps arise and persist within their companies. They should then take measures to reduce gaps over time - in line with the principles of equal pay for work of equal value.

Why address gender pay gaps?

The PwC UK Women in Work Index 2019, shows that improving female participation in work across member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, could boost total GDP to $6trn.

"Through developing an environment that allows women to thrive in the labour market, we can eliminate many of the economic inequalities that still exist between men and women," PwC suggested.

A recent PwC Strategy& analysis, based on economic data from Statistics South Africa and the World Economic Forum, suggests that closing the gender pay gap in both pay and representation by just 10% could deliver an additional 3.2% in GDP growth and a 6.5% reduction in the number of unemployed job seekers. 

"Bridging the gender pay gap has been a slow process, but by enabling women to succeed in the market place; society can reap the benefits of women’s talents and skills," Keke said.

"Achieving gender parity throughout the workplace is one of the most critical challenges that business leaders face today. The quality of women’s talent and leadership is very important to business - the skills and experience that they bring, including that gained outside of the workplace, has proven to be essential in strategic decision-making and in ethical, sustainable enterprise," said Anastacia Tshesane, Diversity & Inclusion Leader for PwC Southern Africa.

108 years

The World Economic Forum suggests it will take 108 years to close the gender wage gap and the most challenging gender gaps to close are areas of economic and political empowerment. In its 2018 Gender Pay Gap Report, the WEF ranked South Africa 19th overall in terms of gender gap equality, with a slight decline in gender wage equality where South Africa was ranked 117th.

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