More women in govt, but far from gender equality - survey

Parliament (Dan Calderwood, News24)
Parliament (Dan Calderwood, News24)

Johannesburg – The number of women in parliament in Africa has almost doubled over the past 15 years to 24% while the number of women in cabinet has grown five times in 30 years to 22%, the McKinsey & Company Women Matter Africa report revealed on Thursday.

Africa has more women in parliament than the global average, but representation rates still need to double for the continent to achieve gender equality, the report stated. It looked at female representation in leadership across the private and public sectors and was compiled over 12 months. Data was gathered across 14 African countries, including insights from 210 leading companies and interviews with 35 African women leaders.

The report shows that 17 out of 30 African countries are above the global average of 21%. South Africa comes in at 42%. Rwanda has the highest share of women parliamentarians in the world, at 64%. Conversely in Nigeria women in parliament hold 7% of positions, and in Swaziland they hold 6%.

Africa has made progress in terms of gender diversity in cabinet positions. Cabinet positions held by women are at 22%, below the global average of 23%; this compares with the United States at 32%, the European Union at 27%, and Latin America at 24%.

Women in parliament

But research shows that more than 50% of women in cabinet positions are in charge of social welfare portfolios, with limited political influence. Only 30% of women cabinet ministers lead in the ministries of treasury, infrastructure, defence and foreign affairs. This indicates that there has rarely been a greater distribution of power.

“It’s not just about the numbers. We may have more women in leadership positions but we need to look at the opportunities they are given in these roles,” explained Lohini Moodley, partner at McKinsey.

“We need to look at the roles of women to allow them to reach higher levels,” said Tania Holt, partner at McKinsey.

Roles in social welfare do not necessarily lead women to qualify as a president or prime minister, she explained.

“Southern Africa performs relatively well particularly when we look at parliament and cabinet representation,” said Moodley. Women in the East and Southern Africa region hold proportionally fewer social welfare portfolios than they do in other regions. In North Africa, there are proportionally fewer women in cabinet and they are more likely to have social welfare appointments, the research shows.

About 24% of women in Africa are parliamentarians, this follows the European Union figure of 28%. East Africa has the largest number of women in parliament, with 35%, compared to the Southern Africa figure of 25%. Southern Africa performs just above the African average of 24%. The figure for North Africa is at 23% and West Africa has the lowest representation at 18%.

* August is Women's Month and Fin24, in collaboration with the Sanlam Enterprise Supplier Development Programme, invites you to help us celebrate and showcase SA's extraordinary women in business.

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