The industry with the highest number of women in senior posts

Johannesburg – Of the 55 companies surveyed by McKinsey, women hold 39% of senior management positions in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry. This is the highest share among other sectors.

This is according to the McKinsey Women Matter report for Africa, which looks at gender representation in leadership. The report was compiled over 12 months, using data gathered across 14 African countries, including insights from 210 leading companies and interviews with 35 African women leaders.

In total, women hold 29% of senior management positions across industries. Women representation still lags in the heavy industry, at 9%. The sector traditionally relies on engineers for its workforce, historically being men.  “Historically, few women studied in these areas… the pipeline of women is smaller than men than in other areas,” explained Lohini Moodley, partner at McKinsey.

Women’s representation in boards by sector comes to 14%, across 210 surveyed companies. Women’s representation in health care and pharmaceuticals comes to 20%. Their representation in the heavy industry is at 10%.

The higher representation of women in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals industry is mostly due to the fact that large numbers of women are recruited at junior levels. The chances of retaining women at higher management levels is greater if there are more women represented in industry, at the entry level, explained Tania Holt, partner at McKinsey.

The research shows that women are “outnumbered” by men at every stage of the African corporate pipeline. Their representation diminishes as they move along that pipeline. In Africa, women take up 47% of non-management professional positions. At the middle management level, this falls to 40% and at senior management level it falls to 29%. “There is a leakage of women throughout the pipeline,” said Moodley.

Although the average leakage for Africa is at 18%, there is a lower level of leakage, at 7%, for companies where women are better represented at senior management levels.

Research also suggests there should be more equal representation throughout the pipeline for the effect to feed into leadership. Another issue is promotion, women make 45% of the workforce but receive 36% of promotions. So although some companies make an effort to recruit women, they may struggle to promote women, explained Moodley. 

* 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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