Promoting gender equality and strengthening women’s rights is essential for sustainable development. Recent studies conducted by the B-BBEE Commission for 2017 and 2018 show that black women still occupy less positions compared to males and white people on the boards of entities listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), standing at 18% in 2017 and 21.63% in 2018, despite women being the majority in this country. Further, in terms of ownership, black women were sitting at about 9% in 2017 and 10.1% in 2018, which remains low considering the demographics.

Helping to empower women is a vital step in making sure this goal is reached worldwide.

When you look at the composition of top leadership at JSE-listed companies, it is notable that out of the total number of listed companies on the JSE, only 3.31% of CEOs were female.

There is consensus regarding the need to transform board rooms in South Africa to bridge the gender pay gap, both from a representational perspective and in terms of pay. There is also a need for more diverse representation on boards in South Africa. This is according to the 11th edition of PwC’s Executive directors: Practices and remuneration trends report.

Several reasons have been cited as to why we have fewer women in our boardrooms. Those reasons range from negative stereotypical attitudes of the predominantly male board towards women. Others say women themselves are to be blamed for showing a greater distaste for office politics.

Yet gender equality remains a moral imperative in South Africa whether you’re in government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or private sector – it’s simply the right thing to do.

Women and girls face unacceptable levels of discrimination and abuse in South Africa, which does not only violate their human rights, but also prevents them from playing a full part in society and decision-making.

Why do we need more women in the boardroom?

First and foremost, women bring a different perspective in business. Furthermore, the benefits of having a more diverse team are endless. For instance, having a boardroom which is filled with a number of women, who will bring different approaches, and various inputs might stimulate debates. Essentially, this will create far better results for South African companies.

Having more diversity will also mean an increase in creativity across products, services, and processes. Having an executive team of men only who will sit in a boardroom for hours and discuss a product which women are the target market has many drawbacks. The obvious drawback being, men won’t be in the best position to comprehend how to satisfy women’s needs.

In addition, gender diverse boards tend to show improved performance on corporate and social governance and lower relative debt levels, even more important; also attractive to investors. This is because women tend to be  risk averse than men, which means women are not likely to make irresponsible decisions.

Another reason why we need more women in our boardrooms is,  women are more likely than men to target alternative customer segments, or discover innovative ways to sell their products and services.

Anastacia Tshesane, Diversity & Inclusion Leader for PwC Southern Africa, says:

“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.”

In April 2019, the JSE released proposed amendments to its Listings Requirements which include requiring that companies must adopt a policy on the “promotion of broader diversity at board level. These amendments would align South Africa to the requirements contained in the UK Corporate Governance Code.

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