The number of senior business positions filled by women in South Africa declined by 2%, to 26% this year, while 21% of local businesses had no women in senior management positions, auditing firm Grant Thornton’s 2014 International Business Report’s (IBR’s) women in business research has shown.
Grant Thornton also found that the country’s percentage of women in senior business positions had remained fairly static over the past seven years, staying in the range of 26% to 28%.
In contrast Brazil, Russia, India and China – or the Bric countries – increased their percentage of women in senior positions by 4% to 32% between 2013 and 2014.
“In Russia, 43% of senior positions are held by women while the percentage is 38% in China. India, however, falls somewhere near the bottom of the rankings with 11%,” Grant Thornton said.
The firm added that only 3% of Chinese and 4% of Russian companies surveyed had no women in senior positions.
“The percentage of working women in senior management positions in South Africa is inadequate,” Grant Thornton Johannesburg deputy CEO Jeanette Hern commented.
Meanwhile, Grant Thornton also found that developed countries tended to have fewer women in senior positions than Bric countries, with the US and the European Union having 22% and 23% of senior positions filled by women respectively.
Countries with patriarchal societies such as Japan, India and the United Arab Emirates were found to be at the bottom of the ratings with between 9% and 11%.
Globally the proportion of women holding senior business roles had remained steady in 2014, at 24%, which was identical to the results of 2007, 2009 and 2013.
The study also found that, currently, globally 17% of board members were women, as opposed to 19% in 2013.
In South Africa, 15% of boards were made up of women, while 20% of board members in the Bric countries were female.
The IBR research further revealed that 11% of South African businesses with at least one woman in senior management had a female CEO, slightly up from 10% in 2013.
A total of 34% of South African businesses had female human resources directors and the same percentage had female CFOs, up from 32% and 27% in 2013 respectively.
Meanwhile, when asked if they would support the introduction of quotas for the number of women on executive boards of large listed companies, only 52% of South African companies responded in the affirmative, this was down from 60% in 2013, Grant Thornton said.
Further, 29% of South African businesses had specific plans to hire or promote more women to senior-management level over the next 12 months, the study found.
“Although this is only slightly lower than last year’s [figure of 32%], the trend is surprising in light of government’s insistence on introducing further quotas for women in decision-making positions,” Hern said.
“One of the provisions in the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill legislates that, eventually, 50% of all decision-making positions must go to women in ‘designated public bodies and designated private bodies’,” she pointed out.
The vast majority, or 79%, of South African businesses did not run a specific programme to support or mentor women and were not considering launching one, while only 10% of South Africanbusinesses’ graduate intake, in an average year, consisted of women, almost identical to the global average of 11%, Grant Thornton said.
Globally, there was also a much higher proportion of women in sectors such as education and social services, personal services and hospitality, while the proportion was much lower in primary industries such as mining, agriculture and utilities, as well as real estate, construction and manufacturing.