In an inaugural report on the state of gender diversity on JSE-listed companies’ boards of directors, only 10 of the 267 companies analysed achieved gender parity in 2017.
There are, however, signs that more companies are starting to become more cognisant of gender diversity at board level and are striving for parity.
The report, compiled by the 30% Club Southern Africa (CSA) chapter in association with the Institute of Directors Southern Africa, WDB Investment Holdings and Korn Ferr, was released on Wednesday.
The report analysed publicly available information from 267 companies’ annual reports for the reporting period from January 1 to December 31, 2017.
It considered whether JSE-listed companies were adopting board gender policies and whether companies were reporting on this information.
As a secondary consideration, the research looked into whether the appointment of women to boards was in any way affected by the rotation of nonexecutive directors in terms of the JSE listing requirement Schedule 10.16(g).
The report comes on the back of amendments to the JSE listings requirements last year to include the promotion of gender diversity at board level.
Prior to this being mandated, a number of companies had for a number of years noted in their Integrated Annual Reports the gender split at board level.
However, some companies now provide general comments on diversity within their boards, while others have merely noted the new requirement and have advised that they are looking at it.
The report details that, of the 267 companies analysed, 50 did not specifically report on gender at board level in 2017.
Of the 217 companies that reported on gender at board level, it is assessed that there are currently opportunities for 84 women to join the boards of 62 of these JSE-listed companies over the next few years.
By far, the majority of opportunities are for one or two women to join a board (94% of the companies).
The exception is Stellar Capital, which seeks to go from ten male and no female board members to gender parity, giving an opportunity for five women to join that board over the long term.
“These opportunities assume that South African companies do not get caught in the ‘golden skirts’ syndrome where a few, usually politically well connected, select women are appointed to multiple boards at the expense of other women,” noted Business Engage company secretary Malcolm Larsen.
Countries such as Norway have passed laws requiring all listed companies to have at least 40% women on their boards.
This has resulted in younger women being more optimistic about their career advancement and income potential.
Speaking to Engineering News Online on the sidelines of the event, Larsen indicated that the research would, in future, investigate more deeply the reasons for and processes behind companies’ board appointments.
Therefore, more consideration will be given to the actual policy document and the ease of access to the document by interested stakeholders.
The next report will also track companies’ progress in upholding the commitments made.
The 30% Club, an initiative started in the UK in 2010, comprises an international group of chairpersons, CEOs and senior partners of organisations committed to bringing more women onto boards of directors.