Women-in-business census finds corporate SA wanting

14th May 2004 By: Zonika Botha

If the findings of the first South African Women in Corporate Leadership Census are any-thing to go by, much work still has to be done to increase the business leadership profile of women in this country.

The census, commissioned by the Businesswomen’s Association (BWA), and sponsored by Ned-bank, indicates that although women make up 52% of the adult population, they only represent 41% of the working South African population.

Even more shocking is that only 14,7% of all executive managers and only 7,1% of all directors in the country are women.

Speaking at the launch of the census results last month, BWA president Dr Namane Magau said that the data outlined in the 2004 census clearly show that women corporate leaders are still in the minority.

“While there will always be more people in an overall workforce than in corporate leadership positions, the relative representation of women in executive management and board positions does not correspond meaningfully to the proportion that women form of the country’s overall working population,” she commented.

The census measured the number of women on boards and executive management of every company listed on the JSE Securities Exchange, as well as 17 of the largest State-owned enterprises in South Africa.

According to the census, of the 3 125 directorship positions held, only 221 are held by women. A mere 11 women hold chairs of boards out of a total of 364 of all such positions and there are only seven women CEOs and/or MDs in comparison to 357 men.

South Africa’s 7,1% of women board directorships are the lowest result of all four countries where similar censuses are conducted.

The US leads the way with 13,6%, followed by Canada 11,2% and Australia 8,4%.

Interestingly, the ten South African companies that have led the way in women’s leadership empowerment (where 25% or more of directors’ positions are held by women and 25% or more of executive manager positions are held by women) are: Air Traffic and Navigation Services; Enviroserv Holdings; Maxtec; MTN Group; South African Broadcasting Corporation; South African Post Office; Spescom; Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority; Transnet and Venter Leisure & Commercial Trailers.

Their performance is in sharp contrast to the fact that almost 60% of all companies have no women directors at all.

Results from the census reveal that State-owned enterprises outperform JSE Securities Exchange-listed companies by a significant margin and the industry that is faring particularly badly in terms of its representation of women is the resources industry.

Magau said that, while South African companies had to be commended for what they have achieved so far, a lot more could, and should, be done to increase the portfolio of women business leaders.

She urged the private sector to match the progress shown by State-owned enterprises so far, saying that it would be to the benefit of South Africa’s economy to “try and exploit as much of the talent and skills available in a diversified pool of human resources”.

Maria Ramos, group CE of Transnet and panellist at the media launch, said that the participance of women will be paramount to the future growth and development of the South African economy and that every effort must be made to ensure that women leaders are developed from an early age.

Another panellist, Nicky Newton-King, currently the deputy CEO of the JSE Securities Exchange, echoed these sentiments, saying that worthy role models will be just as crucial in the development of future women business leaders.

Nedbank CE Tom Boardman added that the true test of any democratic country is in the position that its women hold in society.

“Although South Africa has made great empower-ment strides, much more still needs to be done to increase the representivity of women leaders in the corporate world,” he concluded.