Powerful South African organisations partner to fast track gender parity

JOHANNESBURG: 25 May 2021 – A drive to a more equal society is more difficult today than ever. Women are still significantly under-represented in the workplace (47 percent vs. 74 percent of men globally), with less than 10 percent making it into top leadership. South Africa mirrors these trends: unemployment rates among women are higher across all races; women are more susceptible to retrenchment; and they are paid less. To fast track gender parity, powerful organisations will come together on 5 August 2021 to share a set of values across their organisations and strengthen the value proposition of gender equality through the Voices of Change event.

"In South Africa, women account for little more than 10 percent of top leadership level of organisations – CEOs or chairpersons. Less women participate in the labour force and they are paid almost one third less than men – the current gender pay gap between men and women won’t close for a projected 217 years. Furthermore, two-thirds of people who lost their livelihoods during the first quarter of lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic were women," says Ntombi Mhangwani, Associate Director for Accenture Interactive and Women’s Forum Lead for Accenture in Africa.


"These gender inequities remain despite studies illustrating the value of diversity to economies and to business. We know that diversity is important to a strong economy and inclusive growth, that increased diversity in business drives revenue growth, and that the most equal cultures are also the most innovative, yet gender equality continues to elude us. This can be changed if we as a collective work together to activate awareness, share learnings, and identify interventions to fast track gender equality. Voices of Change – hosted by partners Accenture, AECI, Aspen, Business Engage, FNB, Imperial, Life Healthcare, Nedbank, Pfizer, RMB, Vodacom and WesBank – will help us achieve exactly that," says Mhangwani.

The Voices of Change movement was born at the 2017 One Young World Summit when Accenture and Thomson Reuters identified an opportunity to leverage their networks and experience to create a lasting and impactful change. The theme for this year – She, He, We, is Power – has a strong message: to harness the power of diversity, collective effort is needed. It refers to the collective power—of women and men—that is now needed to build a more powerful, economically inclusive future. The leaders and influencers that appear on the event schedule illustrate recognition of this across industries.

"Barriers to career progression, societal biases, an absence of female mentors... these and many other challenges remain. To drive change, organisations need to refocus ecosystems to support the development of women. Voices of Change strengthens the purposes of gender equality and allows partners to share their experiences, successes and measures that can empower women," says Colleen Larsen, Business Engage’s Gender Mainstreaming Awards founder and President of 30% Club Southern Africa.

The keynote for this year’s event will be delivered by Bonang Mohale, Chancellor of UFS and Chairman of Bidvest. Other speakers include Josh Levs, previous CNN fact checker, author and UN Gender Champion; Vivienne Artz OBE, Chief Privacy Officer & Managing Director at London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG); and Ntombi Langa-Royds, Non-executive Director at Redefine Properties Limited. Over 1 200 men and women are expected to attend the virtual event.

2021 VOICES of change. SHE IS POWER

"Nedbank is proud to be part of a platform that has gained momentum in collaborating on important issues that affect women. As corporates, we use the Voices of Change movement to come together to create awareness, support each other and get access to thought leadership around Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. As a founding partner of Voices of Change, we have demonstrated continuous support and leadership in tackling these social issues in South Africa. We are aware of the leadership disparity in the country and would like to challenge the misconception that gender equality is an issue to be solved by women and implore men in leadership positions to advocate and be that voice to support and drive decisions that change the narrative from gender inequality to gender equality," says Deshica Naidoo, Chairperson of the Nedbank Woman’s Forum.

According to Candice Dott, Co-Chair of Refinitiv (an LSEG business) Women’s Network – Africa, the company’s Women’s Networks strive to develop and retain gender diverse talent, thus promoting an inclusive business across the Group. The African Women’s Network serves our colleagues across the continent and focuses on shaping an inclusive culture which helps every person in our business feel like they belong. Refinitiv is committed to making inclusiveness a business priority and not just an initiative where leaders alone, set the tone."

For RMB, gender awareness remains a priority. "An inclusive culture not only unlocks the power of different perspectives, it also nurtures and liberates potential which results in better solutions and sustainable results. RMB embraces diversity and gender equality. We appreciate and celebrate the uniqueness that each person brings to the organisation, ensuring that the workplace is a place where everyone experiences a sense of belonging, is heard, and can make a positive impact," says Nomfundo Makaya, Human Capital Executive for RMB.

"The past few months have been extraordinary as we transitioned to new ways of working within the context of a global pandemic," says Stephen Saad, Chief Executive of Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited. "As a company, we are grateful to have remained relevant during times of heightened uncertainty and whilst we have witnessed change in how we conduct business, the way we work, connect, navigate and lead, we know that promoting diversity and fostering inclusion remains a social and business imperative. In our effort to be at the forefront of people practices, we have reviewed our Diversity & Inclusion framework and have added in EQUITY which plays a critical role in achieving a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace. Equity in the workplace implies that everyone receives fair treatment and equal access to opportunities."

SHE IS POWER. 2021 VOICES of change

What drives Voices of Change partners to participate in the event?

Accenture has an unwavering commitment to equality and justice for all, and has put policies and targets in place to actively achieve our goals. As a global advocate of diversity and equality and a founding partner of Voices of Change in South Africa, the company knows that it takes collective effort to drive real, tangible change. Recently, Accenture set new goals for increasing gender, race, and ethnicity representation within Accenture South Africa. These include – by 2025, increasing representation of women managing directors from 28 percent to 50 percent; increasing Black employees from 45 percent to 68 percent; increasing representation of Coloured employees from 6 percent to 10 percent; increasing the representation of people with disabilities from 0.8 percent to 2 percent; and increasing the representation of African Black, Coloured and Indian managing directors from 39 percent to 70 percent.

"A well-rounded society is built on the inclusion of diverse voices. We are excited to be part of the ‘Voices of Change 2021’ initiative and believe that together we can make a difference. Driving conversations around diversity and gender consciousness continues to be a core focus for the bank. FNB and WesBank recognize the role we play in advancing gender equity and we look forward to the opportunity to share best practices and leverage off the collective strengths of the powerful partners involved in this event. Our aim is to drive societal impact and change as we collaborate to enhance gender parity in South Africa and in all jurisdictions in which we are represented", says Shamala Moodley, FNB and WesBank HR Executive.

For Life Healthcare, gender diversity and inclusion is an imperative to deliver the company’s vision, as a diversified, people-centred organisation. "Celebrating and empowering women in Life Healthcare is an exciting journey and gaining momentum. Partnering with the Voices of Change initiative provides us with an additional platform to accelerate this journey, and together with our Women-in-Life programme, we continue to focus on harnessing the power of a diversified workforce. Making Life Better," says Avanthi Parboosing, Chief People Officer for Life Healthcare.

Astron Energy believes that platforms such as Voices of Change are key in creating open, honest, and supportive conversations among co-workers to unleash the power of diversity by enabling employees to turn their differences in thought, knowledge, and talent into innovative ideas and practices that can drive a company forward. "The conversations can help create an engaged culture that enables men and women to form trusting relationships and motivates them to perform at a high level, which in turn will allow the company to serve an increasingly diverse customer base," says Jill Koopman, Corporate Affairs Manager for Astron Energy.

For Pfizer, the company is intentional in driving its core value of equity, recognising gender equality and as such woman empowerment. "Our true goal is an inclusive organisation where women’s voices are heard across all levels of the company, including at senior leadership level," says Rhulani Nhlaniki, Pfizer Cluster Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa. "As a Sub Saharan Africa cluster, I am proud that more than 50% of our Senior Leaders is comprised of women. In South Africa, 72% of positions across the organisation is filled by woman, whilst in East and West Africa 43% and 44% respectively constitutes woman across the team. We articulate our intent that every person be seen, heard, and cared for. Diversity, Equity and inclusion are Pfizer priorities in the first place because they are moral imperatives and because they form part of our DNA."

"As part of our commitment to foster an equitable, diverse and inclusive environment at Aspen, I am proud to inform you that I have signed a statement in support of the United Nations 7 Women Empowerment Principles. Supporting these principles means we are taking bold steps to advance gender equality at Aspen and to ensure that we foster a truly inclusive, safe and productive workplace for all our colleagues," says Saad.

According to AngloGold Ashanti Interim CEO, Christine Ramon, gender diversity is the company’s strategic imperative as the case for companies to be more inclusive has become more pressing than ever. "Inclusivity has moved beyond just being a matter of conscience, making the push for gender parity and inclusivity in the mining industry an inevitability. While the ratio of women in the mining sector is nowhere near where it should be, companies around the world are striving to undo this legacy," says Ramon.

AECI Group Executive for Human Capital, Candice Watson, believes that an equal world is an enabled world. "Therefore gender-equality is a crucial component of our ESG agenda as we strive to create an inclusive work environment of one AECI for a better world."

"I’m pleased to see the commitment and progress Accenture, AECI, Aspen, Business Engage, FNB, Imperial, Life Healthcare, Nedbank, Pfizer, RMB, Vodacom, WesBank are making in advancing their women. I have no doubt that their efforts will bring many benefits in the long run," concludes Larsen.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries, we offer Strategy and Consulting, Interactive, Technology and Operations services—all powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Our 537,000 people deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity every day, serving clients in more than 120 countries. We embrace the power of change to create value and shared success for our clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities. Visit us at www.accenture.com.

About AECI

AECI is a diversified Group of 16 companies. It has regional and international businesses in Africa, Europe, South East Asia, North America, South America and Australia. Products and services are provided to a broad spectrum of customers in the mining, water treatment, plant and animal health, food and beverage, infrastructure and general industrial sectors.

About Anglo Ashanti

AngloGold Ashanti Limited (AngloGold Ashanti), with its head office in South Africa, is an independent, global gold mining company with a diverse, high-quality portfolio of operations, projects, and exploration activities across nine countries on four continents. While gold is our principal product, we also produce silver (Argentina) and sulphuric acid (Brazil) as by-products. In Colombia, feasibility studies are currently underway at two of our projects, one of which will produce both gold and copper. AngloGold Ashanti is the third-largest gold mining company in the world, measured by production and the largest on the African continent, producing 3.047Moz of gold and employing an average of 36,952 people (including contractors) in 2020. A responsible gold miner, in partnerships with host communities and governments, we aim to create value for all our stakeholders over the long term. The Company is listed on the Johannesburg, New York, Australian and Ghana stock exchanges. Visit us at Anglo Ashanti

About Aspen

With a 160-year heritage, Aspen is a global specialty and branded multinational pharmaceutical company with a presence in both emerging and developed markets. We have approximately 9 800 employees at 71 established offices in over 50 countries and we improve the health of patients in more than 150 countries through our high quality, affordable products. Aspen focuses on marketing and manufacturing a broad range of post-patent, branded medicines and domestic brands covering both hospital and consumer markets through our key business segments. Our key business segments are Manufacturing and Commercial Pharmaceuticals comprising Regional Brands and Sterile Focus Brands that include Anaesthetics and Thrombosis products. For more information, visit Aspen

About Astron Energy (Pty) Ltd

Astron Energy, a Glencore Group company, is one of the leading suppliers of petroleum products in South Africa and Botswana through its vast network of more than 800 Caltex-branded service stations. Astron Energy will continue to manage the Caltex brand for a period of up to six years under licence from Chevron USA. Astron Energy owns and operates the country’s third-largest crude oil refinery, with a capacity of 100,000 barrels a day. The refinery, located in Milnerton, Cape Town, produces petrol, diesel, jet fuel, LPG, bitumen gas and other speciality products. The company’s Durban-based Lubricants Manufacturing Plant has world class blending and base oil storage capabilities, through which it markets and exports Caltex Havoline and Caltex Delo to consumers across the country and to key African markets. Astron Energy has a Level 1 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment rating against the amended Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Codes of Good Practice. The company has committed to protecting people and the environment and to driving sustainable economic growth in South Africa through its social investment programmes in education and economic development.
For more information visit Fuelling a brighter future for South Africa

About Business Engage

Business Engage Association NPC is a non-profit company established in 2005. It is an exciting and inventive organisation at the forefront of strategic thinking on gender mainstreaming in the private sector. It is a collaborative of corporates working together to create the business case for gender diversity. Business Engage is the custodian of the 30% Club Southern and East Africa. 30% Club is an international group of Chairmen, CEOs, senior executives and senior partners of private sector and state-owned organisations that are publicly committed to achieving and sustaining at least 30% women on boards within a designated period because they believe it is good for the overall effectiveness of the boardroom – and therefore good for business. Focus is also placed on the pipeline development to create sustainable change.

About FNB

First National Bank (FNB) is the oldest bank in South Africa. FNB represents FirstRand’s retail and commercial activities in South Africa and the broader African continent with operations in Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Ghana. FNB is growing its franchise strongly in both existing and new markets on the back of a compelling customer offering that provides a broad range of innovative financial services products and services, both transactional and lending, including current accounts, overdrafts, credit and debit cards, mortgage loans, personal loans, etc. FNB also provides savings, investment and insurance products. One of the banks guiding principles is to build an environment that values differences. The bank believes that diversity and inclusivity create a culture for our people to thrive. Women in the workplace are representative of our customers and society at large – and play an important and equal part in shaping our future. We are committed to building an inclusive culture that harnesses the value of diversity, of which gender balance plays an important role.

About Imperial

Imperial is an African focused provider of integrated market access and logistics solutions, with a focus on the following key industries — healthcare, consumer, automotive, chemicals, industrial and commodities. Imperial takes its clients and principals’ products to some of the fastest growing and most challenging markets in the world. Ranked among the top 30 global logistics providers and listed on the JSE in South Africa, Imperial seeks out and leverages new technology to deliver innovative, end-to-end solutions. Through its significant African footprint and international expertise, and with the support of its 25 000 people, Imperial’s purpose is connecting Africa and the world — and improving people’s lives with access to quality products and services. For more information, visit Imperial

About Life Healthcare

Life Healthcare is a global, people-centred, diversified healthcare organisation and is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Life Healthcare has over 33 years’ experience in the South African private healthcare sector, and currently operates 66 healthcare facilities in southern Africa. Services include acute hospital care, physical rehabilitation, mental healthcare, oncology, renal dialysis, employee health and wellness services. The Group owns Alliance Medical, a leading independent provider of complex molecular and diagnostic imaging services, which operates across 20 European countries, employs 850 qualified radiographers and nuclear medicine technologists together with a third-party network of more than 500 registered radiologists. For more information, visit: Life Healthcare

About Nedbank

Nedbank Group is one of South Africa’s largest banking groups by assets and deposits, with Nedbank Limited being our principal banking subsidiary. The bank, which is also continuing to expand into Africa with a presence in 39 countries on the continent through our Ecobank alliance, provides a wide range of wholesale and retail banking services and a growing insurance, asset management and wealth management offering through four main business operations, namely Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking, Nedbank Business Banking, Nedbank Retail and Nedbank Wealth. Transformation is at the heart of our mission as a bank premised on using our financial expertise to do good. For more information visit Nedbank.

About Pfizer

At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to bring therapies to people that extend and significantly improve their lives. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacture of health care products, including innovative medicines and vaccines. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as one of the world's premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, we collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, we have worked to make a difference for all who rely on us. To learn more, please visit us on Pfizer.

About Refinitiv

Refinitiv, an LSEG (London Stock Exchange Group) business, is one of the world’s largest providers of financial markets data and infrastructure. With $6.25 billion in revenue, over 40,000 customers and 400,000 end users across 190 countries, Refinitiv is powering participants across the global financial marketplace. We provide information, insights, and technology that enable customers to execute critical investing, trading and risk decisions with confidence. By combining a unique open platform with best-in-class data and expertise, we connect people with choice and opportunity – driving performance, innovation and growth for our customers and partners. For more information visit: Refinitiv Workspace for Analysts and Portfolio Managers.

About RMB

Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) is a leading African Corporate and Investment Bank and part of one of the largest financial services groups (by market capitalisation) in Africa – FirstRand Bank Limited. The bank offers its clients innovative, value-added advisory, funding, trading, corporate banking and principal investing solutions. As the Corporate and Investment arm of FirstRand Bank Limited, RMB has access to a network of retail banks in 25 African countries, including representative offices and branches in the UK, India and China. Gender equality is a key part of RMB’s overall transformation. RMB believes that both men and women have a voice in the bank and that both play a critical role in the success of its business. RMB’s gender equality programme, Athena, was launched in 2015 to create an environment where women are empowered to achieve their individual career goals, while growing the number of women in leadership in finance.

About WesBank

WesBank is the leading provider of innovative vehicle and asset solutions. WesBank is a division of FirstRand Bank Limited and is an international company with successful operations in the UK, offering Retail and Corporate solutions including Vehicle Finance, Full Maintenance Leases, Asset Based Finance, Fleet Management Leasing, Value-Added Products and personal credit solutions. We have strong alliances with Dealers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). With more than five decades of expertise and R138 billion in assets, WesBank is the partner of choice for over 80 leading international brands in fields such as OEMs and insurance providers.


Jonathan Mahapa
+27 11 208 3947

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