JOHANNESBURG; Oct. 14, 2019 – According to 30% Club SA, South Africa is in sync with international trends regarding gender mainstreaming at the board level as majority of boards now consider gender diversity as core to their businesses. However, JSE listed companies are not prepared to effect such change without a nudge from the JSE. It is now more important than ever to bring women on boards and move the country forward. Not long ago, Melinda Gates announced that she is pledging $1 billion to promote gender equality over the next 10 years.
The latest Accenture (NYSE: ACN) research shows that by upskilling more women, creating a culture of equality, accelerating and leading the change the country could unlock R319 billion into its GDP and create more jobs today by achieving gender parity in the workplace alone.
The deteriorating South African economy impacts international investor confidence. South Africa needs to find ways to manage itself back into a more positive and prosperous economic outlook. During the recent World Economic Forum for Africa talks on inclusivity highlighted the global issues and impact of gender equality and the relative participation of women in the South African economy. South Africa has been ranked 19th in the world out of 149 countries that were assessed for gender equality in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report for 2018. According to the report South Africa is at a crucial tipping point. The economy needs greater active participation from women who make up just more than 51 percent of the total population but only accounted for 43.8 percent of total employment in the second quarter of 2018.
In 2019, women in South Africa continue to be constrained by cultural, social and economic barriers that hinder their participation in the economy. The report states that although women are present in the workplace, many are still struggling against inequitable practices often facing a glass ceiling when it comes to ascending through business ranks, losing out on strong promotions to weaker candidates.
Studies by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) show that gender parity leads to economic prosperity. It can add US$5.3 trillion to the world’s GDP by 2025. Gender parity is good for business and the economy. The local version of the Accenture research titled Getting to Equal 2018 that was specifically developed for South Africa, shows that there is a massive incentive to help women get to equal, however, the country is still grappling to get the gender balance right.
According to Statistics SA 2019 key findings on unemployment as released on 31 July 2019, the overall South African unemployment rate increased by 1,4 percentage points from 27,6 percent in the first quarter of 2019 to 29,0 percent in the second quarter of 2019. Stats SA indicates that the South African labour market is still more favourable to men than it is to women and men are more likely to be in paid employment than women, regardless of race. In Q2 of 2019 31.3 percent of South African females were unemployed while 27.1 percent of male South Africans were unemployed.
In response to this equality and unemployment concerns, Accenture demonstrates its commitment to a more evolved work environment that encourages professionals to promote gender equality within their organization and collaborate with professionals from other organisations to promote an overall spirit of equality. The recent Voices of Change event was an attempt at facilitating such a network of change. Furthermore, the current wave of protests by women all over South Africa against the rising tide of violence against women demands that all citizens unite to stand against this burning issue, including implementing ways of empowering women in all areas. Corporates effectively have an important role of influence ignite this change.
Integrated Marketing & Communications Director at Accenture and the firm’s Women’s Forum Ntombi Mhangwani says, “Voices of Change is about underscoring the value of female inclusion and the value of leadership diversity. It opens the floor to men and women responsible for seeking and leading the change. Our commitment to working together as corporates toward achieving these goals can help pave the future.”
“Leaders of businesses and organisations have the power to close the gender gap in career advancement and pay,” says Mhangwani. Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2018 research shows that a workplace culture of equality unlocks human potential, creating an environment in which everyone can advance and thrive. The Getting to Equal 2018 research shows that in South Africa, only 24 percent of women are employed in high-skill roles, which are also high paying roles. The majority—76 percent—fill low- to medium-skill roles. By uplifting just 13 percent of women in the workplace to fill medium rather than low-skill roles—i.e., growing the share of medium-skill roles that women fill to match that of men at 52 percent—South Africa could add R319 billion to its GDP. This would greatly help the current ailing economy whose unemployment rate stands at 29 percent in 2019.
The research, which builds on Accenture’s 2017 research on how digital fluency and technology can close the gender gap in the workplace, grouped the 40 core factors proven to influence advancement into three categories of bold leadership, comprehensive action and an empowering environment.
According to Mhangwani, as South Africa continues to struggle to grow its economy and slips behind developing countries in terms of gender parity, empowering women in the workplace—and in society—cannot be delayed. Key South Africa findings in the three categories include:
- Bold leadership: A diverse leadership team that sets, shares and measures equality targets openly.
- Comprehensive action: Policies and practices that are family-friendly, support both genders and are bias-free in attracting and retaining people.
- An empowering environment: One that trusts employees, respects individuals and offers freedom to be creative and to train and work flexibly.
“Our research found that achieving success in all three categories creates a virtuous circle—each enhances the others so that, combined, they deliver immense impact. Together, they nurture a culture of purpose, accountability, belonging, trust and flexibility,” explains Mhangwani.
Mhangwani’s points out that the challenge starts at fundamental levels with less access to education for women and repressive cultural norms. “It also extends to the workplace where unequal pay and privileges, as well as continued under-representation in senior positions limit the progress of women and the achievement of gender equity,” she says.
“Gender parity is about men and women becoming equal—being treated equitably, being given the same opportunities, privileges and pay. It’s not just the right thing to do, it is good for business and the economy. There are significant but not insurmountable challenges that need to be addressed to achieve this. Lawmakers and policymakers cannot succeed alone. Business needs to catalyse and lead the change.”
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialised skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions—underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network—Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With 459,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com.
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