7 August 2012
The government is concerned about the under-representation of women at the executive level in the South African corporate space, says Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana.
Addressing the National Press Club in Pretoria on Monday, Xingwana said that according to the 2011 Businesswomen Association’s (BWA) South African Women in Leadership Census, women were in the minority when it came to leadership positions.
South Africans are commemorating Women’s Month 2012 under the theme “56 Years of Women United against Poverty, Inequality and Unemployment”.
August was declared Women’s Month as a tribute to the thousands of women who marched, on 9 August 1956, in protest against the extension of apartheid’s hated Pass Laws to women.
Xingwana said that while women now had access to opportunities, rights and services that were a dream about 20 years ago, they still bore the burden of the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Commitment to building an equal society
The women in leadership census found that women hold only 4.4% of chief executive officer/managing director positions, 5.3% of chairperson positions and 15.8% of all directorships in South Africa.
The report indicated that in the country’s public service, women hold 35% of all senior managerial positions.
“BWA and all of us who are committed to building a society based on equality are understandably concerned at the continued exclusion of women and the slow pace at which they are being incorporated into the corporate space at senior level,” Xingwana said.
It had become clear that women empowerment could not be left to market forces, she said.
“We are confident that through the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, we will be responding to the calls made by BWA and many women of our country who find themselves discriminated against on the basis of their gender.”
The Bill will be tabled before Cabinet during the 2012/13 financial year and will enforce compliance in government and the private sector.
Working towards the end of gender discrimination
Xingwana also announced the launch of the National Council Against Gender-Based Violence on 25 August.
“Among other things, the council will facilitate the provision of help and response to victims and survivors of gender-based violence; adopt comprehensive measures in addressing all forms of violence against women and children as well as women with disabilities; and coordinate the 365 Days National Plan of Action Against Gender- based Violence,” she said.
The council will be chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe with a dedicated secretariat located in the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities.
Xingwana said her department was working with other stakeholders to facilitate opportunities for women in rural, peri-urban and informal settlements to participate in green economy projects.
The department will also monitor the extent to which women and people with disabilities benefit through government’s preferential procurement system.
“Working together with the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, we want to facilitate women’s access to land. This is because the challenges of rural development, food security and land reform affect women disproportionately,” she said.