SA fares well for women in business

8 March 2012

South African companies compare favourably to the rest of the world with 28% of senior management positions held by women – compared to a global average of 21% – but more innovation is needed to make significant progress in this field, says consultancy Grant Thornton.

The figures are contained in the 2012 Grant Thornton International Business Report, which surveys trends in privately held businesses in 40 economies in the world.

According to the survey, Botswana is the African country with the highest proportion of women in senior management, at 39%.

SA slightly ahead of BRICS average

South Africa’s figure of 28% is slightly ahead of the 26% average for the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA.

Russia was the overall standout, however, and is now the surveyed economy with the highest proportion of women in senior positions, at 46% – an improvement of 10 percentage points over the previous survey.

The G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US – lagged the global average, with only 18% of women in senior management positions.

Italy was the exception, showing the biggest improvement in women holding senior positions, climbing by 14 percentage points to 36% and 6th position overall.

SA’s figure flat for last 5 years

“The fact that South Africa’s women are strongly represented in senior management relative to many other parts of the world says a lot about the progress the country has made in promoting gender equality,” Jeanette Hern, head of corporate finance at Grant Thornton Johannesburg, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“However, the fact that this figure has changed very little in the past five years, indicates that we need more innovative solutions in order to make a significant dent in the number of women still excluded from senior management.”

South Africa’s figure stood at 29% in 2007, dropping to 28% in 2009 and 27% in 2011.

More accommodating workplaces

Such solutions, according to Hern, could include finding more creative ways to accommodate women in the workplace.

“Only 39% of the women surveyed in South Africa indicated that their businesses offer flexible working conditions such as flexible hours and alternative locations to work from.”

Hern also believes business need to consider women for a greater spectrum of management roles. The research shows the majority of women in senior management in South Africa are either human resource directors or finance directors (20% each).

Of those companies surveyed, 8% had women chief executive officers (CEOs) and 9% women chief operating officers (COOs), compared to a global average of 9% and 12% respectively.

“Although there is still a way to go to make significant inroads, this is encouraging and a marked improvement from last year, when [South African] women held 3% of these positions,” said Hern.

“There has definitely been a commendable increase in women holding senior positions in South Africa, but there is no room for complacency and still much room for growth.

“The country has come a long way in promoting gender equality, but the numbers should reflect this. It should be recognised that women can make important contributions, and not only in the fields of human resources or finance.”

SAinfo reporter