SA businesswomen beat global average

9 March 2011

Women currently hold 27% of senior management positions in South African companies, beating the global average of 20% by seven percentage points, consultancy Grant Thornton said on International Women’s Day.

Research from Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) also shows that the percentage of privately held businesses in South Africa that have no women in senior management at all has declined from 27% in 2009 to 23%, in contrast to the global average, which has risen from 35% to 38%.

“The fact that South Africa outperforms the global average can be attributed to the emphasis placed by government on gender equality and employment equity,” Jeanette Hern, partner and head of corporate finance at Grant Thornton Johannesburg, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“However, while the South African government holds an impressive record with many women in senior positions, the private sector business community still has a long way to go, particularly in the roles that women play.”

Only 3% with woman CEOs

Grant Thornton’s survey shows that of the companies in South Africa that employ women in senior managerial positions, 21% employ them as human resources directors, followed by financial positions such as chief financial officers and finance directors (20%), sales directors (9%) and marketing officers (8%).

Only 3% of the South African companies surveyed had a woman chief executive officer (CEO), which is 5 percentage points lower than the global average of 8%.

“Our statistic for the roles that women play in privately held businesses are in line with studies done on companies listed on the JSE,” said Hern. “According to a survey done by the Businesswomen’s Association, less than 5% of JSE listed companies have women CEOs.

“Until businesses break out of the mindset that women are only suited for HR and finance positions, we will not be able to properly capture the value that women can add to the workplace.”

Regionally, companies in the Eastern Cape have the highest proportion of women in senior management, at 33%, followed by Gauteng (28%), Cape Town (27%) and Durban having the lowest proportion at 26%.

Global outlook

According to Grant Thornton, G7 countries lag behind the global average with only 16% of women holding senior roles, while by region the Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) scores highest with 27%.

Women have become most successful in increasing their share of senior management roles in Thailand, Hong Kong, Greece, Belgium and Botswana, where the percentage of women in these roles has risen by at least 7% since 2009.

“We can’t afford to be complacent, relying on the fact that we are outperforming our global counterparts,” Hern said.

“The recent economic crisis has highlighted the need for businesses to be flexible and open to change in order to survive. The different perspective that women can bring is so important in our ever changing and complex world.”

The annual Grant Thornton International Business Report is based on telephone interview lasting approximately 15 minutes with the chief executive officers or senior executives of over 11 000 medium to large privately held businesses in 39 countries.

SAinfo reporter

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