South Africa women in business compares favourably to global situation


South Africa compares favourably to the rest of the world with 28% of senior management positions held by women, but more innovation is needed to make significant progress in this field. This is according to research from the 2012 Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) that surveys trends in privately held businesses in 40 economies in the world. The global average of women holding senior management positions is 21%.


“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. 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,” says Jeanette Hern, partner and head of corporate finance at Grant Thornton Johannesburg.

She refers to this figure being 29% in 2007, after which it dropped to 28% in 2009 and 27% in 2011.

These solutions 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,” says Hern.

She also believes business need to consider women for a greater spectrum of management roles. The research shows the majority of women in senior management – 20% each – are either Human Resource Directors or Finance Directors. Of those surveyed, only 8% of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and 9% Chief Operating Officers (COOs) are women. “Although there is still a way to go to make significant inroads, this is encouraging and a marked improvement from last year when women held 3% of these positions,” says Hern.

The global average for women as CEOs and COOs is 9% and 12% respectively.

Regionally Gauteng has the highest proportion of women in senior management at 30% closely followed by Cape Town and surrounding areas as well as the Eastern Cape with 28% each. KwaZulu-Natal lags somewhat with 25% of women in senior management.

Gauteng also leads the pack with the highest proportion of women CEOs at 12% and the Eastern Cape lags far behind at 4,2% of women in CEO positions. Interestingly, Gauteng also has the highest proportion of businesses offering flexible working conditions.

Global outlook

Disappointingly the G7 countries lag the global average with only 18% of women in senior management positions. The figure is the same for North America. Italy and Russia has shown the biggest improvements – 14 and 10 percentage points respectively – in women holding senior positions. Russia is now the surveyed economy with the highest proportion of women in senior positions at 46% while Italy is in the 6th position with 36%. Botswana is the African country with the highest proportion of women in senior management at 39%.

South Africa’s average of 28% is slightly ahead of the BRIC countries with an average of 26% women in senior management.

“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,” concludes Hern.

At Grant Thornton South Africa women currently hold 28% of the senior management positions, very much in line with the South African average.


Source: CSR Africa – 13 March 2012