Prof Anita Bosch, Research Chair: Women at Work at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), was recently invited to participate at a round table on the future of women at work. This virtual seminar was hosted by Women’s Development Business (WDB) Investment Holdings and the International Women’s Forum South Africa (IWFSA). The event was attended by leading female executives and gender rights campaigners.
Prof Bosch conveyed contextual issues relating to women in leadership and the gender pay gap in South Africa, as well as reasons for persistent gendered patterns in South African workplaces.
She said: “It must be stated that South Africa remains a deeply patriarchal society with cultural norms, upheld by both men and women that place men as leaders and women as caregiving supporters. Whilst this ordering may be useful in some households, it does not contribute to women’s economic advancement.” Corruption and unemployment on SA’s economy
She said the state of the South African economy has seen the biggest annual fall in economic activity since 1946. “According to Stats SA, economic activity for the entire year decreased by 7, 0% in 2020 compared with 2019.
“I do not need to remind you of the extremely damaging effect that corruption has had on our country’s ability to grow economically. According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) 2020, the fourth quarter statistics indicates the official unemployment rate at 32, 5% – the highest since the start of the QLFS in 2008,” she added. Gender transformation
Prof Bosch said a very real issue that gender transformation continues to face is the notion of the replacement of men instead of adding women to the economy.
“Whilst there are always limited positions open at the top of the leadership pyramid and replacement of male for female CEOs, for instance may be inevitable, economic growth could also create opportunities for new businesses to emerge with women CEOs at the helm.”
She said the Commission for Employment Equity Report 2020 provides figures for people that work for designated employers. “These statistics are helpful in understanding people promotion, new hire, and development patterns.
“There has been a 1% decline, year-on-year in the white male population group in representation at the top and senior management, as well as professionally qualified levels. The latter category (professionally qualified) has nearly reached gender parity with about 47% women in this category. Women’s representation in top management is growing by about 1% annually and is now at 24% (76% men). In senior management women are faring slightly better at 35% (65% men).”
She added that the gender pay gap is a hotly debated topic. “Its measurement has been contested, however, no matter whether you do the analyses on national or organisational data, a gap remains and only administrative work delivers a gap for men – women out earn men in this occupational area. A gap of 28, 8% is reported for hourly earnings and 30, 3% for monthly earnings,” she said. The way forward
The University of Stellenbosch Business School, under the auspices of the Research Chair for Women at Work, will embark on a research project on gender pay governance this year. Prof Bosch and her team will also continue with their work on pay transparency – where they compared systems in 16 other countries.
“The King Codes should provide more explicit guidance on measures for gender pay parity. And unless legislation has teeth, gender pay parity will remain elusive. Pay certification by employers may be another avenue to equalise pay,” Prof Bosch suggested.
“Measures such as The Workplace Gender Equality Agency of the Australian government should be considered, however, we should also be mindful of the culture of punishment that we may be cultivating over time by merely placing legal obligations on companies without incentivising good transformation practices sufficiently. Pushing through with policy measures that have not been deliberated from all stakeholder perspectives may not be helpful,” she said.
She also added that “whilst the South African constitution does not allow for quotas, numerical targets should be driven with greater focus, similar to procurement targets from women-owned businesses”.
Prof Bosch said all South African women are not the same. “Our structural positioning in present day practice and lived experience should be taken into consideration when crafting policy. It is not only women board members and leaders that need policy support but indeed all the women – from the ones that take care of households to the ones that have reached the highest echelons of workplace Prof Anita Bosch is the convenor of a short course offered by the University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Education (USB-ED) and GetSmarter on Women in Leadership. The short course will start in April 2021 and will help you explore the core strengths of female business leadership and how it can be used to bolster the performance of organisations. For more information, visit https://www.getsmarter.com/products/usb-ed-women-in-leadership-online-short-course