This year’s top-per­form­ing com­pa­nies

CityPress - - Business - FERIAL HAF­FA­JEE ferial.haf­fa­jee@city­

Drum roll. This is the premier league of top com­pa­nies that har­ness the power of fe­male lead­ers. The Busi­ness­women’s As­so­ci­a­tion of SA’s an­nual cen­sus of cor­po­rate lead­er­ship de­fines a top com­pany as one that has one in four women in sig­nif­i­cant roles – se­nior man­age­ment or a di­rec­tor’s seat on the board.

“Suc­cess does not hap­pen with­out in­tent and ef­fort,” say the au­thors of the Women in Lead­er­ship Cen­sus 2015. The cen­sus, South Africa’s most de­fin­i­tive, mea­sured 293 or­gan­i­sa­tions – and only 34 met the cri­te­ria of be­ing a top com­pany.

Seven or­gan­i­sa­tions made the hon­ours roll for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year: they in­clude the JSE, Stan­dard Bank, Adap­tit Hold­ings, Busi­ness Con­nex­ion, Mer­afe Re­sources, the SABC and Transnet.

The cen­sus also mea­sured women’s lead­er­ship across the largest JSE-listed com­pa­nies. The ra­tios of fe­male lead­ers range from ac­cept­able to ex­cel­lent.

Com­pa­nies in the top ta­ble come from across sec­tors, both pri­vate and public. The spec­trum in­cludes fi­nan­cials, IT, min­ing and a range of public sec­tor de­part­ments and agen­cies.

Many in the top ta­ble are non­tra­di­tional for women’s lead­er­ship. They in­clude diamond miner Alex­cor, Arm­scor and Air Traf­fic and Nav­i­ga­tion Ser­vices. The au­thors cite six fac­tors these com­pa­nies share: they pro­vide sys­tems to en­sure women have a bal­ance be­tween their roles as lead­ers of their homes and fam­i­lies; they choose the right peo­ple; they of­fer good ben­e­fits; and they have strong sup­port sys­tems in place – in­clud­ing study op­por­tu­ni­ties, flex­i­ble work ar­range­ments and crèche and gym fa­cil­i­ties.

The re­main­ing two fac­tors are that women’s em­pow­er­ment is writ­ten into a com­pany’s DNA (it is not a sideshow or pa­per pol­icy) and there is a gen­er­ally sup­port­ive cul­ture for women.

The out­liers in­clude Dis­cov­ery, where women com­prise 62.5% of board lead­ers and Old Mu­tual, with an even higher fig­ure of 66.7%. On this ul­tra­value ta­ble, the only lag­gard is Rem­gro, the lux­ury-brand com­pany that has no women on its board.

The graphic on the far right con­sists of the bot­tom 50 – com­pa­nies that have no fe­male di­rec­tors. Their rea­sons for the lack of bal­ance on their boards in­cluded:

“Our head­count is small and ev­ery per­son must add value.”

“We are a lean and fo­cused com­pany ... As we grow our team, we will aim to have a more bal­anced board. How­ever, we are not in­ter­ested in in­clud­ing women on our board for the num­bers.” “Male-dom­i­nated in­dus­tries strug­gle to find women.” “While we hire women, they tend to be in the sup­port func­tions like hu­man re­sources and fi­nance.”

“At times, the sub­sidiary com­pa­nies in South Africa are small, with smaller num­bers than the larger in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions have.”

The au­thors say: “The av­er­age per­cent­age of women di­rec­tors for the largest 25 or­gan­i­sa­tions based on mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion is 24.7%. Large or­gan­i­sa­tions are slow to trans­form in gen­der par­ity.”

The over­all pic­ture of the cen­sus is one of slow progress at the pin­na­cle of in­flu­ence and power. It re­veals that the public sec­tor is out of the blocks far more quickly than the pri­vate sec­tor in ad­vanc­ing women.

The cen­sus re­port notes in con­clu­sion that: “The find­ings are dis­ap­point­ing. The con­ver­sa­tion has con­tin­ued for decades and yet very lit­tle has changed. Women are still a mi­nor­ity at the top ech­e­lons of or­gan­i­sa­tions. Even though there have been mar­ginal im­prove­ments, South African busi­nesses are well be­low the 50% tar­get.”

South Africa’s eq­uity laws also set tar­gets for women’s em­pow­er­ment and have en­abled women’s lead­er­ship across the econ­omy.

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