Finweek English Edition - - FRONT PAGE - BY SHOKS MZOLO

While a re­cent PwC study in­di­cated that there is a strong link be­tween the fi­nan­cial per­for­mance of com­pa­nies and fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in their top ech­e­lons, only 8.79% of JSE-listed com­pa­nies cur­rently have 25% or more fe­male di­rec­tors. This is ac­cord­ing to the 2015 South African Women in Lead­er­ship Cen­sus re­leased by the Busi­ness­women’s As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa (Bwasa) in July.

Only 2.4% of all CEOs in the coun­try are fe­male. Among them are Bar­clays Africa Group’s Maria Ramos, in charge since 2009; Cather­ine Rad­owsky of Rex True­form, Queenspark’s par­ent com­pany; and JSE boss Nicky New­ton-King. Nonku­l­uleko Nyem­bezi-Heita left ArcelorMit­tal SA, where she was CEO un­til last year, to as­sume a sim­i­lar post at IchorCoal.

Quot­ing a re­cent Em­ploy­ment Eq­uity Re­port, San­dra Burmeis­ter, CEO of ex­ec­u­tive search firm Am­rop Lan­de­lahni, says that while the per­cent­age of fe­male pro­fes­sion­als in the work­place in­creased from 33% to 43% be­tween 2005 and 2014, most of this change took place in the mid-2000s.

“More re­cently, the pace of trans­for­ma­tion has slowed. This is a ma­jor con­cern,” she says.

Speak­ing at the launch of the 2015 Women in Lead­er­ship Cen­sus, Bwasa pres­i­dent Farzanah Mall said there has been a global trend to strengthen leg­is­la­tion to in­crease women’s mem­ber­ship on com­pany boards. Ger­man law­mak­ers, for ex­am­ple, re­cently passed a law stat­ing that by 2016 30% of board mem­bers at large firms should be women.

In SA, no such tar­gets ex­ist. While the coun­try con­sid­ered such mea­sures, it is now go­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. The Women Em­pow­er­ment and Gen­der Equal­ity Bill lapsed in 2014, eras­ing any head­way Bwasa had made over the years.

It re­mains a re­alit y, ac­cord­ing to global con­sul­tancy McKin­sey, that some men get ap­pointed on the strength of their po­ten­tial whereas women must prove them­selves f irst. Dou­ble stan­dards ex­tend be­yond ap­point­ments. The global pay dis­par­ity be­tween men and women, ac­cord­ing to UN Women di­rec­tor Phumzile Mlam­boNgcuka, is 24%. Ac­cord­ing to Burmeis­ter, the lo­cal pay gap be­tween the sexes is at 35.5% in the pri­vate sec­tor. It de­creases to 5% in the non-profit sec­tor.

This week, Fin­week fea­tures a group of busi­ness­women who have made their mark de­spite these chal­lenges.

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