Concerns over gender transformation in the workplace

Businesses are performing “dismally” when it comes to implementing equality in the workplace, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) said on Monday.

“It is apparent that progress made regarding gender transformation in political leadership and among state entities is not replicated in the corporate arena, and that women and people with disabilities are under-represented at all levels in the workplace,” the CGE said in a statement.

The CGE was responding the Employment Equity Commission’s (EEC) annual report last week, which showed that equality was still progressing too slowly.

“It is clear … that South African businesses are performing dismally with regard to gender transformation in the workplace.”

The CGE was also concerned at the “invisible elements” that continued to marginalise working women, relating to the institutional culture within a demonstrated male-dominated environment.

‘Stronger enforcement mechanisms’
These pertained to internal policies and practice regarding recruitment and promotion, sexual harassment in the workplace, and access to skills training coupled with the sense that men were taken more seriously and that women had to “earn their stripes”.

This situation was even harder for black women, the CGE said.

“We need stronger enforcement mechanisms for EEC reporting to ensure compliance, including the increase in value of penalties, and a Name and Shame and Praise campaign.”

Companies should also be required to develop a focused gender-equality strategy with targets and timeframes and to implement women’s empowerment and capacity-building programmes.

Companies should further consider proactive interventions such as the provision of child-care facilities in the workplace, and the introduction of flexible working arrangements to enable women to balance career and domestic responsibilities.

Gender sensitivity and gender equality in the workplace also needed to become performance requirements for companies and senior management.

“Without such interventions to address both women’s representation and experience in the workplace, we will fail to realise the notions of gender equality and non-discrimination outlined in our Constitution,” the CGE said. — Sapa

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