Moving up slowly

More women have taken up leadership positions in various business and government structures, but there is a great deal that still needs to be done, a census commissioned by the Business Women’s Association of South Africa (Bwasa) has found.

Bwasa—the largest forum of business and professional women in the country—first came up with the idea of a census in 2004 as a way of tracking progress women are making in the corporate world and some of the obstacles that they still encounter as they climb the corporate ladder.

The 2010 census reveals that “while women make up 51,6% of the adult population in South Africa, only 44,6% of working South Africans are women”. More telling is the fact that “women constitute only 19,3% of all executive managers and as low as 16,6% of all directors in the country”.

Some of the findings of the census indicate that women held 16,6% directorship positions. In terms of race “women of colour” (Africans, Indians and Coloureds) held 10,3% of all director positions. Interestingly, South Africa leads some of the developed countries such as Australia (10,7%), Canada (16,9%) and the United States (13,5%) in terms of the number of women directors.

There has been an increase in the number of women on the boards of JSE-listed companies (2,4% from 13,2% to 15,6% year on year). While women’s representivity has decreased marginally on the boards of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) women are still far more represented on the boards of SOEs than those of JSE-listed companies.

Most women executives are in the consumer services and financial sectors, with the most significant increases in the number of women executives seen in the technology and industrial categories.

But Bwasa said: “clearly additional measures must be put in place if we wish to achieve significant progress in the development of women in business” because “women in business are catalysts for change”.

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo reports for the Teacher newspaper, a Mail & Guardian monthly publication. Apart from covering education stories, he also writes across other beats. He enjoys reading and is an avid soccer and athletics fanatic. Thabo harbours a dream of writing a book. Read more from Thabo Mohlala

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