The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) is flexing its muscles.
For the first time, companies and government departments — including Bidvest Bank, the Alliance Mining Group and the Performance, Monitoring, Evaluation and Administration in the Presidency — have been called to account for their lack of gender transformation.
Six government departments and six companies were called in November to clarify their stance on gender equity.
Of the 12, only five responded, including Poynting Antennas and Great Basin Gold. Seven of the companies, including Bidvest, Alliance Mining and Esorfranki Limited had to be subpoenaed to appear after failing to respond to the initial invitation from the commission.
Johan Ebersohn, HR manager at Poynting, said the company does have a gender policy in place. “I think at the time when they [CGE] were doing the figures our rating was quite low, but we’ve done a lot of work since then,” Ebersohn said.
Three directors general of government departments, including correctional services, and arts and culture, were also subpoenaed after failing to meet the deadline.
Those from the auditor general’s office, the national treasury, and the trade and industry and public enterprises departments responded by the commission’s deadline.
Javu Baloyi, spokesperson for CGE, said it is the first time the commission has acted firmly on its mandate.
Role of the CGE
“The CGE is charged with a broad mandate to promote respect for gender equality and the protection, development and attainment of gender equality and to make recommendations to Parliament on any legislation affecting the status of women in South Africa,” he wrote in an email to the Mail & Guardian.
The CGE monitors, investigates, researches, educates, lobbies, advises and reports on issues concerning gender equality and is “empowered to subpoena and litigate against public and private sector entities where necessary,” Baloyi said.
He said the CGE had invited those companies that are not making gender transformation a priority in the workplace. “The issue is that some of them do not even have a gender policy in place,” he said.
This coincides with a report this month by Stats SA on the gap in earnings between male and female employees.
The report found the earnings gap in South Africa between women and men is evident in all occupations except domestic work. Overall, women had median monthly earnings of R2 340 compared with the median earnings of R3 033 of their male counterparts.
Managers fared no better. Female managers with median earnings of R9 000 earned 25% less than their male counterparts, with median monthly earnings of R12 000. The biggest gap between the sexes, the report found, was among skilled agriculture employees; however, this should be interpreted with caution because of the small numbers involved.
The gap between the two groups narrows among technicians, clerks and elementary workers, where women earn 22% less than their male counterparts.
The commission hearings will be held on December 7 and 8 in the Constitutional Court Auditorium.
Baloyi said it is no coincidence that they are taking place during the 16 Days of Activism. This is “in recognition of the fact that discrimination in the workplace constitutes economic abuse against women”.
He said it would also change men’s views about women in the workplace and encourage them to work together. The hearings will help form recommendations to be presented before Parliament.
Baloyi said this was not the last of the hearings. “We’ll have to assess the impact of such hearings. In future we are going to broaden the scope.”
View more on our special report on 16 days of activism here:.