/ 7 June 2011

‘Urgent need’ to speed up empowerment of women

Extra measures need to be taken urgently to hasten the transformation and empowerment of women, the Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, said on Tuesday.

Addressing the National Assembly during debate on her budget vote, Xingwana said while women constituted more than 50% of the population, they remained “severely” under-represented in decision-making positions.

She said women constituted less than 10% of chief executives and chairpersons of boards of companies listed on the JSE.

They held less than 16% of directorships and 21% of executive management positions.

The number of better performing companies with 25% or more women directors and executive managers continued to decrease from 58 in 2008 to 37 in 2010.

‘Urgent need’
“We still have 27 JSE-listed companies without even a single woman at directorship or executive management level. One example is Checkers, which does not have a single woman on its board despite the vast majority of its customers and workers being women.

“Clearly there is an urgent need for extra measures to be taken to hasten the process of transformation and empowerment of women,” said Xingwana.

She said the department was working on the Gender Equity Bill, which would provide the necessary legislative authority to hasten the empowerment of women.

It would address issues of enforcement and compliance towards the attainment of the 50/50 gender parity target.

Consultation on the Bill was under way and the final draft would be submitted to Cabinet for approval by March 2012.

“The enactment of the Gender Equality Bill will lead to systemic improvements for women and facilitate the attainment of gender equality,” said Xingwana. — Sapa