In South Africa, only 5% of chief executives are women

Only 5% of chief executives are women and the gender pay gap is most pronounced in the top JSE-listed companies, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report released on Thursday.

The report, which tracked executive director remuneration trends in 285 companies, found that there were only 81 women executives among the 725 people whose pay was analysed. 

The 725 comprise 280 chief executives, 269 chief financial officers and 176 executive directors. The average age of executives, the report noted, has remained relatively constant over the past five years at 52 years old.

The gender pay gap in the 285 JSE-listed companies identified in the PwC report is indicative of a global problem. According to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report released in March, it will take 135.6 years to close the gender pay gap worldwide.

Covid widens pay chasm

The WEF’s 2021 Gender Pay Gap report found that the Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately affected women’s remuneration and partially reopened gaps that had already been closed.

South Africa ranks relatively high on the WEF’s pay gap index, at 18. (The lower the number, the smaller the pay gap.) However, according to the index, the country made very little progress in closing the pay gap between 2006 — when the WEF first started tracking wage parity — and 2021. Iceland, Finland and Norway top the index with the smallest gender pay gaps.

The PwC report noted that current draft legislation aimed at addressing wage inequality did not directly address the gender pay gap. Amendments to the Companies Act, published for public comment in 2018, do not make the provision for the disclosure of the gender pay gap.

The amendments have not yet passed into law, but in May Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel announced that a new bill would soon be finalised.

According to Patel, the bill will require disclosure of wage differentials in companies and stronger governance on excessive director pay.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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