Call for women to step up

Call for women to step up

In Article, Women Empowerment by admin

Decades into the gender diversity era, women remain under-represented in leadership positions and continue to earn a fraction of their male counterparts. Projecting the current trends, according to the World Economic Forum, it may take up to 202 years to close the gender pay gap.

True diversity, in every respect (gender, race, culture, age), holds the promise of significant rewards to business.  In recognition of Women’s month, this piece focuses on gender diversity.  While, the last decade has seen an increase in gender diversity in leadership with some companies taking major strides forward, the large majority, unfortunately, still find themselves struggling or even unwilling to make a shift. 

PWC’s 2019 Practices and Remuneration Trends Report highlights the failure of businesses to close the gender gap. Key stats to note include that across the JSE, female executive directors are paid on average 74,5% of what their male counterparts earn. Within JSE listed companies, women constituted 3.3% of all CEOs, 12.8% of all CFOs and 8.1% of all Executive Directors. According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2019 Report, 21% of C-Suite positions are held by women. In addition, for every 100 men promoted or hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted or hired. This results in substantial disparity at manager level with men holding 62% of manager positions. Importantly, this report illustrates that to significantly impact leadership statistics, the attrition between entry-level employment of women and their transition to Manager must be curbed.  

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Women in leadership positions

The year 2020 has been a year of disruption and the year of the new normal. Covid-19 has created a unique environment forcing companies into flexible working environments and work from home policies. According to numerous research reports, one of the primary contributors to the disparity of women in leadership is that women struggle to balance work and family responsibilities. This is a contributing factor to the attrition between entry level and manager positions. Now is an ideal time for companies to seriously consider ways to incorporate flexible working solutions into their business models as part of their gender diversity and female employee retention strategies. 

Flexible working environments may contribute to a shift in leadership; however, the real change will come from a shift in accountability. Accountability for gender transformation has long rested on the shoulders of business. Within this model, women remain under-represented in all facets of leadership. A rapid change is needed, and this will only be achieved through shared accountability between business and every woman in business.  Women must hold themselves accountable to invest in themselves, to develop their skills, to recognise their strengths, to own their potential, to step into the most powerful, most confident versions of themselves.  

Corporate SA is called upon to address the challenges faced by women in their climb to leadership positions, to inculcate a culture that promotes diversity and inclusivity and implement policies that nurture and support balance in the scales of leadership.

Click here for a quick read on how to maintain a positive mindset. 

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Women of Corporate SA, co-responsibility to shift the balance rests with you.

Deliver great results, challenge the norms, speak up for the changes you want to see, be definite about your career aspirations, stay the course and forge a path for others to follow. While companies can do their bit, the responsibility for rapid change ultimately rests with you.


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About the author:

Usha Maharaj CA(SA) is an Executive and Leadership Coach in South Africa who went from small town trainee accountant to Director in a Big-4 audit firm. Her 16+ year corporate career had all of the highs and lows of a high performing workplace where she shattered setbacks, crushed challenges and conquered fears to enjoy a highly successful career. She now inspires ambitious individuals and executives to reach their own highest level of influence in corporate South Africa.
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