South African women in business better represented than global counterparts

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Research from the 2011 Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) shows the percentage of Privately Held Businesses (PHBs) in South Africa that have no women in senior management at all has declined from 27% in 2009 to 23%, in contrast to the global average which has risen to 38% compared to 35% in 2009.

The survey also reveals that South African women currently hold 27% of senior management positions, beating the global average of 20% by 7%.

Still a way to go

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Jeanette Hern, partner and head of corporate finance at Grant Thornton Johannesburg says, “The fact that South Africa outperforms the global average can be attributed to the emphasis placed by government on gender equality and employment equity.  However, while the South African government holds an impressive record with many women in senior positions, the private sector business community still has a long way to go, particularly in the roles that women play.”

The survey shows that of the companies in South Africa that employ women in senior managerial positions globally, 21% employ them as Human Resources Directors. This is closely followed by financial positions (e.g Chief Financial Officer/Finance Director) at 20% and then Sales Director (9%) and Marketing Officer (8%).

Only 3% of the South African companies surveyed have a female Chief Executive Officer (CEO), which is 5% lower than the global average of 8%.

“Our statistic for the roles that women play in privately held businesses are in line with studies done on companies listed on the JSE,” says Hern. “According to a survey done by the Businesswomen’s Association, less than 5% of JSE listed companies have women CEOs. Until businesses break out of the mindset that women are only suited for HR and finance positions we will not be able to properly capture the value that women can add to the workplace.”

Regionally, companies in the Eastern Cape have the highest proportion of women in senior management at 33% followed by Gauteng (28%), Cape Town (27%) and Durban having the lowest proportion at 26%.

The global outlook

The data revealed that G7 countries lag behind the global average with only 16% of women holding senior roles, whilst by region, Asia Pacific (excl. Japan) scores highest with 27%.

Women have become most successful in increasing their share of senior management roles in Thailand, Hong Kong, Greece, Belgium and Botswana, where the percentage of women in these roles has risen by at least 7% since 2009.

“We can’t afford to be complacent, relying on the fact that we are outperforming our global counterparts.  The recent economic crisis has highlighted the need for businesses to be flexible and open to change in order to survive.  The different perspective that women can bring is so important in our ever changing and complex world,” concludes Hern.

Source: Issued by FD South Africa on behalf of Grant Thornton SA.


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