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real geNder equality ANd
TRANSFoRMATIoN REQuIRES FAR
MoRE ThAN lEGISlATIoN
By Khensani Nobanda; Group Executive: Nedbank Group Marketing and Corporate Affairs
n the 24 years since South Africa’s discriminatory laws were abolished
and replaced with a constitutional framework that enables and supports
equality, our country has become a benchmark of human rights and dignity,
equality, freedom, non-racialism, non-sexism and equal opportunity.
Within the corporate environment, a focus on broad-based black economic
empowerment regulations, codes and requirements have helped to drive
significant progress towards employment and workplace equality.
But while this more legislated and regulated approach to equality has
undoubtedly resulted in massive positive change, the transformation
challenges and shortcomings that have persisted over the past two and
half decades have also delivered some very difficult, albeit valuable,
lessons. Arguably the most significant of these is the fact that you simply
cannot achieve full and meaningful workplace transformation through
There are few areas of corporate transformation where this truth is more
evident than gender equality, despite the fact that the South African corporate
landscape has undergone seismic positive shifts in this regard over the past
20 years. According to the World Economic Forum, South Africa is ranked in
the top quartile of the more than 130 countries assessed in terms of gender
equality. We’ve taken the concept of Women’s Day to another level and now
celebrate an entire month devoted to promoting the gender equality agenda.
And we have a Constitution that pays particular attention to the advancement
of women, with many areas of national government leading the way in this
regard via significant female representation at all levels.
But, while the big picture of gender equality may look positive for South
Africa, the devil is, as always, in the detail. And those point to the lingering
existence of some huge gender equality gaps – particularly for black women.
For example, the latest population report produced by Statistics SA found
that women in South Africa typically still earn around 23% less than men
for doing the same job. What’s worse, black women typically earn less than
their non-black counterparts when performing the same duties. And the
difference isn’t negligible. The report puts the monthly median earnings for
black women at an estimated R2 500, while the median for white women’s
earnings is four times as much, at R10 000.
And, while recent statistics appear to indicate an overall steadying of, and even
a possible decline in unemployment levels, the Stats SA report showed that
the unemployment rate for women is still much higher than for men – again
with black women being the most vulnerable group.
Also, the apparent inability of industry in South Africa to close the gap
between men and women in the workplace is by no means limited to
lower income earners or lesser qualified groups. The 2017 Businesswomen’s
Association of SA Women in Leadership Census reveal this to still be the
case. In 2008, 18.5% of companies had 25% or more female directors on their
boards. Ten years later, the figure hasn’t risen by much and the 2017 survey
showed that only 34.4% of the total companies included in the Census have
achieved female board representation of 25% or more.
All of this begs the question: If South Africa has such progressive and allencompassing employment equity regulations, and business has the will to
comply with these, why does the achievement of comprehensive gender
equality still appear to be so elusive in the corporate environment?
It’s a question that we at Nedbank remain determined to respond to positively
through the achievement of true gender equality across all areas and levels
of our organisation. For us, the answer lies in a commitment to going far
beyond scorecard compliance. It requires excellent, organisation-wide
diversity management, a highly inclusive approach to gender equity, and a
determination to ensure that, when it comes to decisions that affect them,
all diversity groups have a seat at the discussion table and an opportunity to
provide input into equity strategies and policies.
So while we, like our peers and competitors in the SA banking industry, have
managed to make strides in the gender-based EE targets (almost 50% of
our staff complement comprises black women), we don’t believe that this
alone gives us the right to claim that we have achieved full gender equity in
our organisation. That will only be the case when the women of Nedbank,
and those in the markets and communities we serve, confirm it to be so. To
this end, the women of Nedbank have a loud and clear voice through the
Nedbank Women’s Forum, which not only represents them at an executive,
decision-making level, but also works tirelessly to ensure they have the
equality and opportunities they deserve.
The highly respected Stanford Social Innovation Review called gender equity
‘the next sustainability frontier,’ and pointed to the achievement of such gender
equity as one of the most important business imperatives. Our country is most
certainly on the path to gender equality, but such equality has still not been
entrenched as a cultural reality for most of South Africa’s women, including
those in the corporate workplace. As an organisation with a stated purpose
to use its financial expertise to do good, Nedbank embraces the responsibility,
and opportunity, it has to change this and through a deep commitment
to gender equality that transcends compliance, help our nation achieve a
position in which real equality is a lived daily experience for all its people.
http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2017.pdf (page 8)
https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/economy/do-south-african-women-earn-27-lessthan-men-11377266. Ipsos Report: Pulse of the People
SOURCE: STATS SA; QLFS 2015