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Spotlight 12: Beyond Women's Month

Making Gender Equality Stick

By Dr Nitasha Ramparsad, Director for Leadership Support, National School of Government

Gender bias is attracting new interest with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. These movements have been raising awareness about gender inequality and sexual harassment across the globe. The Global Talent Competitiveness Index ranks South Africa as 66 in the gender earnings gap, yet also ranks women as 86 in terms of leadership opportunities afforded to them. There seems to be no correlation between the efforts afforded to positioning women and closing the gender earnings gap. According to the Midyear Population Statistics of 20171, women make up half of South Africa’s population. Women remain largely under-represented in positions of authority and power. This is of particular importance to organisations as these statistics represent a commitment to gender equality on paper only. In order to transform paper rights into “real” rights, organisations need to look at the (dis) enabling environment in the workplace. If Human Resource Practitioners considers the entire workforce, 44 in every 100 employed individuals are women, according to labour data released for the second quarter of 2017. Women fill 44% of skilled posts, which includes managers, professionals and technicians. This figure hasn’t shifted much over the years; it was 44% in September 2002. Although South Africa has made great strides, gender representivity is still below the 50% mark for positions that come with a great deal of influence, according to data from 20172 women comprised 32% of Supreme Court of Appeal judges, 31% of advocates, 30% of ambassadors and 24% of heads of state-owned enterprises. If we take a brief look at the Top 40 JSE listed companies, only one company has a female CEO. Parliament fares a lot better – South Africa is ranked as the tenth country in the world with the most number of females in parliament, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, with just over 4 in every 10 benches held by a women.

This Spotlight paper looks at practical steps that Human Resource Practitioners can implement in the workplace in order to achieve gender equality in a more meaningful manner. This will enable transformation to move from paper rights to the lived experiences of the people whom legislation was intended for.

Download the full paper here.


The HR Think Tank works to improve South Africa’s talent competitiveness through targeted research and interventions in key areas. It aims to ultimately shift the country’s trajectory by pursuing the conditions for people to reach their potential in the world of work. Members help to shape and influence policy and the broader challenges facing HR and labour.

Member organisations include: AIIM, Anglo American, Auditor General SA, British American Tobacco South Africa, De Beers, Exxaro, Hyundai Automotive South Africa, Imperial Holdings, Institute for People Management, JvR, Liberty, Medshield Medical Scheme, MTN Group, Old Mutual Insure, Pearson, Pepsico, Pick n Pay, Sanlam, Sasol, SA Medical Research Council, St Peter's Schools, St Stithians College,Sun International, Tiger Brands, The Banking Association SA, University of Johannesburg, University of Stellenbosch, Unitrans, Woolworths Financial Services, Vaal University of Technology and more...

For more information on becoming a member click here.

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