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Considering the Role of Women in Corporate SA

For several years, ex-ABSA chief executive officer (CEO) Maria Ramos was the lone woman in the role of CEO in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) top 40 listed companies. Since her departure from the position in January 2019, there are none.
There are now no female CEOs running any of the country’s 40 largest listed companies. Only 3.3% of the 365 companies listed on the overall JSE All Share Index have female CEOs, a new report by PwC found.

Pay Gap

South African women are consistently paid less than men, and there is no industry where they are paid more than men, the report found.
The PwC executive directors’ practices and remuneration trends report for South Africa, showed that men in healthcare are paid roughly 28.1% more than women, and 25.1% more in media and general retailers.
In South Africa’s technology industry, men are paid 22.9% more, and 21.8% more in the financial sector.

Push for Legislation

Viviene Reding, the European commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, recently presented data showing that Europe’s boardrooms were becoming more balanced. Last October women made up 15.8% of company boards, up from 13.7% a year ago.
Reding said companies had been forced to become more diverse by the European commission when it declared it would legislate to improve the situation.

“Since the moment that I threatened that if there was no progress then I would put up legislation, there has been real progress,” Reding said. “Sometimes it needs a little push.”

Representation Matters

Studies have shown extensive evidence that gender diversity at senior management level enhances company performance. The suggestion is not that women should lead alone, but increased representation would ensure more diverse views, which is a proven performance enhancer.
Statistics South Africa estimates that approximately 51.2% (approximately 30 million) of the country’s population is female. As the country works on reducing inequality in all spheres, and creating a more inclusive society, should corporate boardrooms start to mirror this?
Considering the role of women in society, and the value they bring to it, it’s encouraging to see more women participating in industries such as technology and finance. Maria Ramos might not ever know the full extent of what her being a CEO of one of the big four banks meant for young girls and women.
Leaders like Ramos are trailblazers for women in younger generations. They’ve planted seeds, with the hope that future generations will run even further than they have, so that there won’t only be a single-digit percentage of women CEOs represented in the JSE’s top 40 in years to come.