Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  10 Mar 2009

LABOUR: Women Still Lagging In The Workplace


Recent Western Cape Business News

The number of women placed in new positions by one of the leading corporate head hunters in SA has remained constant at 30% of all candidates placed, despite companies’ gender equity intentions.

So says Madge Gibson, a partner at leading executive search firm Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, who presented an analysis of statistics over the last 3 years which show that only one in three new corporate positions are being filled by women.

“Although many companies have made it a priority to promote and appoint female employees at a senior level, the statistics show there has been little progress at a senior management level for women.”

She says her company has noticed that when it comes to making career moves, women are more risk averse than their male counterparts which could account for the low numbers of executive women placements.

She says although women constitute 52% of South Africa’s adult population they make up only 41% of the working South African population, a proportion that decreases dramatically as one moves up the corporate pyramid - only 14,7% of all executive managers and 7,1% of all directors on listed JSE companies are women.

Gender representation within State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) is better than that of listed companies.

She says that research has found that advancing women in business makes sound business sense in addition to the socio political arguments for doing so.
A study called “**The Bottom Line: Connecting Corporate Performance and Gender Diversity”** found that companies with a higher representation of women in senior management positions financially outperform companies with proportionally fewer women at the top.

It showed that diversity in the workplace is a positive advantage and that companies which recruit, retain, and advance women have a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

Its findings show that it is easier for a woman to become chair of a board than to reach CEO level. Only 3% of the chairpersons of corporate boards in South Africa are women while only 1,9% of CEOs in South Africa are women. The international average for CEO posts held by women is only 1% however and in the US 13.6% of the Fortune 500 board directorship positions are held by women.

Gibson says women are ‘cautiously ambitious’ in the workplace mainly due to family considerations.

“While this doesn’t make women any less efficient or driven, it does mean that they give greater consideration to the effects that career advancement and relocations would have on their husband and children. They attempt to attain a better work life balance.

“On the other hand, single women, or women without children, are often tremendously ambitious and do not hold back at all with regards to achieving their goals.

“We have found a much higher number of single women who travel extensively for work and who are happy to consider a relocation if it were to benefit their career.”
Research shows that aside from business acumen, women bring a very necessary EQ value to the corporate world.

“They are often more effective at gaining consensus when making decisions compared to their male counterparts who can be more forceful. Women also tend to be more thoughtful in their decision making process, identifying grey areas and often addressing what is unseen through their empathy and intuition. Women are also tenacious multi-taskers, making them highly effective and productive.”

She says one area which does hold women back is their “natural resistance” towards lobbying for their own advancement.

“Most women prefer to wait for acknowledgement through promotion rather than proactively sing their own praises to initiate change.

“Women are generally sensitive to appearing ego-centric, whereas men don’t associate self promotion with the ego – to them it’s all about business.”


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