Women in senior roles in South Africa on the up

 ·8 Mar 2018

South Africa has made progress in reducing the gender bias for women engaging in early stage entrepreneurial activities, according to findings from the second Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE).

However, the number of women business owners remains constrained by a lack of entrepreneurial intent, perceived business opportunities, and shortage of support and resources, the report said.

South Africa moves up one place from last year to rank 22nd (score of 64.2) on the Index, which tracks female entrepreneurs’ ability to capitalize on opportunities granted through various supporting conditions within their local environments.

The index uses three components made up of 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators to look at how 57 economies around the world differ in terms of the level of Women’s Advancement Outcomes, Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, and Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors.

Despite a healthy MIWE score, women account for only 18.8% of business owners in South Africa (rank 42), indicating that their progress in entrepreneurship has been disappointingly low compared to other countries measured.

South Africa moved up six places from 30th in 2017 to 24th in the “Women’s Advancement Outcome” component, which measures women’s progress and degree of marginalisation as business leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs and labour force participants.

This was fueled by an increase in the Women Entrepreneurial Activity Rate Indicator in 2018, which saw a narrowing of the gender gap with 5.9% of working age women in the labour force engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activities compared to 8.4% for men.

However, the actual percentage of females engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activities decreased by 15.7% year-on-year, while for males, it declined by a significant 27.6%, Mastercard said.

South Africa excels in the “Knowledge Assets and Financial Access” component (score 84.3, rank 6), which gauges women’s progress and degree of marginalisation as financial customers and academically in terms of tertiary education enrollment.

Not only are women as well-educated as their male counterparts in tertiary education, they have near-equal access (99%) to financial services to men. On the downside, women were affected by a decline in support for Small and Medium Enterprises, including availability of finance, training and development programmes for women, the report said.

Similarly, a report out on Thursday by Grant Thornton, showed that although almost one third (29%) of senior roles in South Africa are now filled by women, one in five local businesses (20%) still have no women at all in senior positions.

The 2018 Grant Thornton International Business Report focused specifically on research regarding women in business.

“The trend in SA is encouraging,” said Lee-Anne Bac, director at Grant Thornton Johannesburg. “The percentage of women in senior management teams has, on average, been rising slowly but steadily from 26% in 2014. There are still too many businesses without a single woman in their senior management team, however, and this needs to be addressed.”

Most SA firms did not score favourably on a number of gender equality practices, including senior management pay linked to progress on gender diversity (14%); part-time working (39%); remote working (37%) and subsidised childcare (5%).

On the other hand, 93% of local companies said they pay men and women equally for the same roles, 88% had non-discrimination policies for recruitment, 71% offered paid parental leave and just over half (51%) offered flexible working hours, the report said.

Read: Five inspiring South African women in tech

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