While the continent seems to be faring slightly better than the rest of the world, the report reveals that women hold 5% of CEO positions in the private sector, compared to 4% globally.

“In terms of gender diversity, one of the key findings is that we [Africa] are doing well compared to the rest of the world and we have made progress but we are not making the most of the opportunity,” Lohini Moodley, a partner at McKinsey was quoted saying in a Fin24 report.

READ MORE: Fewer women in leadership positions in SA

The report also backs up a growing body of research conducted in recent years which all point towards a correlation between the number of women in leadership positions at a company and the organisation’s bottom line, with McKinsey finding that companies who have more women on their board are significantly more likely to deliver greater operating margins and return on investment for shareholders as well as a better return on equity.

Where organisations had at least a quarter female board representation, the research found that earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) were around 20% more than the industry average.

“Women bring a completely different dimension to organisations…they bring different considerations. More diversity allows for robust decision making,” Moodley says.

As is the case in South Africa, women in the public sector are far better represented in the workplace with 24% of parliamentarians being women.

READ MORE: Women leaders drive better bottom lines: study

While 29% of African women in the private sector are senior managers and 44% of senior women hold line management positions, they don’t typically hold the same power as their male counterparts and often hold positions that play a more supportive function like marketing, communications, human resources and corporate social responsibility roles, while the hard-hitting posts like finance and operations typically gets assigned to men.

The report also highlights the pay discrepancies between men and women in leadership positions, with female board members in South African earning on average 17% less than their male counterparts.

A recent analysis conducted by Standard Bank economist Siphamandla Mkhwanazi shows that while there’s been a marginal improvement in the income gap between black and white professionals between 1996 and 2011, the data points to the fact that for every R1 a white person makes, a black person earns just 13c, while an Indian or Asian person earns 51c to every R1 earned by a white person.

Additional reporting by Fin24