As we celebrate International Women’s Day, there isn’t much to be inspired by from the global research firm’s survey results.
When you consider that the percentage of women in senior management positions in the country has risen by a mere 2% over the past 13 years and the fact that 31% of South African businesses have no women represented in senior management roles, the findings are in fact rather disappointing.
Most alarming is that Grant Thornton’s director for advisory services, Lee-Anne Bac, believes that the marginal increase is “probably due to sampling variations” rather than because some progress has been made.
“Unfortunately, we have a very patriarchal culture in Africa, including South Africa. Until we make a concerted effort to change our mindset to the role of women in the workplace, at home and society at large, we’re going to continue to battle with inequality in the workplace,” Bac says.
She believes that the real catalyst to changing the status quo begins at home with parents raising their children in a gender neutral environment – the idea being that the behavior spills over into every aspect of their lives, including the workplace.
Mimicking research conducted by the Businesswomen’s Association of SA, most women in senior management positions tend to be in supporting functions like Human Resources, Marketing and a handful in CEO roles, but the research does show an increase in the percentage of female CEOs from 7% in 2015 to 10% this year.
“Businesses have put some women in management positions, ticked that box and now they are not doing anything further,” she says.
“Instead companies should constantly be working to improve gender diversity in the workplace. We have too few women in management positions and until we tilt that balance it will remain difficult for women to influence the change. Women are fighting from a position of lack of power.”
The report also notes with concern that, globally, businesses are gradually shifting their focus away from issues of gender diversification.
Bac says businesses need to be open to adopting new leadership styles that accommodate women and create a supportive environment that allows women to “bring their own flair” to work.
But at the same time, she says women should also accept a degree of accountability because “we’re not fighting back”.
“It is even more important to embrace diversity in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Businesses need effective leadership teams equipped to assess the risks and opportunities associated with change and then develop and implement inclusive strategies in response,” she says.