Published by: Skills Portal - 2007

 

It may require extreme pro-active structural changes and compromise in the workplace if 50% of appointments to South Africa’s senior business and political positions are to be female, says leading executive search firm, Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters.

Last month, Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, announced during her budget speech in parliament that government was moving on a proposed Gender Equity Bill, which will see government enforcing gender equity in senior management positions in South African companies.

But Jack Hammer partner Madge Gibson says legislation alone will not bring about the required gender transformation in the workplace.

Although the sentiment of ensuring that women are equally represented in the top jobs is a praiseworthy one, there remains skepticism about the viability of the legislation,” says Gibson.

There are many reasons for this, but for the most part, the workplace remains structurally geared towards a situation where employees are required to be present for the entirety of the working day, and where a deviation from this norm is seen as problematic."

According to all available local and global statistics, the number of unemployed women across the board has increased compared to statistics for men; women have been disproportionately affected by the recession, and women continue to be significantly under-represented in senior positions.

Even though women continue to progress up the career ladder, many still find themselves having to choose between their families or their careers, primarily due to lack of support on the work front,” notes Gibson.

The solution to this is nothing new – companies have been talking about how to retain their senior female employees for years, but seem to have really struggled to implement ‘out of the box’ strategies that are sustainable for both employer and employee, says Gibson. “When organisations, from small to multi-national, are able to implement family friendly policies and procedures which will enable professional women to compete in their jobs without being ‘marked down’ for juggling work and family commitments – that’s when we’ll see real change.

Flexi-time and the introduction of the ‘remote office’ are helpful steps towards the ‘female transformation agenda’ and will provide women with the tools and the flexibility to effectively manage both career and family.

Sounds simple, however achieving this in reality will require a complete mindset reorientation of corporate culture, as well as several major structural interventions. However, it’s the companies that implement these innovative strategies, who will benefit the most from a transformed and diverse workforce,” says Gibson.