Advancing Parity Is A Strategic Decision

Gender diversity in the workplace has to be driven from the top – otherwise every other organisational level will not be motivated or converted. Georgina Guedes reports.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) has shown its commitment to promoting gender parity in the workplace by introducing requirements that listed companies have both a policy for the promotion of gender diversity at board level, and that they disclose their performance against it.

Effective from January 2017, the JSE has stated that it looks forward to being able to report on the progress listed companies have made. According to Zeona Jacobs, Director: Marketing and Corporate Affairs: “The JSE believes that having women at all levels should become the norm and that organisations should create the right platforms to provide female employees the same opportunity to grow in organisations as their male counterparts, and a conducive environment for them to prosper.”

Image: Zeona Jacobs
Image: Zeona Jacobs

Right for business

Parmi Natesan, executive: Centre of Corporate Governance at the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa, makes exactly this point. “Leaders need to advance gender parity in their own workspaces for the right reasons

— not because they feel that they have to, but because they buy into the benefits for the company and its stakeholders,” she says.

In fact, she points out that a study by the Catalyst Information Centre found a strong correlation between the number of female directors and return on sales and on invested capital.

“Diverse groups are better able to solve complex problems. Members of diverse groups challenge one another more readily and examine more aspects of a problem, thus avoiding group thinking,” she says. “They also tend to be more diligent around people they view as ‘different’. Some strongly believe that the dialogue around the boardroom table is far more vivid, not because women are better than men, but because they just go about business and leadership differently.”

And finally, she adds that another common-sense reason for gender diversity on boards is the fact that women control the majority of consumer spending, and also form a large percentage of the educated workforce.

Inclusivity is crucial

There are many steps that need to be taken to achieve gender parity, but commitment from the top is the crucial first step.

“We need recognition at board level that women in leadership positions should be prioritised and then measured against that goal,” says Sumarie Roodt, the chairperson of Silicon Cape. “Additionally, the dialogue regarding this ideal should include male counterparts as there is a tendency to exclude men from the conversation, which is simply another form of exclusion.”

Roodt’s area is the technology space, and she says that inclusivity is critical in her and all industries. “If we are truly becoming a more inclusive society, then we would recognise that, at its core, inclusivity begins with race and gender, the latter showing the most disparity in representation, benefits and pay in tech hotspots around the world — gender exclusivity in a supposedly inclusive world.”

Image: ©Shutterstock - 10935979
Image: ©Shutterstock - 10935979

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