Earlier this year, in the lead up to the 67th UN Women’s Commission on the Status of Women, held in March 2023, UN General Assembly secretary general Antonio Guterres said: “Gender equality is growing more distant. On the current track, UN Women puts it 300 years away.” He went on to say: “Women’s rights are being abused, threatened and violated around the world” – and this is true in every space where women live, work and play. If this “300 years away” remark is to be internalised, it is a source of complete dismay and helplessness.
While no one will argue that, in South Africa, for instance, progress for gender equality has been slow – according to Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter of 2023, the labour market in South Africa remains more favourable to men than women, revealing large gender gaps in employment – we must acknowledge the huge strides women across our continent are making.
A study of 2020 companies listed on the 24 African stock exchanges, along with Bloomberg data, revealed in the Definitive List of Women CEOs from Africa.com and Standard Bank Group that while only fi e per cent of companies listed on Africa’s 24 stock exchanges have a woman as CEO, those companies outperform financially by a wide measure. Bertina Engelbrecht is on that list, and in our conversation with her in this issue of Celebrating Women, she shares: “You achieve a great deal more if you can leverage everybody’s uniqueness in terms of their lived experiences, cultural backgrounds and education. You must be authentic in who you are to be a credible leader.” Engelbrecht was the first black woman to lead a listed retail group in South Africa, taking the helm of the Clicks Group in early 2022.
Despite tough economic times, Clicks, under her leadership, has delivered strong turnover and profit growth, expanded its retail footprint, and acquired its first 24-hour pharmacy, with extensive store and pharmacy roll-out plans for 2023. It’s this type of resilience and inclusive leadership style that we celebrate and draw inspiration from across the winners and finalists in 2023 Gender Mainstreaming Awards Africa and the many conversations we’ve held with women in various sectors in this year’s Celebrating Women.