Gender equity remains a major problem in South Africa, with experts urging recruitment companies to go to greater lengths to ensure that top women candidates are appointed to senior management positions.

Dr Adri Drotskie, who heads up the M Com Business Management Programme at the University of Johannesburg, says there is a small pool of top women executives who are being moved around like chess pieces, with relatively few new qualified candidates being brought into the corporate world.

“While we don’t have specific numbers available for the percentage of women in top executive positions in South Africa, we know that it is substantially less than the 15% figure that researchers in the US have reported,” says Drotskie.

“We also know that women on boards are at a lower level than the 3% on Fortune 500 companies claimed in the US.”

Duduzile Ntuli of Basadzi Personnel, an all-women, black-owned recruitment company, says her company’s focus is to follow a women-centric recruitment policy in place.

“Wherever possible, we sought to impress upon our clients the importance of gender and racial diversity in the workplace and the fact that women in particular brought a fresh and new perspective to the executive suite.”

Ntuli agrees with Drotskie that the executive employment market is tight and that fewer positions are being chased by a growing number of qualified candidates.

“Many corporates are still recovering from the economic meltdown and some companies – notably some of the big four banks – are expected to actually retrench substantial numbers of staff,” she says.

Drotskie, whose M Com Business Management Programme is one of the most highly sought-after business qualifications in South Africa, says more women than ever are graduating from the programme, ready to join the workforce, only to find that men receive preference when it comes to staff selection.

“It is heartening that a growing number of these graduates are black and, although they find it marginally easier to find jobs because of BEE, the fact is that women are still being left behind,” Drotskie says.

Interestingly, in the US, 45% of graduates from major business schools are female, but this has translated into only 3% of women CEOs at Fortune 500 companies and fewer than 15% of senior executives of major corporates worldwide.