Despite some organisations taking steps to boost the number of women at executive level, progress is still slow. The proportion of women to men in executive roles is still low, with only one female CEO among the JSE top 40 companies.

These are some of the findings from PwC’s Executive Directors’ Practices & Remuneration report, 2018.

Shirley Machaba, PwC Africa diversity and inclusion leader, says: “In order to build future economies that are both dynamic and inclusive, we must ensure that there is equal opportunity for all.

“When women are not equally integrated into the economy, the global community misses out on skills, ideas and perspectives that are critical for addressing global challenges and harnessing new opportunities.”

The participation by men and women in the workforce is essential for the viability of businesses and economies. Companies that effectively use female talent are 45% more likely to report improved market share, according to worldwide research.

Currently, women contribute only 37% towards global GDP and recent estimates by the World Economic Forum (WEF) suggest that economic gender parity could increase GDP by $5,3-trillion by 2025. In South Africa for every ten men, only eight women are employed or actively looking for work, although women make up more than half of the working-age population.

“Diversity and inclusion should be a boardroom imperative,” says Maura Jarvis, associate director in PwC’s people and organisation division. “The under representation of women is a matter which has still not been fully addressed in the business world.

“When women are not equally integrated into the economy, the global community misses out on skills, ideas and perspectives that are critical for addressing challenges and harnessing new opportunities.”

The gender gap is still an issue in a number of industries in South Africa. The AltX board of the JSE is just one example where 82% of executives are males, compared to 18% of women. In the financial services sector 72% of executives are male whereas only 28% are female.

According to the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report, 2017, 68% of the global gender gap has been closed, a decrease from the 2015 and 2016 results. The report estimates that at the current rate of progress, the global workplace gender gap will not be closed for the next 217 years.

Various initiatives worldwide aim to address gender disparity both on a global level and in South Africa. These include legislating the disclosure of companies’ gender gap and providing quotas for women on boards and in executive positions.

Gender pay gap

The disparities in pay in South Africa between men and women can also be seen across different sectors. In the industrials sector, the median TGP of women is 10% less than that of men. In the financial services sector, the median TGP of women is 7% less than that of their male counterparts.

Expediting gender equality at work can pay dividends – according to PwC estimations, closing the pay gap across OECD countries could increase female earnings by $2-trillion, an increase of 23%.

According to PwC Strategy& economists’ estimates, if we close the gender gap in South Africa in both pay and representation there would be sizeable economic benefits. Our economists’ calculations suggest economic growth spin-offs of an additional 3,2% in GDP growth and a 6,5% reduction in the number of unemployed job seekers.

The representation of women in companies is vital and more focus should be given to closing the gender pay gap. Companies need to recognise the unharnessed potential in their own workforces and bring more of their female talent into senior positions through incentives, retraining and better pay, as well as making traditionally male-dominated professions more inclusive.

The introduction of gender pay gap disclosure in the UK and the gender diversity policy required by the JSE Listing Requirements will provide more transparency about the factors contributing to the gap and hold companies to account to take action.