Ms. Janine Hills

Board Diversity Developments in South Africa: Legislation to push boards to appoint up to 50% female directors – Is it achievable?

This paper investigates South Africa’s National Policy Framework for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality, a Bill tabled in the South African Parliament at the end of 2013, but lapsed in March 2014. The paper will focus on how fundamental values and principles need to be integrated into policies, practices and programs of government to ensure gender equality.

The first section of the paper will touch briefly on South Africa’s history during Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki eras; two leaders who led the way in empowering women in a democratic economy. It elaborates on why women are integral entities in corporate and government leadership roles, not replacing men, but as essential partners in balancing different kinds of economic power.

The second part of the paper analyses the Bill on Gender Issues and Quota Systems, and equate these to the 2003 Norwegian Legislation, and several other 32 Nordic companies where women have advanced the farthest. It further deals with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, adopted in 2008. The paer will also focus on the important issue of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) in South Africa – a core initiative since the demise of Apartheid. The focus will, in particular, on South Africa’s  BEE Scorecard Policies and Empowerment Strategies – how these affect quota decisions and behaviour.

The last part of the paper will deal with difficulties for women breaking glass ceilings in business and corporate environments. South Africa still carries elements of a patriarchal society and on average women still earn less than men. The paper will investigate:

  • Why this is so?
  • Why economic participation of women is moving sluggishly?
  • Why socio-economic inequality persists?
  • What measures to take to ensure equal participation of women; and
  • How to work towards remuneration equality?

In the spirit of promoting a shared understanding of these challenges and commitment to finding new solutions, the paper will also review structures and drivers of growth of the South African economy and the role women play in it, supplemented by a brief social and demographic trend analysis. It concludes on findings of what actions and solutions to take and whether it is even possible to accomplish the expected 50% gender quota by the end of 2017.