Corporate South Africa has more work to do to transform boardrooms and end the gender pay gap. File photo: Reuters
Corporate South Africa has more work to do to transform boardrooms and end the gender pay gap. File photo: Reuters

Boardrooms need more gender diversity and end to unfair pay gap

By Edward West Time of article published Aug 7, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - Corporate South Africa has more work to do to transform boardrooms and end the gender pay gap, despite the strides being made towards gender equality at the workplace.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Southern Africa, transformation, diversity & inclusion leader Anastacia Tshesane said yesterday that South Africa did not yet legally require disclosure of gender pay gaps, but reporting on it was an opportunity for companies to demonstrate tangible actions relating to their commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion.

“It is no surprise that companies that actively promote and advance women to the highest levels of management and leadership tend to have more engaged boards with a greater diversity of talent,” she said.

PwC’s “Executive directors: practices and remuneration trends report 2020” showed the gender pay gap for large-capitalisation JSE companies was most significant, at 45percent, with a marginal improvement in the medium-cap (39percent) and small-cap sectors (25percent).

On an industry basis, the difference in the pay gaps were stark, ranging from 7percent in financials to 34percent in the real estate industry.

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average wages of men and women, regardless of seniority.

Leila Ebrahimi, the co-lead of PwC reward, director in PwC’s people and organisation department, said although there was a renewed focus on transparency and improved disclosure in South Africa, few companies set out the gender pay gap in their integrated report, and the steps they were taking to close the gaps.

Some countries had adopted mandatory quotas to increase the participation of women on boards. In 2008, Norway obliged listed companies to reserve at least 40percent of their director seats for women, or face dissolution.

In the next five years, more than a dozen countries set similar quotas, at between 30 and 40percent.

Ebrahimi said reporting on the gender pay gap was only one leg of the solution - companies should also assess their internal culture that contributes to the underlying problem.

Areas such as succession planning, talent management and flexible working arrangements were all vital components of company policy to consider. Organisations should also take steps to identify and better understand how to attract, develop and retain female talent to narrow the gap.

Active efforts were required by organisations to ensure that the systemic change is achieved.

Many companies, including PwC, had introduced training programmes on unconscious bias in an attempt to stimulate behavioural change, which spoke to the recognition that gender inequality was a deep-rooted problem and could be addressed on a superficial level.

Mariné van Brakel, the chief financial officer of consumer financier RCS, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas Group, said gender diversity improves business outcomes and makes it easier to attract and retain talent in companies.


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