Standard Bank Group, Chief Executive Sim Tshabalala. Image: Supplied.
JOHANNESBURG - Gender equality is a fundamental human right but remains a distant dream for many women worldwide. 

Africa’s largest bank by assets, Standard Bank announced that it would be joining the powerful global UN movement, HeForShe, to champion change.

The United Nations (UN) Women HeForShe movement is gathering momentum globally as a cohort of select leaders from both the public and private sectors join the drive and stand out as visionaries on gender equality. 

Standard Bank Group, Chief Executive Sim Tshabalala, has become one of the global “Thematic Champions” in the  HeForShe movement. These leaders have committed to implement game-changing policies and concrete actions towards gender parity.

“Achieving gender equity is a moral duty, a business imperative, and just plain common sense. Women embody half the world’s talent, skill and energy - and more than half of its purchasing power. So every sensible business leader must be committed to achieving gender equity in their company and to contributing to gender equity in the societies in which we operate,” Tshabalala said.

In the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap report, it is estimated that it will take more the 217 years to achieve workplace equality after gender parity took a step backwards in the past year.

“It is clear more effort is needed to accelerate progress. We’ve partnered with the UN Women’s HeForShe movement to help change the narrative on gender equity in Africa,” Tshabalala added.

Concrete commitments made by Standard Bank Group in order to bring about tangible change include reaching parity in executive positions and to improve the representation of women in executive positions from its current 32% to 40% by 2023. Another is to lift the representation of women on the Board from 22% to 33% by 2021.

Standard Bank is also committed to increasing the representation of women Chief Executives in its Africa Regions network from 10% to 20% by 2021, while Standard Bank South Africa will improve the representation of women in executive positions from the current 35% to 40% by 2021.

While progress has been made in certain countries in Africa to close gender gaps, others remain behind the curve. Namibia and South Africa both score in the Top 20 in the WEF global report on gender equality - after closing 78% to 76% of their gender gaps - but Sub-Saharan Africa still displays a wider range of gender gap outcomes than practically any other region.

Standard Bank, which has a unique footprint across 20 countries in Africa and is an integrated financial services organisation in, for and across the continent, continues to address inequality on all levels. The bank understands that the additional talent brought into an economy, or business, through greater gender parity is a critical factor for growth.

“Our sustainability and success are inextricably linked to the prosperity and wellbeing of the societies in which we operate. We are clear that our core business activities must support and contribute to this prosperity and wellbeing,” said Tshabalala.

“Standard Bank will continue to contribute to Africa’s growth by investing in the development of women entrepreneurs and is committing to increasing the representation of women in leadership positions in the bank,” says Tshabalala. 

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE