WHILE South Africa already faced a deficit in the number of women at executive level, to have more women drop out of the workforce because of the country’s economic challenges, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, may present other challenges for the country in the future, according to Hollard Life Solutions chief executive Besa Ruele.
McKinsey and LeanIn.Org found that 25 percent of women were considering downscaling their careers or leaving the workforce altogether.
Working mothers, women in senior management positions and black women, in particular, were experiencing pressure. This was particularly prevalent in emerging economies such as South Africa.
Ruele is among the few women in the country in finance who holds an executive position. She was part of the team overseeing the creation of Hollard Life Solutions out of what were previously two separate business units.
Ruele said companies needed to do more to support and retain their female staff by offering more tailored solutions to support women in managing the different roles they had to play, at home and in the workplace, particularly considering the pressures that came with working from home.
“Greater flexibility, assistance with childcare, and normalising time off for family responsibilities is crucial. Furthermore, there has to be a deliberate strategy across the different industry sectors in South Africa to open opportunities for the participation of women in executive leadership roles for real change to happen.”
A survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers has found that women made up only 14 percent of the 329 chief executives of listed companies in South Africa, and there were only 291 female chief financial officers.
This situation was especially glaring in the financial services sector, where only 30 percent of women held executive leadership positions.