Pale males still holding top spots

File picture: Reuters

File picture: Reuters

Published Apr 25, 2016


Cape Town - The Employment Equity Commission (EEC), which releases its annual report today, says white men are still in control, but it plans on holding a number of workshops to establish why business is failing to reach affirmative action targets.

This is a change in tack as up until now, the commission has largely focused on naming and shaming companies, and fining them, as a way to ensure that they adhere to legislation.

EEC chairperson Tabea Kabinde said the workshops would discuss why business was only interested in statistics instead of developing skills.

“South Africa in my opinion is obsessed at focusing on the change in the numbers, forgetting at going back and looking at the order to see sustainable changes,” she told a jobs conference hosted by Global Business Solutions.

This year’s employment equity stats are expected to mostly be the same as previous years – with white men still dominating the top jobs.

Kabinde said she hoped the workshops would reveal why affirmative action in the country was painfully slow.

“We can’t talk about a sunset clause, because it’s not even noon yet,” she said.

Kabinde said the stereotypes that had existed for years remained, and the commission hoped to break down these barriers.

They include that white men still remain in power; organisations have policies where salaries are confidential so it is easier for bosses to be dishonest; white men constantly feel threatened, white men feel designated groups are incompetent; and the top level of the world of work is considered men’s work, and women have to work twice as hard to be recognised.

She said whites, mostly men, were still receiving the most training, and while there were a lot of white men exiting jobs, their intake was also high.

“The purpose of employment equity is being achieved, but at a very slow pace,” Kabinde said.

GBS chief executive and labour attorney Johnny Goldberg told the conference that the real problem as to why organisations were not complying with the act was due to lack of adequate development.

“No one is looking at the problem; the only thing that will pull us out of this situation is skills. Looking at proper development skills will aid in combating the problem,” said Goldberg.

Last year’s report showed that the percentage of white people in top management was 70% in 2014, compared to 72.6% in 2012 and 73.1% in 2010. The percentage of men in top management stood at 81% in 2010, 80.2% in 2012 and 79.2% in 2014.

ENS Africa director Brian Patterson said there was very little appetite among corporates for affirmative action. The skills shortage affected transformation at the upper levels disproportionately.

He said there had been an inadequate investment over many years by South African companies in developing their staff.

“Where I have seen a lot of progress is where companies have tried to improve their BBEE scorecard. That’s the carrot, if they don’t do that they don’t get government contracts,” said Patterson.

He said fines for failing employment equity targets were quite difficult to impose, adding that carrots were better than sticks.

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