CLOSING THE GAP
Companies start to embrace gender parity at board level, although some laggards remain – report
Status of Gender report monitors adherence to the requirement that all JSE-listed companies have a policy on gender at the board level and findings are based on the published integrated annual reports during the 2022 calendar year.
Of the 247 companies included in the 2022 Status of Gender report released this week, 37 have already achieved gender parity or better. However, at least 27 of the 247 companies have no female members on their boards, an increase from the 17 companies in this category last year.
The research was conducted by Business Engage, in association with the Institute of Directors SA and 30% Club Southern Africa, and sponsored by Nedbank and the global management consultancy Kearney.
It monitors adherence to the requirement that all JSE-listed companies have a policy on gender at the board level and findings are based on the published integrated annual reports during the 2022 calendar year.
According to Pieter Scholtz, the KPMG lead for environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) in Africa, CEOs across southern Africa agree that key investment priorities include governance models and transparency protocols, as well as addressing environmental challenges and focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Diversity and inclusion remain a top priority in organisations, with 83% of southern Africa’s CEOs believing that achieving gender equality in the C-suite will be a critical determining factor [in achieving a return on ESG],” he said.
“I am confident that we are seeing a real difference being made. There are now 37 companies that have reached gender parity on their boards with another 33 not too far behind,” said Colleen Larsen, the CE of Business Engage.
The authors of the report felt that the JSE listing requirement — to have a gender policy at the board level and to advise stakeholders accordingly — has had a positive and sustainable effect on the appointment of women to the boards and committees of JSE-listed companies.
However, Larsen said it was now time to look to the future. She believes that after five years of this kind of reporting, it is becoming very difficult for organisations to say anything meaningful that they may not have said many times already.
“Maybe it is now time to turn our attention to where and how changes are being made at the upper echelons of the corporate structures. We are all aware that when changes are being made that are gradual and incremental it is sometimes difficult to see that they are happening at all. We can forget what the environment was like not so long ago as we get caught up in life as we currently perceive it.”
Nedbank’s chief legal counsel, Zanele Mngadi, noted that in a fast-transforming society, board diversity is important to remain relevant and sustainable.
“Studies show that diversity matters, as companies that embrace gender, race, and ethnic diversity achieve better financial performance,” Mngadi said.
Of the 247 companies included in the report:
- Thirty-seven have already achieved gender parity or better.
- A further 33 companies are close to achieving parity where the appointment of one female to the board in place of a male member will achieve such parity. Both these figures are a significant increase on the previous year.
“Change is happening, even if it is still incremental,” Larsen said. “A report published by Deloitte a few years ago stated, inter alia, that companies take generally around five years to comply with any new legislation. We are now past that five-year point and the companies that were going to make a meaningful change would have done so by now.” DM