Twenty-five years into democracy the top echelons of South Africa’s corporate sector are still predominantly white, middle-aged and male.
The glass ceiling in corporate South Africa is intractable. There is only one female CEO at the top 40 JSE listed companies, Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa, recently appointed to lead Naspers South Africa.
Women make up only 22% of the board of directors in listed companies in South Africa and under 10% of executive directors. Even in my sector, higher education, there are no more than four vice-chancellors across the 26 universities in South Africa. Interestingly, there was more courage in appointing 11 women in the non-executive, ceremonial role of chancellors. The irony, of course, is that this is a sector that should be more enlightened and offers thought leadership on gender equality and advancement of women in leadership.
Transformation has always been a slow grind for corporate South Africa in particular. In the past, the retort was that South Africa is a young democracy. We are now a quarter of a century past 1994, yet the pace of change in corporate South Africa has been tortuously slow. Companies embrace diversity grudgingly, viewing it as an inconvenience to be adhered to, to satisfy regulatory requirements. It is an indictment that 25 years since democracy, the top echelons of South Africa’s corporate sector are still predominantly white, middle-aged and male