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It is to take the global community at least 267 years, down from 257 years last year, to close the gender gap in economic participation and opportunity as the Covid-19 pandemic threw a spanner in the works by enforcing the shelving of gender equality for more pressing matters of survival and adaptation being prioritised.
According to PriceWaterhouse Coopers’s (PwC) 13th edition of the Executive directors’: Practices and remuneration trends report, although South Africa scored high for the political emancipation of women, ranking 14th, it ranked 92 in terms of economic participation and opportunity, and 131 for wage equality for similar work.
The report indicated that boards were still lacking in gender diversity at senior levels, with year-on-year figures on female representation remaining stagnant.
“We are seeing a marked increase around the communication of commitments to diversity and inclusion, but progress appears to be slow. In addition, Covid-19 has set us back, with more pressing matters of survival and adaptation being prioritised, often at the expense of what are considered to be ‘slow-burn’ issues such as diversity,” said Anastacia Tshesane, Transformation, Diversity & Inclusion Leader for PwC Southern Africa.
Although there has been an increase in the proportion of skilled women and wage equality, albeit at a slower pace, there is still a persistent lack of women in leadership positions.
From a gender pay gap perspective, the gap is most pronounced in medium-cap companies, with a gender pay gap of 46 percent observed at the median and 51 percent at the upper quartile, with a smaller pay gap observed in small-cap companies with gaps of 27 percent and 30 percent observed respectively at the median and upper quartile.
The report shows that women continue to remain a minority on boards, with less than a fifth of the JSE executive director grouping at 13 percent. This observation is more striking at chief executive level, where female representation is 5 percent.
“It is notable that despite discussion and debates on gender diversity and equity pay, the recent amendments to the Companies Act do not make any provision for disclosure on the gender pay gap. The amendments only introduce mandatory reporting of the income gap between the highest paid and the lowest paid employees within a company,” said Makhosazana Mabaso, an associate director in PwC’s People and Organisation division.
Within South Africa, there is a renewed focus on transparency, trust and improved disclosure.
PwC said very few companies made disclosures in their integrated reports that set out the gender pay gap and the steps they were taking to close the gaps, noting that some countries including Norway and the UK had adopted mandatory quotas to increase the participation of women on boards.
For its part, PwC recently unveiled the New Equation, a landmark global strategy in response to fundamental changes in the world, including technological disruption, climate change, fractured geopolitics, and the continuing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The New Equation focuses on two interconnected needs that clients face in the coming years.
The strategy prioritises building trust, which has never been more important, nor more difficult as organisations need to earn trust across a wide range of topics that are important to their stakeholders.
It also seeks to deliver sustained outcomes in an environment where competition and the risk of disruption are more intense than ever and societal expectations even bigger.