While there are no institutional restrictions on women in the workplace in South Africa, there are a number of barriers for women in business, according to Donna Rachelson, CEO of Branding & Marketing YOU and author of the book “Play to Win: What women can learn from men in business”.
“We are past debating the integral role women play in growing economies,” she says.
“Yet the gender gap is still massive. In 2018 the World Economic Forum estimated that the global gender gap will take 108 years to close and economic gender parity will take even longer – about 202 years.”
She says there is plenty of evidence that shows improved profitability for businesses with women at the top.
Women bring new skills to the workplace and help to boost productivity as well as the size of the workforce. Banks which have more women in executive positions have larger capital buffers, fewer non-performing loans and lower risk indices, research shows.
“The recent IMF study provides proof that gender empowerment means higher growth, a reduction in inequality, an improvement in the strength of the economy and a more diversified, export-focused country,” says Rachelson.
“If countries with low gender equality improved their equality ratings, they could see their economies grow by an average of 35%.”
South Africa was ranked 19th in terms of the 2018 global equality ranking scale.
She also points out that 88% of countries worldwide have restrictions against women in the workplace embedded in their constitutions or laws.
Some forbid women from doing specific jobs, 59 countries have no laws against sexual harassment in the workplace and there are 18 countries where women can be legally prevented from working.
In 2015, a study found that women’s perceived competency drops by 35% when they’re judged as being forceful or assertive — qualities often lauded among male CEOs.
“So, women don’t make mistakes more often than men, but when they do the consequences are harsher; they fall harder than their male counterparts,” says Rachelson.