Posted: August 26, 2022
Lead Administrator, Ms. Jodi Scholtz
GM for Human Capital and Programme Director, Ms. Tami Mashau.
Head of ICT and Knowledge Management, Ms. Thami Batyashe.
All the Invited Guests.
All the ladies working for our proud Agency – SABS
I greet you all.
It is my single honour to be invited in such an important session for women of SABS in the month of August which is dedicated to shine a spotlight to us – as women of South Africa. It is important that as women we resist the temptation of treating this month, as symbolism towards us, only enough to invoke historic memories of our women giants of 1956 march to Union building, and end there.
We must draw that brave inspiration to the current setup, and ask hard questions about women advancement since the dawn of democracy, from politics and government, to corporate leadership and entrepreneurship.
My office alerted me that I need to speak under the 2022 Women’s month theme “Women’s socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment: Building back better for women’s resilience”. This is no easy subject in the context of the challenges women still face in the sphere of the economy.
Globally, women who are looking for work and are available to work have a tougher time finding work than men. This phenomenon is more pronounced in South Africa, with higher unemployment rates for the general population as compared to the rest of the world.
In 2022, 47% of South African women were recorded as economically inactive. This means that almost half of the working age women in South Africa are out of labour force compared to 35,6% of their male counterparts. The latest global labour force participation rate for women is about 47% compared to 72% for men (ILO,2022). The productive potential of South Africa women in the labour market remains unused.
Since it is still a men’s world in the economy, women faces a lot of hurdles and stone-walls. We still have to prove ourselves ten times more that we are as capable, and that we deserve to plug and play in the same levelled field as men.
Whilst the B-BBBEE policy has made some difference, as a midwife to economic transformation and pathways for women entrance, artificial stumbling blocks and male-dominated environment has, and continues to be a major inhibition to the faster rates of women ascendency to corporate bosses.
In August 2020, I had an opportunity to be invited into the B-BBEE Commission Webinar which was jointly held with the Employment Equity Commission. The webinar held under the theme “Management Control and the Status of Women in Transformation”. A presentation of a report which is known as the National Status Report on B-BBEE (National Trends) depicted a gloomy picture. It illustrated how women in the economy, in management control and ownership scorecard are still far below acceptable levels in terms of companies’ agenda of inclusion. Majority of women still don’t sit in company boards where decisions and votes are made, this is evident even where they have 50% shareholding or above.
To illustrate this with one sector, research shows that only 10% of women in South Africa are involved in the Executive decision-making within the financial sector. These areas of concern have been and continues to be a source of concerns for many women in the corporate environment.
In this context, we applauded Nissan SA last year when it announced that it intends to change the narrative by committing to an increase of their female Executive into the leadership to 25% by 2025. This is an important step in the context of the Automotive sector that is male dominated and our Automotive Master Plan is very strong on transformation agenda; we anticipate that this will inspire the industry wide trajectory.
Government remains committed in empowerment agenda for women. As an example, in 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa during the women’s day, announced that 40% of public procurement would be reserved for Women-owned businesses. This is a huge opportunity by any stretch of imagination considering the government buying power. Of course, it has been difficult to make any assessment since last year as COVID-19 limitations has stalled a lot of things for us.
The critical question is how do we use this opportunity to galvanise as many women businesses for various government procurements?
But also, how do we avoid the demon of fronting by male, using women as cannon fodders in the processes, and therefore defeating the very intentions of government in breaking the glass ceiling of women economic empowerment. This is something we must all stand up to prevent.
With the above being the case, at the end, it is not all doom and gloom. There are positive movements albeit at a slow pace than desired. The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) for a longest time has been driving the implementation of the policy framework on Gender and Women’s Economic Empowerment whose core imperatives has been to increase a number of enterprises that women control, have ownership and they manage. This included access to finance, local and international markets. Admittedly, we have fell short in this area as government and we are working on raising the implementation tempo.
Women are found largely in the small, micro and medium enterprises sector because it is difficult for them to scale up their businesses and break into the larger corporate value chains as suppliers. And this is a generalized state of affairs found across all sectors the economy, without one that can be pointed as dominated by women.
the dtic in partnership with National Empowerment Fund (NEF), established a Women Empowerment Fund aimed at enhancing the participation of black women owned businesses in the South African economy. Funding is provided in the form of concessionary loans or equity with a maximum interest rate of 2% to support projects that assist in creating jobs and increasing productive capacity. Implementation of this fund commenced in March 2021.
Over the past 10 years, NEF, had more than 40% of funding accruing to black women entrepreneurs. As part of the determination to grow its funded portfolio of businesses that are owned and managed by black women, the NEF will continue to work with organisations that represent women to mobilise deal flow.
According to the recent March 2022 study by MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE), South Africa is one of only 12 economies where women’s entrepreneurial activity rates increased, with 11.1% of working-age women engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activities. South Africa moved up one place from 2020 to rank thirty-seventh (37th) in 2021, with a score of 54.9. According to MIWE women’s advancement still remains hampered by less supportive entrepreneurial conditions compared with other global economies such as the US, which ranked first, with a score of 69.9; New Zealand, ranked second, with a score of 69.8; and Canada in third, with a score of 68.6.
The 2021 MIWE reflects the challenges of a persistently uncertain global entrepreneurial landscape, as well as a marked rise in both female and male necessity-driven entrepreneurship as many had lost their jobs arising from lockdown and restriction measures. According to Gabriel Swanepoel, the MasterCard Manager for Southern Africa “The fact that women entrepreneurial activity rates in South Africa grew in a year when many other economies did not, together with the fact that female necessity-driven entrepreneurship surpassed that of males, indicates their strong will, resilience and determination to survive”
It has been found, through research bodies, that SA’s women-owned businesses present a lower statistical risk for business financiers. Women-owned businesses account for a lower percentage of non-performing loans, according to Business Partners. The growth of entrepreneurship among women in the country has been encouraging.
This confirms that the growth of women in the economy will herald a sustained upward trajectory for business confidence in our country, and the soul element into the South African commerce. We urge women in business to take up the leading role and push back against all efforts to stunt their multiplication in all industries.
Our task includes the desire to see more professional women occupying top position in government Agencies like SABS. Where women are on top, we see more productivity. We need more CEOs, CFOs, Board Chairs and other influential positions taken up by women.
Viva Mbokodo Viva!