by Toni Gomes

Equality in the boardroom

Women on Boards development programme launched

Minister of trade & industry, Dr Rob Davies, flanked by Elizabeth Thabethe and Toni Gomes

The recent Grant Thornton International Business Report clearly indicates a scarcity of women in leadership positions in South Africa, with 78% overall male leadership. Coupled with the upcoming Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, which requires the achievement of at least 50% representation and participation of women in all decision-making structures, male business leaders may be forgiven for scratching their heads in bewilderment as to where these adequately qualified women are.


It should be noted that the aim of greater representation of women in boardrooms must not be achieved simply by fixating on the highfliers and ignoring the vast majority of women in middle management. Nor should it increase a sense of tokenism, with good quality male board members being sidelined or ousted to make way for poorer quality women candidates. In order for the bill to add value, it needs to be seen as an opportunity to bolster, not undermine, commercial competitiveness.


To aide public and private sector leaders in preparation for this, international non-profit businesswomen’s organisation, BPW South Africa and the department of trade & industry (the dti) have joined forces to invest in a world-class “Women on BoardsDirector Development Programme to create a register of female leaders in South Africa who are excellently trained and, as a result, are highly sought-after by boards.

There will no longer be any reason to pad boards with token non-executive directors, to allocate power on the basis of sex rather than merit, or to bemoan the scarcity of available qualified women. All men in leadership are urged to advocate for meaningful change and to support this programme of developing and maintaining a strong pipeline of female talent.


This is an abridged version of the full article to be published in the March edition of Black Business Quarterly

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