Panel says gender equality still a big challenge in the workplace

While corporate is making strides in making sure the workplace is more inclusive, gender equality is still lagging behind.

During a discussion about the role that corporate has to play in transforming society at this year’s Finance Indaba, panel participants agreed that while there have been efforts to transform the workplace, much more work still needs to be done to include women not just as workers but also in strategic roles.

The talk, titled ‘Forget Scorecards, Embrace Real Transformation’, included input from Coca-Cola financial director Walter Leonhardt, Cell C CFO Zaf Mahomed and Afrocentric CFO Hannes Boonzaaier

According to Zaf, transformation is about inclusion and it’s important for companies to make sure that they are transformed whether referring to race or gender. Today’s customers do not want to be associated with companies that aren’t transformed, and will take their money elsewhere if a company refuses to transform, which ultimately affects a business’s bottom line. Cell C works with SMMEs and programmes such as Harambee and the YES programme to make it easier for the youth to find work and to start their own businesses.

However, Mohamed’s biggest gripe is that there aren’t enough women in executive positions in corporate. “I don’t think we as South African corporate do enough to make sure that women are in positions of power,” he explains. “I still walk into a boardroom and find no women, and that’s a big problem.”

Walter agrees that more women have to be included in corporates’ transformation efforts. The company has trained and developed skills for more than 40 000 people across the country and has recently started an “Own It, Drivers” campaign which encourages drivers to own the trucks used to deliver their product across the country. 

“We are also trying to focus on bringing more female owner drivers on board so that we can work towards gender equality,” explains Walter. He admits that even though the company is trying to meet its transformation goals, it is a long and very hard process and the results may not be seen immediately.

Hannes agreed that transformation doesn’t happen overnight and takes a long time. His company, which has a woman chairperson at the helm, has prioritised women inclusion. He said:

“We’ve tried to get more female drivers, but there are still not enough women at boardroom level, so we are not there yet.”