WOMEN have come a long way since the early 1990s, when the
advent of democracy also opened the door for more gender equity.
With broad-based black economic empowerment and mining and
finance charters, legislation has been enacted in a bid to level the playing
fields in the corporate sphere.
Half of our members of parliament are women and people like
Gill Marcus, Cynthia Carroll and Nicky Newton-King are at the helm of
influential and powerful companies and institutions in South Africa.
Yet despite exceptions, there are still too few women in top
positions. I believe we should be doing more to support and encourage women to
move into the country's boardrooms and executive positions.
This Women's Month is a good opportunity to look afresh at
how we view leadership.
We can make change possible in South Africa by recognising
the special qualities that women bring as leaders, qualities like being
collaborative, building teams and strategising in a quest to achieve our
I believe success should be notched up not only through the
achievement of an individual executive, but by the strength of a team. By
nature, we're good at empowering others. Women tend to excel at boosting their
staff through mentoring, training and ongoing support.
The success of an organisation can often be measured by how
empowered its employees are, and whether they are engaged and working together
for the greater good of the company.
This year, there are several plans to further gender
equality in South Africa.
Our country's ruling party in policy discussions on gender
calls for the gender equality bill to be fast-tracked to speed up 50-50 parity
in the private sector and corporate world.
Motsepe Foundation co-chair, Precious Moloi-Motsepe, is
spearheading the women-in-budget initiative to campaign for public money from
SA's annual budget to be spent in a more equitable way.
These moves are positive and essential, for while the
executive gender gap is closing, it's not closing fast enough.
Business Unity South Africa (Busa) has suggested that
companies should create space for women on their boards and implement better
retention and succession strategies.
In a recent study, it showed that there is a
"disturbingly low level of representation of women on the boards of JSE
companies, especially in the role of chairpersons and executive directors,
including CEOs and CFOs".
Busa's study revealed that in 2011 the percentage of women
non-executive directors was 12.9%, while the percentage of black women
non-executive directors was 10.2%.
This clearly needs to change. But we should not sit back and
wait for legislation and regulations to shift the trends.
We should be proactive ourselves and work towards change in
a positive way.
We need some guiding principles, but we also need to lead by
supporting each other and finding the solutions instead of focusing on the
We should congratulate the companies that have managed to
turn things around under difficult economic circumstances, and work together to
complement each other as leaders.
* Lulu Letlape is executive head of group corporate affairs
at Sanlam. She is the latest guest columnist taking part in Fin24's
Women's Month campaign celebrating women in business.
Fin24 welcomes your
participation in the campaign. Send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could get