Bridging the gender gap a concern for all

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill’s main functions were to advocate and encourage gender equality in all spheres of South Africa. It was presided over by Lulama Xingwana, the former minister of Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities.

The bill, which was adopted in March 2014, pushed for a 50% representation of women in all decision-making bodies or structures such as parliament and in boards. This specific expectation has however come under fire from many who believe it’s a mere duplication of similar laws that are already in existence.

Minimising the gender pay gap  was another function of the bill, and according to some reports, to women earn in a full year what men would earn in eight months.

Currently, 44% of South Africa’s parliament is made up of women, 42% in cabinet and 38.4% in local government. South Africa is one of few countries that has a significant percentage of women in parliament, and other countries such as Cuba, Finland, Rwanda and Iceland have similar proportional representation in their parliaments.

The bill, however,  was withdrawn by current Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Susan Shabangu. Since it received resistance from opposition parties and businesses when it was first introduced.

According to Sabinet Law, however, Women in South Africa make up less than 10% of CEOs and board chairperson in Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed companies, hold less than 16% of directorship and 21% of executive management roles in the country.

Sabinet Law adds that the number of women directors as well as executive managers is also on the decline. The bill therefore hoped to create more avenues and opportunities for women to become a part of senior or executive roles within various spheres of the workplace.

South African women who currently hold significantly senior positions include Niky Newton-King, CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and Wendy Ackerman, non-executive director of Pick n Pay Holdings Limited.

Other powerful women elsewhere include chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, Fatou Bensouda, who is the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo in the United States.

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