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SA outperforms on female directors, with work to do

Women hold 29% of the board seats in the top 100 listed companies in the country.
Image: Bloomberg

South Africa’s push for female empowerment has led to an outperformance against emerging-market peers when measured by gender diversity in listed company boards, along with a realisation that much more needs to be done to pursue equality.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange is the only exchange from a developing country to beat the Group of 20 average for female representation among directors of companies traded on the bourse, according to figures from Sustainable Stock Exchanges.

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Women hold 29% of the board seats in the top 100 listed companies in South Africa. That compares with an average of 20% on major G20 exchanges and figures of 12% in Japan, 10% for the Shanghai bourse and 7.4% in South Korea. South African women chair 11% of the companies, beating the G20 average of 5.5%.

The relative success is helped by charters in South African industries ranging from mining to finance, that have set targets for gender representation, said Shameela Soobramoney, chief sustainability officer at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

“Those targets start to inspire action, because you are given something that you must report against,” Soobramoney said during an online panel discussion this week at the launch of Bloomberg New Voices. The program is a global initiative to increase the visibility of women and other under-represented executives in finance across media platforms.

While South Africa’s ranking is an achievement, it’s not enough, according to Soobramoney. The exchange is seeking to drive greater transparency around the issue through mandatory gender reporting, she said. “Once you need to disclose in the public domain, that in itself is an incentive to try and push those numbers.”

© 2021 Bloomberg

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“Once you need to disclose in the public domain, that in itself is an incentive to try and push those numbers.”

Equality of outcomes is vile philosophy that is doomed to the junkyard of failed social engineering experiments that wrought nothing but misery, hatred and social upheaval. Of course we need a class of victims.

Who decides on the group identities and who polices and enforces the outcomes? How many groups do we have? Are Shangaans more victimised than Zulus? Men can ruin women’s sport by identifying as female. Can they now ruin the boardroom stats? How do you compete internationally when merit is superseded by identity? The simple answer is you cannot.

Equality of opportunity, on the other hand, is a noble goal to which all should strive.

Norway has tried for decades to push women into stem fields. In IT men still outnumber women by 20:1. In nursing the reverse is true. By far the majority of prisoners are men. Women like people and men like things. Our brains are more alike than they are different, but at the fringes of the distributions we see the differences materialise.

If only the SA government agreed with you we’d have a roaring economy.

Why “must” women hold a certain percentage of directorships? If they are good enough, they will make it. Is it also mandatory that a certain percentage of males occupy positions as e.g. daycare givers, grade 1 teachers or nurses since these professions are typically occupied by females? Or is it not “woke” to apply the same logic?

Once we start measuring like this and aiming for equal outcomes across every possible group we are bound to always fall short somewhere. I am not aware of any transgender directors in our listed companies. Maybe we can get 2 birds with one stone if some of our male directors start identifying as female then we’ll have improved our female directors as well as our transgender directors. But of course then we still need to check how many blind directors or of other physical impairment, or every possible race, we have. Or some of the many other genders. It’s going to be hard.

Or of course we could just try to level the playing field in terms of opportunity instead of outcome, but what am i saying? Nobody cares about that.

End of comments.

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