On 23 August 2013, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) in KwaZulu-Natal engaged with the following eight entities, which had appeared before the Commission in November 2009, as part of the CGE’s enquiry and investigation into gender transformation in the workplace:
Dept of Education
University of KwaZulu-Natal
The purpose of the event was to launch the CGE’s report capturing findings and recommendations from the KZN investigation, and outcomes of follow-up engagements with these entities. These entities were requested to report back on progress regarding implementation of CGE recommendations.
On the whole, the CGE was hugely encouraged at transformation commitments and interventions that these stakeholders have shepherded – we truly feel that they have placed gender on their agenda. Some are still not where they should be in terms of women in management – with women sitting on average at 28% representation in this tier. The CGE commended Unilever with its 51% representation of women in senior management. People with disabilities remain under-represented in the workplace generally, on average at 1% among these stakeholders, and particularly in management. It was very pleasing to note however that the KZN Legislature has achieved a 3% representation of people with disabilities.
We were thrilled to note the following proactive interventions, that to our mind constitute best practice:
Entities are addressing the “scarce skills” issue in traditionally male dominated domains, such as engineering and finance, through apprenticeships, shadowing jobs, bursaries, and prioritising posts for women and people with disabilities. Entities are also transforming traditional male domains by deliberately putting women in operations programmes and positions, sending them on leadership development programmes, and placing women in core functions (driving petrol tankers!) to transform their industries.
Entitles are investing in recruiting and training of women and people with disabilities: They are unashamedly imposing a gender bias on prioritising women and people with disabilities – they are targeting them for appointment, recruiting them for their “business incubator” programmes, bringing them in through learner ships and graduate in-training interventions, sending them on exposure programmes, and encouraging them to pursue studies.
Entities are assigning more budget for gender transformation work, and are implementing awareness interventions and diversity training, doing their best to target management and all employees. One entity (Unilever) had sent all their CEOs and senior leadership globally on a gender equality and transformation awareness intervention. Some such as SAPS, are taking up working with men, and supporting men’s forums to champion transformation of mindsets and behaviours.
Employment Equity forums and reporting appear to be on track.
Entities are being proactive in recruitment, forming partnerships with stakeholders such as Disabled People South Africa to assist with building databases of skilled and qualified designated groups, to assist with recruitment and sit on selection panels; they are sending back shortlists of candidates if there are no women on these lists, and are proactively head-hunting, ring-fencing posts, aligning recruitment processes with employment equity targets, and identifying opportunities to appoint women.
Entities are realising the need to build the “pipeline” of female talent, and so are identifying women with potential, sending them on leadership development and skills training interventions to fast-track their progression within the entity.
One entity (Unilever) had undertaken an analysis of their wage differentials, to see if they have a gender wage gap; another had undertaken a disability access audit on their property to identify access challenges; others have implemented flexi-time policy and provisions for working from home, providing employees with laptops and 3Gs to support this. Only one entity however is investigating introducing a child-care facility to enable working parents to juggle work and domestic responsibilities.
Some entities are realising that transformation is a leadership obligation, re-positioning matters of transformation to ensure direct reporting to the CEO, and including transformation as an agenda item in EXCO meetings. Some are anchoring responsibilities within senior managers’ performance management.
There appears to be a commitment to increasing women’s representation in leadership, with one entity reporting more women within their Board structures. Entities appear willing to learn – Ethekwini Municipality set out to benchmark employment equity measures with other municipalities and private sector entities, to learn strategies and approaches that work, develop a strategic action plan, and include employment equity reporting in their Exco meetings.
A few entities are ring-fencing procurement opportunities for women-owned businesses.
We were encouraged that entities appear to be taking sexual harassment in the workplace more seriously, with some reporting cases in the system, that are undergoing disciplinary measures, with sanctions of dismissal being implemented to demonstrate a zero tolerance for sexual harassment.
The following challenges and obstacles to gender transformation were noted:
Entities struggle with retention of skilled women – there is high demand and high turn-over rate of women in senior management. Companies need to develop strategies to promote retention and build a supportive working environment to retain women employees.
There are limited top management posts available for employment equity appointments.
Women tend to be reluctant to take up remote postings, such as police stations in rural areas – companies need to develop support mechanisms and career pathing options for women, as well as draw female appointees from surrounding residential areas.
We still do have men dominating in traditional sectors and functions – entities need to set aggressive targets and strategies to counter perceptions and stereotypes, and encourage and enable women to take up these appointments
Disability continues to be a challenge – entitles are simply not meeting their targets and need to prioritise this component. We need to see entities develop and implement appropriate strategies – engage with advisors, build databases through partners and networks, and simply recruit, ring-fence posts and appoint people with disabilities.
Racism and opposition to transformation in the workplace is an issue among those of traditional mindset – entities need to focus on securing the buy-in and understanding among all staff of the advantages of encouraging diversity in the workplace and pursuing a transformation agenda
Government is failing to monitor closely and support entities with employment equity compliance and transformation.
We need more awareness around sexual harassment, which is clearly being under-reported. Entities need to ensure awareness within the workplace, and assess why existing reporting mechanisms are not working.
Senior managers do not attend gender transformation training events. We need to make these compulsory, and integrate these modules in management forum interventions.
The issue of disability and “requirements for the job” is an issue – where the job requirement (such as SAPS officers in the field) would disqualify a candidate with a disability. We need to recognise such challenges, as well as the fact that there is a broad range of disability, meaning that not all people with disabilities would necessarily be excluded, and consider alternative placement for those not able to meet necessary requirements.
We need greater focus on workplace policies to support transformation, which need to be regularly reviewed and audited, and on integrating statistics and information to better manage diversity.
The CGE in KZN will continue to monitor these entities and provide transformation assistance as required, and will extend its future round of employment equity hearings to an additional set of stakeholders in the province. Findings and best practice will be integrated into the CGE’s take-up of these issues with national policy-makers and structures.